Every product designer has to deal with questions like: how do I make my product stand out in a room full of other amazing products? If someone is interested in what I’ve built, would he know how to use it? All these real-life challenges are part of every product designer’s path, but this time you are not going through this alone – you have a coach guiding you through this journey.
Back in February 2020, before COVID-19 entirely changed our lives, Roey organised an exhibition for his students from Design Academy in Eindhoven. The main idea behind this exhibition was to show students that working on a product doesn’t end with a good concept or an innovative idea. This way of working is described best by the product master himself, Jason Fried, in his book It doesn’t have to be crazy at work.
If you want to know the truth about what you’ve built, you have to ship it. You can test, you can brainstorm, you can argue, you can survey, but only shipping will tell you whether you’re going to sink or swim. Is this thing any good? Does it solve a real problem? Should we have made it better? Are we making what customers want? Is anybody going to buy this? Did we price it right?
But you can debate this internally forever. And many companies do. In the search for answers, they find anxiety instead. Second guesses, fear, and indecision fill the hallways in offices around the world. But why worry? Do your best, believe in the work you’ve done, and ship it. Then you’ll find out for sure. Maybe it’ll be spot-on. Maybe it’ll suck. Maybe it’ll be somewhere in between. But if you want to know, you have to put it on the market. The real market. It’s the only place you’ll find the truth.
You can follow the spec. You can test it forever. You can talk to potential customers and ask them what they’d pay for this thing you’re making. You can run surveys and ask people if they’d buy your product if it did this thing or that thing. But so what? Those are simulated answers, they aren’t real. Real answers are only uncovered when someone’s motivated enough to buy your product and use it in their own natural environment—and of their own volition. Anything else is a simulation, and simulated situations give you simulated answers. Shipping real products give you real answers.
At Basecamp we live this philosophy to the extreme. We don’t show any customers anything until every customer can see it. We don’t beta-test with customers. We don’t ask people what they’d pay for something. We don’t ask anyone what they think of something. We do the best job we know how to do and then we launch it into the market. The market will tell us the truth. Do we miss things we could have found had we asked a bunch of people beforehand? Of course. But at what cost? Putting everything we build in front of customers beforehand is slow, costly, and results in a mountain of prerelease feedback that has to be sifted through, considered, debated, discussed, and decided upon. And yet it’s still all just a guess! That’s a lot of energy to spend guessing.
Listen to Jonathan reading this section in his Product Breakfast Club podcast.
Learn more about our design and digital business strategy workshop and discover how you can realise your product vision and test your assumptions within 4 days!