Prototyping in product managementPosted: 10/01/2013
Have you ever been in a brainstorming session on a specific topic? You probably have, at least one. It is a hell of a time especially when your companies are brilliant guys who have knowledge, wisdom and vision. In each session, there are a lot of questions to ask, so to answer and consider about. And each of them triggers a new one. It is an infinite loop.
In each session, the problem is not to list many great ideas. The hard stuff is to find out the valuable ideas within the list and decide the one that you start to build on. It is very likely to have the same situation when you and your teammates are about to develop a new product.
During product development (or product management, we will come to that later) lots of ideas and features are formed. Some of them are declared as “key” for users. Some ideas are “must” for stakeholders. There are “innovative” (or let’s say) “risky” ones and feared not to be loved. The huge group of data which is relatively related to market and target user group drops into your hands.
Under all these conditions, it has to be made sure that the beloved product is decided. That is the one must. If you fail, the Middle Earth would fail too. While you are carrying this huge responsibility, do you really want to have just one shot to hit?
No one wants to risk the time, money and opportunity. You can make your product loved by users, teammates, stakeholders and of course yourself. The solution is developing prototypes. Note that I consciously use plural ending. Hopefully, I will describe why you need more than one in next articles.
A prototype model is built to test a concept or act as an early platform to validate that a design meets the target user’s requirements.(*)
Here comes the explanation of what prototyping can provide you with through each aspect of the project.
Consume the real experience
As you can guess, prototyping is useful for many reasons. But the first and most important one is that it enables you to understand what the experience the product might deliver.
Since development is not a “one way ticket”, there has to be something coming back to you. It is called feedback. You need it all the time.
Prototyping is the best way to collect user feedback and then you would be able to answer these questions;
- If the user group would love it?
- Is it the experience in your mind that you wanted to present?
- What kind of use errors do occur?
- How it can be more efficient?
Set the functionality, again
The loveliest part of product development is the very beginning of the progress. There are a lot of ideas to think of. With a little effort and trick, you can be extremely creative and innovative instead of being got stuck in a mud.
However your focus is lost during this time. The more items you think of, the less attention you pay for each. The chance to fail is always greater than to success. The help of quantitative data and math are always required.
After launching a prototype, you would be able to check your functionality of your product. In other words, your product goals. You can be sure and keep your functionality or change them to improve your experience. Even you can drop some to get simpler. After gathering data, you have the right to do so.
Get your team involved
Your teammates are not some ordinary people to do others’ jobs. They can contribute to your product. Some great value which you would fail might come from others. They have to contribute, have to be a part of product.
But you need to meet them on a zero ground where everything is clear to see without any recall. They have to recognize what you mean and be able to show you directly what they think. It is exactly where your prototype stands.
With the help of prototype, you are more likely to tell them why their idea applied or not. They require to understand the reason behind. It is very important to keep them motivated. A tech guy does not just write code or artists does not draw something that you want. They do it best when they want to do it. A prototype brings you something that money cannot buy; motivation.
Fail faster build better
Realizing any errors, gaps, unknown edge-cases in early stages is key to success. It is impossible to develop something without mistakes. But with some form of prototype, it is possible to learn what is going wrong.
Like in any project, time is the biggest enemy. The changes are needed to be done in early stages for two reasons.
First reason is to finance your changes. As you can see, the total money that project consumes grows dramatically day by day. And it goes faster than you can imagine. Small changes can be feasible anytime but what if it is a major change that you need to implement? Or dropping some features already developed? You cannot both explain and manage these changes after spending much money.
“Ten times the impact if you discover a needed design change early, and 100 times cheaper to make the change. The experience from both fields is clear: early is much better than late.”(*) — Jakob Nielsen
Secondly, let’s say the huge changes are financed even after you launch the product. It is maybe good for users and maybe not. But it is clear that you are going to disturb some of them who already gained a routine.
The benefit list goes on and on. But the big gun is that while the focus is distracted by many important issues, the team has to be sure that the feeling of product is right for the user. Otherwise, you become lost so are your investment, time, money and opportunity.
Before you start, never forget that it very is a cost-effective progress and can be done very easily if you know how. The article will continue with how to do it. Stay tuned.