Skedsheet Blog

Where we talk about the product, calendars, organization, and business

Making a mock-up or a mockery?

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mock_by_leeksI had lunch with a friend who’s a “product innovation” consultant, and although we try not to talk about work too much, that’s inevitably the topic that comes up.

My friend’s premise is that making and showing off paper (or PowerPoint) mock-ups is worth it.  Because…before you spend a minute of development time, you’ll want to make sure that the product you’re planning is worth it. 

Now some people disagree, and I’ve personally believed you need a product to show before you can talk about it – the opposite is just vaporware.  But there are some good arguments for trotting out your ideas on paper before you build.

So, why should you show a paper design to a prospective customer?

  1. Get immediate feedback, before you spend time writing code.  If an idea isn’t worth anything to a customer, you get away with a much smaller investment – drawing out a design on paper could take hours or days, but writing code could take months.  Or more.
  2. Don’t set the expectation that it’s real, so customers don’t get hung up on faults.  If you see real software, even with the disclaimer that it’s a prototype, you’re going to be drawn to the worst parts or repulsed by how ugly it is.
  3. Prevent yourself from falling in love with your design.  There’s a tendency to value the work that you do and not be willing to throw it away.  We’ve managed to steer clear of that in the past, but once you’ve got a framework built for a particular design, it’s painful to give up.
  4. Start getting the word out, before your product is ready to show.  Through the skedsheet blog, we’ve tried to explain what we’re doing and why, but we’re not talking about the specifics or making promises about features.  We could take it to the next level by showing a bit of what we have in mind…today.

I’m still torn, but I spent a few hours last night mocking up a design, purely to practice a demo.  Almost everything I wanted to show could have been done in the prototype we’ve got running already, but it felt more honest doing it with just a sketch.  Will I show it to anyone?


Written by Harry Hollander

July 13, 2009 at 8:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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