I’ve been working on a thing for almost a year, and this week, I launched it. It took a lot time for a lot of different reasons: I moved city this year and had to put my computer into storage for a few months, I started a new job, relaunched this blog, and was traveling for about a month.
“The whole point of the doomsday machine…is lost if you keep it a secret!”
But even after all of that, I’m happy to say that I finally launched a project I have been working on, and actually getting it out there and in front of real users has been enormously satisfying and rewarding.
So, to celebrate, here are 5 tips I have learned for any designers out there who are apprehensively hovering over the “ship it” button.
The whole point of the doomsday machine is lost if you keep it a secret!”– Dr Strangelove
1. Be Careful Who You Show it To
Different people will give you different feedback, and there are lots of different kinds of feedback. Initially I showed it to other programmers or project managers, and the things they saw were very different to what friends and family saw.
People who work in tech see things differently. They are looking for front end bugs, or possible new features to add. You don’t need either of these if you’re hoping to launch any time soon.
The feedback I got from my non-tech friends and family was a lot more valuable that the feedback I got from my techy friends… There are 2 main reasons for this:
- They were not the target users
- They see things differently
Show it to the only people who matter – the kind of people who you hope will use it. If you hope tech people will use it, fine. But I found in my experience that this ended badly, where people would just point out the errors, or suggest new features.
It can be easy to get stuck in an infinite loop of adding features and fixing bugs, and your project would never see the light of day.
Do you have a license to sell those balloons?
2. Take Short Cuts
This isn’t usually a viable business solution, but when you’re just testing an idea out, take short cuts.
We can’t all do everything. I’m not the best programmer in the world, so I download scripts and patched things together until things worked the way I need them to.
Even though I’m a designer, I used a front end framework to get the grid system working across all devices, with form designs and buttons all ready to go. This means you can get the entire front end done in just a few hours – and you can move on to getting your project in front of real users.
There’s no special prizes for starting from scratch – if you need a social login or some kind of sign up form – that code exists as open source out there. Don’t spend huge amounts of time coding things from scratch if you can easily and affordably get something up and running quickly. It’s much more rewarding to get something finished and out there.
For example – I bought this blog theme. It’s more important for me to be able to get on with the writing, than spend months developing my own theme from scratch. Get smart with how you use your time, and use existing tools and assets to your advantage.
3. Stick to the Plan
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Create a plan, and stick to it.
Stick the the plan as much as possible to avoid scope creep. I used a Trello board to keep my project on track, and forced myself to not add any features other than the ones that were on the board. It’s easy to get carried away with new ideas and distracted by the possibilities that your project could provide, but the best thing to do is to stick to a goal.
A minimal viable product is fine, as long as it is viable and it works. It should be able to do what it promises to do. You can dress it up and add more features later, but the basic functionality should work from the start.
Create a deadline so that it doesn’t completely take over your life. Sometimes you will have to push back the deadline – for instance, my deadline was originally October but things just didn’t happen as soon as I would have liked.
4. One Project at a Time
This one sounds like it should be obvious, but it’s tempting to start a new side project every time you have a really nice new idea. I’ve learned to keep a vault of my ideas in Trello where I can get them when I have time. Inspiration can strike at any time. Whenever I have an idea, I add it to the list in Trello, and continue to work on finishing the project I am currently focused on.
It’s better to have 1 finished project than dozens of half-baked ones in your hard drive at home. I should know – I speak as someone who has dozens of half-baked ideas on my computer.
5. Have Fun With it
It wouldn’t be possible to work on something in your spare time if it wasn’t a little bit fun. One of the things I love about working on my project is the fact that I can use a ridiculous colour scheme if I want, and can play around with the copy and design.
It’s difficult enough to make time to work on something in the evenings and at weekends, so make sure you at least enjoy this adventure. That way, even if it’s not successful, you can at least say you had some fun.
So those are my tips on how you can also finish you side project. I would like to ask – are any of you out there currently working on a side project? How is it going? Have you just started? Or are you nearly finished? I’d love to hear how you’re getting on. Please get in touch over on twitter.