Look Good Naked
At Hashrocket we have an opportunity to launch a lot of applications. It's a really awesome experience and every leap to production is unique to the product. Across all these launches there is one feeling that remains the same. It''s the "Oh crap! People are actually going see this thing" feeling. It's like standing there naked and exposed to the world. It's a difficult feeling as a designer and can be even more overwhelming for projects stakeholders.
** Warning this post contains at least two Home Alone quotes. **
You've been discussing it, crafting it and pouring yourself into it every day. You know it's flaws, blemishes and dirty secrets. What can you do but hold on to it longer. Maybe more polish will make it presentable. Maybe another week… a month… a year. It's got to be perfect. I can't put it out there flapping in the breeze. What if they laugh. What if they find it inadequate. This could be the internal dialog of a stakeholder or it's project team. At Hashrocket we see a lot of the same patterns in stakeholders who are reluctant to launch. I think we can take a queue about launching from the wise Kevin McCallister when he said "This is it. Don't get scared now."
Below are some of the things we encounter most often. They're fairly common and hopefully being aware, what thoughts might sneak in, will help you to be more successful.
I don't want to launch until everything is there. The truth is no one knows all the features that aren't there yet. They have no idea about all the cool stuff you're going to drop on them and when it arrives they're going to be so stoked. Not to mention you'll be better informed about your user's needs. If anything is completely true, from app to app, it's that things will change. The only way to minimize change is to be better informed. Until people are using it, it's just your best guess.
My competitors already have X and Y. I need those too. Your competitors have so many features. All of the features in fact. They also might have a years head start. The goal shouldn't be to match them feature for feature. If it is then you've already lost. You probably started down this road because you either had a compelling idea or fresh take on an existing one. Let it shine. Do it smarter. Don't just try to do more.
So and so said we need to change everything. Feedback is important for validating ideas. Heck, most of this post was about putting it out there to get real user feedback. Who are real users though? Is it your nephew? Maybe or maybe not depending on your apps purpose. If it's an app for tracking investments and savings for retirement, then maybe your 11 year old nephew's feedback shouldn't carry much weight. We want to listen and adapt but before we do any of that we need to filter it. How relevant is this feedback? Is it shared by others? Keep in mind the people you present the app to, before launch, have no investment in it. They are not going to care as much as you do. It's your dream, not their's, and sometimes they don't know what better is until you give it to them.
I need all the things and I need them now. Want to make these problems exponentially worse? Couple any of the feelings above with a deadline. Don't get me wrong. Deadlines are not inherently bad on their own. They only become a problem when you're not willing to cut scope. A tight deadline may just mean you have to let go of some things. This can actually be a great exercise because it forces you to choose what things are most important. You should be doing this anyway, even without the pressure of a deadline.
Some things just take longer than others. One MVP might be smaller than another. Just keep in mind the sooner you can get it out there, with real users banging on it, the better. Afraid of failure? We all are. That feeling doesn't become dangerous until it stops you from following through. Put it out there. I think Kevin McCallister said it best. "At least you'll know. Then you could stop worrying about it. You won't have to be scared anymore."