People like to approach product design from looking at successful products already out there. Let’s take everybody’s favorite example…the iPhone.
The iPhone is the cream of the pie… not just in the mobile industry but basically across all industries. It is redefining how consumer products should be - beautiful, simple, elegant and inspiring!
So everybody… especially a lot of people in the startup world, started to approach product design with the aim to create the iPhone of their industry. Something that is beautiful, simple, blah, blah, blah from day one. And to do so, they start piling up assumptions.
First assumption is usually the core idea, let’s say socks for fish.
So you want to create and market socks for fish, great idea! But hey, how about those socks having different themes…”seasons” yeah, seasons are great…people love that. And oh… how about auto sharing on Facebook so every time you put them on, your friends will know about it too… awesome! And talking about socks for fish, we should also think about hand gloves… it just makes sense. This is going to be huge! We can ship it all together because hey, “more is better”, right!?
So 12 months and lots of ideas added to the core product later u ship…yeah!!!
But hmmm… what happened? It turns out reaching out to fish is really hard. I mean they live in the ocean and they are not on the freakin internet. You wonder what is wrong with these guys? It’s like they have been living on the moon or something!?! But hey, we got brains right so this can be fixed. It turns out some humans have fishes as pets. Oh man that’s huge… the pets market, it’s taking over the (pet) world time. But, somehow this still is not taking off as it should. Socks for fishes by itself are probably not viral enough… that’s it. But what if we would add an invite your friends feature to our socks - kind of like a double sock - everything is better with friends, right!?!
You will probably have already smiled by now…but u know, I have had this talk so many times by now that in the future I will just point people to this blog post.
Let’s continue: what just happened!?!
You started with a core assumption that fish would like to wear socks and instead of at first just testing out that assumption you started adding features. You could have tested the basic assumption within hours but instead you spend months on the iPhone of socks for fish. You wanted it to be perfect! Well that is the issue… Great products are created iterative… proofing on assertion after another. Some teams do that in public, some behind closed doors. Apple for example started the iPad development in 2001… they built hundreds of tablet prototypes before releasing it to the public in 2010. Thats 9 years of iterating - hundreds of people involved. And they where not just working on tablet computers, but at a lot of other products too that never will see the light of day. That’s just how it is. You have to throw a lot at the wall for something to stick.
Do one step after another. Never try to jump one because you think it’s obvious people will want this and that. Don’t try to solve problems you don’t have yet… because that’s just an assumption!
You know when you found a strong idea when the most simple implementation already makes people want it badly. A good example here is Facebook…Mark build the first prototype and it instantly took off….without cutting edge design or other marketing bells and whistles. Find that “strong” idea…go out there, throw a lot at the wall…it worked for me every time!
And don’t get me wrong…I’m not against brainstorming sessions as long as you say “no” a lot more often then “yes”.
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