Super Power #8 – Quick Draw

So about that survey last week…it was um, really successful…to the one of you who took it…so uh, if that one person is reading this? Just remember what you entered, k? And I’m just gonna let that slip away and NOT put up another survey…maybe ever. Sorry ‘bout that.

THIS week though, we’re doin’ a super power, baby! I promise it will be way more fun than my son had this morning (when he had a tooth pulled).

The problem? People, including you and your stakeholders, are not very good at predicting what features will be effective and popular and those that will not work well. That is precisely why I wrote about shrinking your app to better focus on the best features. That’s reactive though, surely we have to be able to do something to be proactive?

Enter the quick draw power. No, please don’t quick draw your weapon and disable users who don’t like your app…I mean quickly draw a sketch of an idea. Prototyping is powerful for helping you improve your odds of building the right stuff.

As I wrote about in Taking Blind Leaps, one of our development teams was working on a graphical tool that could do scenario analysis. Early on in the project, we brainstormed with our users and came up with some great ideas for overlaying different sets of securities onto their main view to help them generate ideas. This sounded interesting to them but not interesting enough to make it a key part of the project and so we moved the stories around it to the bottom of the backlog.

Otherwise, the project proceeded and was considered a big success, but this overlay piece ate at some of us. A couple of sprints before the final release the team really started pushing to do a spike to show our stakeholders what was possible with the overlays and a few other advanced features. At the demo, we showed them the new views and how they might be interconnected, which went really well. The shock came as we did the usual confirmation and shuffle of priorities in the backlog, and he put this new set of features at the top.

A very gratifying result that unfortunately came just as the project time and money were running out. We are definitely going to pursue the features we showed them in the prototype but now it will take a lot longer and will have to compete with many other priorities. And the bottom line is that I want to get this kind of thing done much earlier in the process next time.

So what can you do to get this kind of result? A fully functional prototype will definitely do the job but I will be trying a number of different things so we can find the most effective (and inexpensive) way. For instance, I and two other product owners on our team are going to UX Week this year to learn about paper prototypes, among other things. My current belief is that you have to visually engage your users, not just verbally convey an idea.

I know there are lots of people out there who know more than me and would love to hear what you find most effective for prototyping new features. And I will post a follow-up to this if I personally find something really effective in the coming months.

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