The Idea Dude


Friday, June 15, 2007

10 things you should know about prototypes

We've been working on a client project recently that involved creating a portal/social network prototype. Here are a couple of learnings I'd like to share.

  • Set expectations upfront, i.e. make sure everyone understands it is a prototype. It is meant to be thrown away. You should keep the ideas and learnings. Any code you save is a bonus.
  • The goal of the prototype is not to create the product, it is to learn what the product should be. It is a 'learning' exercise, not a 'building' one.
  • Expect the client to change his mind every day. If he isn't then maybe he is not as engaged as you thought he was.
  • It's not a software prototype, it is a business prototype. The prototype helps not only to mold the product but the entire team and the business vision.
  • Fail fast. This is the time where forgiveness is easily given.
  • Don't develop prototypes in isolation, work with the client every day. The prototype is a journey, not an end point.
  • If you going to ship your prototype, it is only to a select group of beta testers that will help you define and refine your thinking.
  • Make sure you have beta testers that try the prototype.
  • Play. Take the wackiest ideas and test it. Flex the system to see what it can or cannot do, and should or shouldn't do.
  • Refine the goals often but make sure you have goals, otherwise, life will become one unending prototype.
  • Stay loose.

Love to hear about your learning curve...

BTW: Seems like my assertion that Guy Kawasaki's Truemors wasn't a well-orchestrated marketing campaign to boost his brand after all. (Too bad, I kinda liked that story better, smacked of marketing genius. Guy is a genius, he just doesn't know it or too humble to admit it!) But Guy came by yesterday and put the record straight. Thanks Guy and good luck! You continue to help make the blogosphere interesting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My limited experience of development projects is that developers don't like completion. In the arts it's fairly well known that completion brings the most pain and I think the software world has defined open ended projects to avoid it - specify what constitutes completion. It's really important. Butexpect pain.

11:19 AM  
Blogger The Idea Dude said...

Hmm, I left that one out... Haydn.

I guess it's because completion in some ways ends your sense of ownership and intimacy with something.

Letting go is definitely important, thanks for adding this one.

11:26 AM  
Blogger F said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and was wondering whether we could reuse the Lego picture for our student newspaper.
I am editor for La Gazette Cournot (we are based in Strasbourg, France) - we are a not-for-profit just having fun but we insist on making everything legit as it is printed (to 100 copies) and distributed electronically to approximately 500 people (most of whom probably don't read it).
Please write to digustav(a)

3:51 AM  
Blogger The Idea Dude said...

Hi Francis,

The picture is courtesy of Flickr. If you click on the picture, you will be taken to the owner of that picture.


9:11 AM  

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