Disrespect your prototype

In a previous post, Dave our MD wrote about the idea of disrespecting your backlog – he suggested it needs constant refining based on your changing business priorities and feedback from your customers. Doing this on a regular basis helps you to keep your focus on what your customers actually want and what is/isn’t working. But I think this is only one part of the story.

At White October, we’re big fans of validating assumptions before going the whole hog and making the finished product. If you don’t know if something will work, how can you be sure that your idea for the end goal is correct? And so we often advocate the idea of creating a prototype version of your product, testing it with a limited set of end users and gauging feedback based on their interactions and discussions. Once you’ve validated one set of assumptions, perhaps it’s then time to iterate on that and validate the next set, expanding your prototype as you do so.

With a few iterations of this, including maybe some user interface adjustments, a bit of additional design work and similar, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being too wedded to your prototype. After all, you’ve invested time and money into this to figure out which of your assumptions are valid and which aren’t. You may have even taken this to some potential investors. It’s safe to say you have a bit of an emotional attachment to the prototype as it’s now a validation of your original idea. But this can be dangerous territory to fall into, as your prototype is just that – a prototype, a learning experience, a tool in your product journey.

When you reach the end of your assumption validation journey, you should be prepared to possibly discard your prototype entirely. However, take from it everything you’ve learnt – be that what does/doesn’t work in terms of your original idea, any design feedback, perhaps some development logic. You can take all this valuable detail into the next phase of your product – the real build for a real audience. Taking on board what you’ve learnt during the prototype phase puts you in a much stronger position, and you can concentrate on building the product solidly and with a real focus on high-quality output. Your prototype has got you there, but it’s time to let go.

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