Starting new projects can be a daunting process. Often we have an idea in our head of how the product should be, almost always imagining the perfect, most ideal version. It's so easy to feeling overwhelmed. You've imagined up this big idea and you have no idea where to start.
If you do manage to get past that first step, perhaps you’ve been working tirelessly round the clock to perfect your product, you launch, expecting great things and a ton of interest, and then… nothing.
Here’s some ideas I’ve picked up along the way, to give you the best possible chance of launching products that don’t fall flat on their face. Leaving you feeling disheartened and ready to chuck it all in.
Always launch your product before it’s ready. Better still, when it’s an idea in it’s infancy. Products are a work in progress, they inevitably change and projects will evolve. Your work will never be finished, so don’t make the mistake of waiting until you perfect it, or deem it finished, before you release it. You’ll be waiting forever. Just make sure it articulates your idea, in it’s rawest form — and you have an idea of who your target audience is — then get it out there.
Always prototype in public. That means get the most basic version — of whatever it is you’re making — out there and into the world as soon as you can. Continue working on your product in full view of whoever you intend to see it, sharing your process as you progress and as your product develops. That way you wont be left frantically trying to build an audience after you’ve launched your product, as you’ll already have one.
Don’t be precious with your ideas. 9 times out of 10, someone has already had them. So forget the NDA’s and secret meetings. Unless you work for the military or you’re building a a classified product for the government, you’re wasting your time. I really don’t believe in this stuff. Did anyone build Tesla when Elon Musk released the patents? It takes more than an idea to build products. The more open you are, the more interest you will attract.
Share your ideas with as many people as you can. This is the low risk way to prove your concept and validate your ideas. It’s the easiest way to test the water and see if people like what you’re building. The worst thing you can do is waste your time and energy working on something no one wants. If you’re building something interesting, then start telling people about it. What’s the worst that can happen? Maybe you’ll start a few more conversations and open a few more doors. Whatever it is, trust that only good things will happen.
Gather feedback, user test, collect data and analytics, listen. Collecting data as you go is invaluable. Whether it be stats and figures or feedback from users and customers, it’s absolutely vital. This is the best way to learn about what works and what doesn’t and find out what needs improving or what new featured you should add. You can safely make iterations to your product knowing that you are doing the right thing. If you do this you will find yourself creating the product that people want. No second guessing. No building products based on assumption. Did you know Netflix creates series based on the data they collect. Essentially pre-empting a shows success before they’ve even made it.
So always back up your assumptions with real data. Don’t build products you think people want. Build products you know there is already a demand for. It’s never been easier to reach an audience and ask for feedback, so before you start building your product start collecting data to work with. It can be as simple as Sending out a survey or a questionnaire or building a clever product landing page. It doesn’t get more straight forward than creating a new Instagram page and seeing what posts get the most engagement. Think about where your audience hangs out. Start conversations and share what you’re working on. Always try and look for quick and easy ways test your ideas before you dive in head first.
As long as you get the worst, most unpolished version of your product out there first, and then improve it based on the data you collect, you will set yourself up for the best chance of success.
Note: These thoughts were initially sparked after reading a post by Joel Gascoigne of Buffer fame (link below), many years ago. I apply this same mentality to writing. Get it out there even if it sucks. Then go back and improve it later.
- All Our Patents Belong to You by Elon Musk, CEO Tesla
- How Netflix uses analytics by Zach Bulygo, Kissmetrics blog.
- Idea to Paying Customers in 7 Weeks: How We Did It by Joel Gascoigne, CEO Buffer
- How to validate your next big idea from the Typeform Blog.