There are two kinds of people in this world.
Those who complain.
Those who do something about it.
95% of the people in this world are poor for a few reasons. When I say poor I don’t just mean financially.
Talk about people instead of ideas
Watch TV instead of learning from books or online courses
Blame outside forces instead of themselves when things go wrong
Complain instead of provide solutions
Worried about taking a risk instead of worrying about not taking risks
Provide reasons not to do something instead of reasons to do
Reset their expectations instead of holding their standards high
Wish things were easier instead of making themselves better
Focus on what others have instead of what they have
Believe ‘millionaires’ are inherently different from others instead of realizing they too could be millionaires if they worked at it
Avoid failure, which in turn has them avoiding success
They focus on what they have to give up instead of what they have to gain
They flock to comfort and flee from fear and discomfort
They measure value in money instead of time
They believe great leaders want followers instead of more leaders
They focus on security instead of freedom
They believe expertise is a bucket instead of a spectrum
They choose the worst of the easy’s instead of the best (it’s easy to give up but it’s also easy to learn)
Are apathetic instead of passionate
Risk is a perception. When put into perspective everything one does is risky. Being born was the riskiest thing you could have done because no one gets out of it alive.
Most of risk comes down to emotions. Which means our reality which for most is a stream of emotions and reality bending justifications. Could be altered if you believe you are going to fail because the ‘thing’ you’re doing is ‘risky’.
Yes there is a cost to everything. The easiest way to measure this cost is money. Because you can hold it and you can see if it goes up or down. But there are also values and time and feelings. Risk can be mitigated by managing the riskiest pieces first. In a startup a lot of people go to just broad sweeping generalizations of risks. Will the company buy it? Will the user like it?
But there are specific and real risks that most do not see. Human behavior. Mapping out new pieces of software designed to ‘disrupt’ an industry. You are, if we are to use this example, disrupting a behavior. Some retail locations have surveys where people could win prizes for answer. If people commonly don’t fill out the surveys on a receipt and you find the solution is to make it digital. You’ve introduced a whole series of issues.
The user now has to know about the app.
They have to download it.
They have to then input the information from the receipt into the system, probably a unique identifier.
How is that any different from what is currently being done?
User stories can help tease out these common behavior tricks. If you can ‘generalize’ a behavior from one system to another you are overcoming this but most of the time the human behavior you are trying to instill is new and different or untested. To help mitigate your risk map out user stories and establish where and when your story and the story they were doing for that user segment differs. Is it clicking on an email? a link? uploading something? whatever it is. Have that prepared.
Most of us tend to think of our strengths and weaknesses as two silos. One benefits us and others while the other is detrimental. This is of course true for many facets. There is also a double edged sword to our strengths. It may not be completely obvious but it sits there without us realizing it.
If you’re known for being an honest person. The double edge of that strength isn’t being dishonest. It’s lacking discretion. The weakness of our strength isn’t an opposing view or skill set that we lack, such as analytical people being less emotionally accessible. It’s that if we’re known for researching, we’ll research too much. If you’re known for being decisive you’ll act too early.
When it’s just you or a very small team. These strengths generally overshadow the double edge but as organizations grow so will the echo of this double edge. So it’s best to 1. find great team members that can offset the double edge whatever that may be. 2. Learn to moderate your double edge. Never easy but you have to start somewhere.
Normally when it comes to testing out a business idea it’s more about customer discovery questions and establishing pain points and user stories. But building out a mobile game that is depend upon social interactions. Well that made some of my points seem less important.
There is a possibility I was over thinking or under thinking some of this but I left the assumptions that people want entertainment and went straight to the most complicated piece of it all.
Were people willing to play a multiplayer game that required creativity on both game sections?
If you look at most games you’ll see they are either ‘tell us what this card is’ or ‘draw out that word’ or act out the word and get people to shout it. It’s not a invent a sentence from thin air. Then write the scene out, then write a sentence out for that scene.
After paper testing some points and mocking up the game in a ‘card’ like system where I was the computer and the person I was testing was just interacting with it. I found some bumps and confusions along the way. I then mocked it up digitally and started playing around with the app by my lonesome to get a feel for it.
The challenge to alpha testing something with consumers who are not used to alpha testing things is most are confused by the lack of polish that shows up. It’s frustrating to watch the confusion and distractions that occur when you try to introduce the middle to early-middle adopters of your app. So the best thing you can do is try to lock in those early adopters so they are not as distracted with the constant poor quality or hiccups.
