If you have an idea for a product but don’t have any idea how to go about getting it made, this post is for you.
Maybe you’re a business owner and you can’t seem to find software that suits your needs. Or maybe you’re an average Joe but you’d like to see if your idea has any merit. Whatever the case may be, the first thing you need to do is to WRITE.
Write down your idea. Write down the details. Write down how your product will work. Write down how it will be used. Write down in what context it will operate. Write down as much as you can because if you don’t, it’s likely that your idea is not worth pursuing and you’ll save yourself and others the time it takes to flesh out that idea.
Why do I emphasize writing down the details of an idea? Because ideas tend to be loose images jumbled together in our minds with twine and bubble gum. And it isn’t until we write them down with good structure or grammar that we can see whether or not they’re any good.
What does structure or grammar have anything to do with telling if an idea is any good? Well, it forces us to think hard about what we’re trying to convey. Ideas are ephemeral things because they are inherently complex by nature. They encompass the wild variety of human existence; things like our past experiences, our hopes, our fears. There’s a lot of baggage that comes with ideas. By writing them down, we give form to those ideas and we can detach ourselves from them and observe them from a more objective perspective.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written down an idea and wondered what I had been smoking. Writing down ideas helps us to make decisions on whether or not we should pursue those ideas further. It’s a bad feeling to leave possible opportunities lingering in our minds. They distract us from the real areas of our life that needs attention.
What about if an idea is less of an abstract concept of a product and more of a way to solve a problem in your life or your business? Again, write it down. Assuming that your problem is work related and the possible solution is software, after scouring the internet and coming out empty handed you resolve that you need something built.
Well you might be surprised to discover that once you have written down your problem, along with the possible solution, that you are in a better position to find that solution. The internet is full of content, and the more specific you are in your search, the more successful you will be in finding what you are looking for.
And even if after writing down the who, what, when, and how, you’re still coming up with nothing in your search, at least you now have something you can present to a development agency and you’ll save yourself a lot of money in the discovery phase of your project. Plus you’ll be taken more seriously.
From a developers perspective, it’s hard to take clients seriously, when they haven’t done their due dilligence and we have to assume that we will have to do it for them which is a waste of both our times and which inevitably get’s included in the total price of the project. And worse, the expectation that this would be the case is reason enough for me to add more on top for the additional headache.
And if you’re thinking you don’t have the time to write down your idea so you’d rather pay someone to do it, let me tell you, you will have to make the time. There is no way around it.
Let’s assume that you’re being sued by an unhappy customer. Unless you’re extremely wealthy, your first instinct isn’t going to be to call a lawyer without having anything prepared. You’re going to at least try to collect documents or gather any evidence related to the case and present it to the lawyer so she doesn’t have to do it herself. Why? Because they charge by the hour and they are expensive. And guess what? Software developers are too. And every moment you sit trying to make sense of what you’re saying as it comes out of your mouth, that time is billable. And all the extra follow up questions your lawyer is going to have to ask you after your meeting because you haven’t clearly communicated the details of your suit, that time is billable too.
So, now that we know that writing down our idea is the first and best thing we can do to flesh out our ideas, how do we go about doing it? Joel Spolsky has a great example of a functional spec most people can emulate. You don’t have to be as thorough as Joel (although if you do, you’ll know you’re serious about getting your project built), but you’ll at least need an overview along with the scenarios laid out to be able to even start a discussion with any respectable developer.
Follow this one step in the format presented and you’ll be in a much better position when approaching a developer. You’ll save money and be taken more seriously and the likelihood of your project being a success will increase significantly because you took the time to write down your idea.