How to Release in a Week

From Idea to MVP

No Time to Waste!

Your First Tasks

  • Come up with a good idea (your vision) -- this weekend
  • Build the first user testable version -- in a week!
  • Test it on some users
  • Build / Measure / Learn!

What's a Good Idea?

  • A good product is one that
    • users want
    • you can build
  • Users want products that either
    • reduce pain, or
    • provide pleasure
  • This is your value prop

How Do You Get Good Ideas?

  • Start with a lot of them, then filter.
  • Brainstorm as a team.
    • Face to face is best, Skype or Google+ Hangout if you can't meet
    • Have at least one notetaker
    • Apply the cardinal rule of improv: say "yes" to every idea
  • Target specific types of users
  • Think about causes, like Design For America
  • Try idea combination patterns like "a <existing product> for <unlikely audience>," e.g., "Yelp for kindergartners."

Filtering Ideas

  • Sort by end user value and team passion
  • Avoid crowded markets with high barriers to entry, like games
  • Avoid flashy gimmicks
  • Describe your ideas to friends
    • If they don't get it right away, it's too complicated
    • If they say it sounds like something already out there, it needs more differentiation
  • Advice from a very wise 17-year old
  • Dig deep. If it was easy, everyone would be rich

Testing Your Idea

  • You have an idea, but
    • Will users want it?
    • Can you build it?
  • Don't guess. Test!
    • like, in a week
    • you only have 5 weeks total!

How to Release in One Week

One-Button Apps

  • Strip away everything but the central idea of your app
  • What you leave out is as important as what you put in
  • Every feature you add
    • delays release and testing
    • adds code to be debugged and maintained
    • adds complexity to the user interface
    • confuses the user about what the app is for
  • Examples: iPhone flashlight, I'm OK, Twitter,, Flappy Bird, ...

Mobile Web Apps

  • Mobile web apps are web sites customized to
    • look and feel like native apps
    • respond quickly using pre-loaded pages
    • work offline when connectivity drops
  • Everyone can help build, anyone can test, smartphone or not
  • Fast deployment
  • Go native or hybrid later, if necessary

Mobile Web Apps


  • Gang up on the problem
  • Right now: Get everyone onto a github repository
  • Right now: Schedule 2 or 3 team hackathons in some room in the next few days
  • At each hackathon,
    • On one feature (user story) at a time
    • If possible, project the running app
    • Code in pairs, test, commit, deploy and demo something new at least every 15 minutes

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

  • MVP: the smallest thing you can build to test your most critical unknowns,
    • your value prop
      • if users aren't impressed, you don't have a product
    • your ability to code for that value prop
  • 80% of your app is irrelevant to testing your idea
    • Login, preference pages, profiles, statistics, etc.
  • Twitter was designed on a napkin

What to Build First

  • What kind of app do you have/
    • For an info or marketplace app, what matters is data
      • Collect and display of real data
      • The real is the critical part
    • For a social interaction app, what matters is the interaction
      • What's the shortest interaction that demonstrates value?

Design by demo

  • Write a script of a specific person using your app
    • Start with a problem
    • End with a payoff
  • Then implement the payoff part first
  • Example:
    • WorkIt! a Siri™ for exercisers
    • Wanda, a work-at-home graphic artist, takes her mid-morning exercise break. She taps the WorkIt!, hits Start and WorkIt! starts calling out the steps in the exercise routine Wanda designed for herself.
    • What's the payoff?
    • Ergo, implement and test that, before anything else

Demo, Scenario, Story, ...

  • A demo is a story with characters, context, problem, and payoff
    • Character: someone with a background, needs, and opinions
    • Context: the situation someone is in
    • Problem: a specific problem, one that arises often
    • Payoff: your app coming to the rescue!
  • Kim Goodwin on design scenarios

Demo Scenario Example

  • Character:
    • Wanda, a 26-year old tech-savvy work-from-home telecommuter who wants to stay fit
  • Context:
    • Wanda likes to do 20 minutes of daily exercise in a mid-morning work break.
  • Problem:
    • Exercise DVDs are not customized to her particular goals
  • Payoff:
    • Wanda pulls out her iPhone, taps the WorkIt! icon, and selects "Morning routine"
    • WorkIt! begins calling out in a clear voice the timed steps in the routine she has designed