At AgilityFeat, we spend lots of time speaking with entrepreneurs about their ideas. As our tagline says, “it’s in our DNA”. We’re a company that is often approached by entrepreneurs, filled with passion but stuck on the steps to take to turn their idea into a technical reality. While many companies (AgilityFeat included) will help you think through the technical decisions to build your idea, there are some steps that even the most non-technical of entrepreneurs can take to develop and document their idea before talking to technology partners. These steps will advance your thinking about your idea. Further, they will save you money because you will have a high-level artifacts necessary to build your product.
The first 3 steps to making your idea a reality
1. Prepare a functional summary of your application– Create a one page, high level summary of the people who will use your site, the problem that they are trying to solve and how they will solve it with your site. Include your goals for the project and be specific about those goals. Explain what you want to achieve and by when. Are you trying to validate assumptions, demonstrate usage for investment (if so, how much) generate cash (how much by when and how)? This is the “cover letter” that will provide context for a technical conversation with a potential partner.
2.Create a feature list-Describe each feature that a user will be able to use when they come to your site. These should be an exhaustive but simple statement of all the things that you envision a user doing. Simplicity is the key here and focus on listing the things the user can do like, read about “x”, post “y”, connect with “z” as well as more mundane features like search or login. Think about whether or not there are features that are available to logged-in user only. A great way to get started is to write a each feature on a single notecard.
3. Prioritize them– Once you have your stack of features, you’ll want to prioritize them. This prioritized list will be used to decide which features get built first. I recommend putting the most important or differentiating feature of the site first. Here’s why;
- Figuring out your most differentiating features will help you develop your marketing and pitch content- “Here’s what is different about my product”.
- If you build your product following this ranking system, you’ll get to see the most important features in production first, which will enable you to give feedback immediately. This is important because in many cases, core functionality changes get more expensive over time. Your goal is to get make the feedback loop as fast as possible
- By prioritizing your list, you can begin to decide which set of features must be in your Minimal Viable Product before you show the product to customers to get feedback.
At this point, you have a good start with regards to the scope of your project. You can start talking to technical partners with this set of information. But wait, there’s more! Here are some pro tips to consider before you talk to people you may hire to build your product:
3 Pro tips for translating your idea to a development partner
1. Create simple mock-ups or your pages– You can design! Ok, I may have just insulted every designer in the galaxy with that statement but if you can draw, you can describe your vision, um visually. Think about the experience of your site and the pages you will need. Represent each page with a single piece of paper. Title the page. Take your feature list and write down which features go on which pages. If you have thoughts about how the page looks, draw it! Don’t worry about how pretty your drawing looks, the point here is to capture which features go where and to uncover any things that you haven’t thought of yet. These drawings are not mock-ups, they are paper-prototypes. The final product will likely look nothing like your drawings but the purpose here is to get you thinking about features and experiences for the user. You technical partner will help you through the actual laying out of information as well as the best way to present it. For entrepreneurs with more specific presentation visions you use a tool like Basalmiq.
2. Determine how your users will access your product– In most cases, your users will access your site via all types of screens, phone, tablet, and pc. In which case you are probably going to want your application to have Responsive Design. But, maybe you are creating a complex application that will only be compelling on a PC. Knowing how your user will access your application can this can save you time and money.
3. Draft user stories– Remember those feature cards you created? I bet there were a few more nuances to your features that need to be captured beyond the simple, one sentence feature descriptor. In Agile, the artifact that describes a feature is called a User Story. The User Story describes the interaction of a user and your application, focusing on the value the user gets from your application and the user experience. Like haikus, user stories are simple to understand but nuanced to write. Here’s a great resource to learn more.
If you take all of these steps, you will be in a great position to talk to technical partners. I know, it’s a lot of work but it’s worth it. In addition to advancing your thinking about the product you now have a set of artifacts to show a technical partner that will enable you to communicate about your project in a much deeper and effective way. One last tip for entrepreneurs- Learn to code, you won’t regret it!
Have a product idea that you’d like to discuss? Give me a call at (617) 871-0882, contact us here or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free, 30 minute product assessment.