Before The Build Starts

How to set up for success.

2018-11-22

The most successful products go through a lot of iteration. The key to creating a successful product is iterating faster and cheaper than the competition. For this reason when we build products, we take the pre-development phase very seriously.

It is 10x faster and cheaper to change functionality and get feedback on features in the idea phase than it is in the design phase, and 10x faster in the design phase than it is in the development phase. We want to take advantage of our early stage flexibility to learn a lot and learn fast, so we aim to:

  • Iterate “on paper”
  • Define the problem and solution
  • Set up the product for commercial success

Here’s how we do it:

1. Users & Problem

The only requirement to get started is to have a target audience and a problem you’re trying to solve for them.

At this stage you are picking a Market. Who is your product for? There are a lot of ways to calculate market size based on different assumptions. This is as much an art as it is a science. Simply put you need enough people to spend enough money on solving their problem. You decide what “enough” is. Unlike Silicon Valley, at Get It Built we believe not every product worth building has a billion dollar market. You should pick a market based on your goals and priorities for your business. You should also have (or be ready to work towards) a unique advantage in your market by being able to solve your user’s problem better than anyone else.

2. Talking to Users

Conducting user interviews, surveys, and market research is the first step to building something people want. If you are uniquely positioned to offer user’s something they don’t yet know they want this process will be focused on figuring out how to bridge that gap, so they can understand why they need your product.

Our favorite way to gather user data is by solving their problem #IRL. You should try to find 100 people in your market with your problem and do whatever you can to solve their problem for them. In the case of Uber, this means giving 100 people rides yourself. You should be able to levarage existing tools at this stage. In this step you are working towards:

  • Intimate familiarity with the problem.
  • Understanding of the weaknesses of the solution.
  • Low cost iterations on the solution.
  • Building a community for your brand.

3. Brainstorming Ideas

Usually when people have an app idea they can visualize it in their minds. Sometimes we get unreasonably attached to the first version of our idea, so a step that should not be forgone is brainstorming. Informed by your users and your own experience, it is important to bring different perspectives together, remove boundaries and explore the possibilities for solutions to your users’ problems. We use Ideo’s flavor of brainstorming as inspiration for ours. These are the rules:

  • Defer judgement
  • Encourage wild ideas
  • Build on the ideas of others
  • Stay focused on the topic
  • One conversation at a time
  • Be visual
  • Go for quantity

4. Feature Lists

Confident that we have explored all our options, we switch gears to making decisions. Feature lists at Get It Built are created with the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) mentality.

We focus on creating value for your users as quickly as possible. It is not useful to compare yourself to products built by companies who have raised 1000x more than you to expand their product. Speeding up development for us is reducing quantity not quality of features. Bigger companies have the bandwidth to do more, but they also set the ever increasing standard for design that we should meet with our MVP. If we focus on the essentials, we can use your MVP to give value to users, and then expand on it to scale when we have validation. At this point, you should be giving users enough value that they are looking forward to the rest of the app rather than not using you because you are missing some features. If the later is happening, you need to rethink, review, retarget, and retest. If you get this right, you will have product-market fit before even finishing your product. Our rules are simple:

  • Less is more.
  • Simplicity is key.

https://blog.deming.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/minimal-viable-product-henrik-kniberg.png

5. Wireframing

A feature list tells you what the app should do, and the wireframes show you how it should do it. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the key here is to get ideas on paper. The main goal here is to get everyone on the same page, explore new possibilities, and decide what the app is going to look like at a high level. This is a very iterative process. The more questions, concerns, and possibilities are brought up and resolved at this stage, the less will be pushed for later. At this stage changes are incredibly easy and have no hidden costs, but waiting to make changes when development has started is costlier than it needs to be.

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1000/1*tHRuElxUMYVqTvNTx-XfnQ.png

6. Style Guide

Feedback and iteration on wireframes should happen on the topics of functionality, layout, and flow without the distraction of fonts and colors. When the core of the app is defined, we can focus on finding the style for your app that your users will love.

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/example-cd8a1.appspot.com/o/Screen%20Shot%202018-11-13%20at%203.04.31%20PM.png?alt=media&token=91126652-57b4-4e77-b388-7e0d93b93490 https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/example-cd8a1.appspot.com/o/Screenshot%202018-11-13%2015.11.49.png?alt=media&token=36d0d934-9567-4e41-9925-ec4071c922e2

7. Mockups

The next step is combining our branding efforts with out user experience to define how the app will actually look.

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/example-cd8a1.appspot.com/o/Screenshot%202018-11-13%2015.44.40.png?alt=media&token=bc8dd7e0-1be4-4aab-b95d-0b38a03bc776

At this stage we are ready to move on to the technical definition of what goes into developing your vision. To learn more about the next steps check out our post about app architecture.

A few things you might need at the early stages of development to set up for success are:

8. Clickable Protoype

Typically for investor meetings and client demos we will need to showcase our product in the form of a clickable prototype. When mockups are created and we add “transitions” we can create a visual representation of the final version of the product in action. You can click through it and get a feel for how it will work. This enables you to “walk through” the site or application. This step is optional if the goal of the project is creating a demo or proof of concept.

9. Landing Pages

This would be your company website and the page in which you collect user interest. We recommend using a website like Wix and Google Domains.

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/example-cd8a1.appspot.com/o/Screenshot%202018-11-13%2016.13.41.png?alt=media&token=6adb1592-b273-4d1b-adac-3d6195f80372 https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/example-cd8a1.appspot.com/o/Screenshot%202018-11-13%2016.10.50.png?alt=media&token=4e67825f-a907-4281-8da4-ec4d86fbb461

10. Beta List

One of the most important things to do before you start building an app is creating and deploying a strategy for building your beta list. Landing pages are a part of this, but you should know who you want to be the core group of testers that you will entrust with giving you feedback on your product and be intentional about gathering and managing this group.

Ready to get started?

We have seen our most successful clients take their time in this phase to make sure that when we start development we are ready to move fast and set up for success. We provide all of these services (examples of our work shown above) and need the resulting mockups and feature list to quote our architecture and development services. If you are interested in any of these services, let us know the details of your request with this questionnaire, we will get back to you with a proposal. If you have any questions, drop us a note below.