That can be easier said then done which is why I took it to those who would be early-middle adopters, just slightly behind the earliest of the early. The point being they could ramp up the game and I keep keep polishing it as needed.
Paper testing the mechanics helped because I had cleaned up a large portion of the free form aspects of the game when done in person. While you’re not always going to have people who are very patient testing in paper and then test it digitally do your best to keep grabbing people to get a feel for it.
The challenge to any well intended entrepreneur is they get way way way ahead of themselves. All you need to do is test your ideas with the principles of the “Wizard of OZ”. The premise that you don’t have to be an all knowing all powerful wizard to secure your digital idea. You just need to test assumptions and start with the cheapest and easiest first.
So I started with a landing page. Now since the industry seems to favor free or freemium models for revenue I didn’t have to answer the question of “will my prospective customers purchase my value prop” but instead “will my prospective customers be interested enough to download my app?”
Which means a landing page and a squeeze page is the next step in our journey towards validation. Many will argue that getting an email is not product validation. I would argue that each step gets you closer and closer towards product validation. An email may give you a 30% comfort level in your product. The obvious and easiest measure is a purchase. That’s a 100% validation for that one person.
But I digress.
I wrote up some simple copy. Then setup some basic images and screenshots with a download now button. On the click of the button they were sent to another page where they could signup to be notified of when they could try the game.
This seems a little simplistic and you may lose a few people not wishing to join a waiting list but overall it gave me a pretty good idea of who and what would be interested in playing the game.
So the biggest thing I think people get hung up on when they are testing a new idea is that it has to be built. It has to be perfect. It doesn’t. We as humans start worrying and fretting and fear rises up pretty high in our throats at the prospect of showing somebody something that’s have done.
I don’t blame you. Rejection could be perceived as it being ‘not complete’ or ‘not having all the features’. But in reality it’s probably because you are either
The latter two are easy to fix, well not easy but are problems most nascent startups have. You think group X would really love this new widget when really they could care less because ‘paper and pen’ is all they need. I’ve made interviewed groups to find out that the thing you think is so terrible and needs fixing they find perfect and have no interest in switching. Jump over to another group and they are more than willing to do so.
Some of it is not as obvious as others. Which is why the prospect of building a game, a social game none the less. Was frustrating to me. I wasn’t familiar with ways to validate the game environment because the value you bring is an experience not necessarily solving a problem for a business who is cognizant of their issue. It’s pretty easy to go to a business and ask questions to problems they are constantly facing. In game development I felt a little lost in the process of starting fast, cheap and with the riskiest proposition.
I knew that the game as a human experience was valid. I had played it multiple times in a ring of people sitting cross legged drawing and writing out sentences but I had not vetted it for the public at large in a digital sense. The first thing I considered risky was “would people play the game?” That was answered over a series of times that it was played and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.
The experience was special for several reasons 1. The people knew each other and 2. Inside jokes were a plenty. Knowing this could be the link to attempting to transfer it digital it could also be the reason why it may not succeed either. There is an impersonal feeling when it comes to the digital world. Also the ‘winning’ game mechanics are not really strong. As I’ve played it at parties you never received points the experience was simply to ‘laugh’ or enjoy how the sentence evolved once it was let go.
So I had to keep that in mind, the game mechanics for ‘winning’ had to be more like a social voting for sentence narrative as well as individual competitions.
So now that I had experienced in passing the vetting process for mockups in the real world and observed why it was so fun in person. I had satisfied, partially, my personal mandate of creating customers before product.
I then had to answer the second part, because at this point the only thing I’ve vetted was a board like game in person (when really you just need a few rule explanations and some paper). So digitally it had to be answered “would people be interested in it online?”
So with my first mobile app I decided just to start building something simple. Something easy. That’s awesome but how. Should I make it native and work with just Android or iOS? Should I make a cross mobile app?
In this big mess of my workflow with mobile apps. I decided to start with listing out all of my features I’d want. I got pretty indepth to the point where it was “user can login” and “user can register” this really just gives me super in-depth clarity that I like. It was maybe 10 more minutes more.
Then what I did was I acted the part of the butcher. “Does the user REALLY need that feature?”
I kept repeating. As I removed it from the list of first iteration. I gutted about half. I waited another hour before revisiting and gutting 10% more of that list.
The next day i whacked 25% off. It still looked like an overwhelming list and started thinking what is the minimum that needs to be for the users? Another series of shredding led me to believe I had gotten to just a little bigger than I need it to be but still way way way smaller than where I started.