If there is one thing that building products has taught me, it is the value of product design. Use product design to inform what you are building or risk a slow horrible startup death.
Nowadays, the startup community is desperate for lean processes and building a quick MVP. They focus on speed and sacrifice functions as a condition of deliverables. Show “something” to investors is the priority in which most of the cases, properly product design is not applied.
The startup community is falling for the short-term reward and this can be a costly mistake, and one I have done.
Linkmosis was a side-project I worked for almost a year. The product was a website like google docs but with steroids. The team started without a good understanding of user needs (because the client was pushing about time), often moving forward based on instinct and personal preference to “safe time”. The iterations were long and one it was presented to the user, nobody got the idea. Besides, was slow and inefficient.
Many first-time founders, in particular, undervalue product design — often until its too late.
Is about building the right product
We need to remove from our minds the idea of design = looking good. Only a small part of product design is making it pretty. Product design is about design thinking. A codified process of think. Make things look good is not a codified process.
If you sit down with your possible Personas, get feedback, understand their needs, and you actually think about address them, your MVP is attainable. If not, you are building a P that will never be an MVP.
As you can check in The Design Thinking Process from the Nielsen Normal Group first step is “empathize” with your users — but how many times I have heard founders say “I thought about that product because I needed at that time and was a good idea” but one thing is what you need and another one what the user really needs.
Design thinking is the simple process but the steps themselves aren’t always that clear.
The product is not only for you
You are creating products for people who behave differently and are driven by different desires. They are not mannequins and most of them are not like you.
You can’t mess around with half-baked assumptions. If you do, you’ll fail. Understanding user needs require methodical research to inform how you build your product.
I will say, these are the resources I wish I would know about for my previous startup experience. I know it’s tempting to create assumptions in order to accelerate the process but it’s critical to lay on this foundation.
- Validate your idea as much as you can: Don’t rely on your assumptions and in the way to perceive the world. Check this post explaining how to identify and eliminate those risk assumptions
- Understand which is the main function of your product the people will use: Users “hire” services and products to get specific tasks done in their lives. We all know you can book a plane ticket in Alipay, but that’s not the core of it.
- Create a good hypothesis: You can check What Are You Trying to Learnfrom the Real Startup Book to flesh out what you’re trying to learn and how to ask the right questions.
- Avoid prejudices: We need to admit that we all have them, so bear that in mind. Check this article about how to avoid biases: You’re Irrational: How to Avoid Cognitive Blind Spots.
After working many years in an industry, entrepreneurs have done extensive user research, intentional or not and they really understand the user pain. And, even if they don’t validate their potential solutions (which they really should), they’re off to a better start than most. That’s why they succeed in most of the cases.
If you don’t want to fail as founder, don’t skip this step.
You don’t want to find yourself with a shitty product after investment, time and resources right?