Here's my ten-thousand-feet roadmap for the next few months.
1. 🕵️♀️ Research
How: Talk to people. People who use similar products; people who might love my product; people who might hate it. Gather numbers, analyze them. Read a lot.
Goals: I'm trying to learn, to suck in as much information as possible, synthesizing as I go. Identifying patterns. Looking for motives. Developing little frameworks and guesses, modifying them as needed as new information arrives or trashing them completely. Be Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones and Jane Goodall all at once.
This is where I'm at right now.
2. 🧠 Brainstorming
How: Write about ideas, it clarifies thought. Sketch (pencil on paper). Draw mockups. Don't delete things. Copy/paste. Do things improv comedy style: "yes, and..." Share ideas with others. Don't be afraid to ask for theirs. Stay fast and loose.
Goals: This is all about volume of idea generation. I need some space to throw down stupid stuff. My first ideas often feel good to me but aren't. Bad ideas can knock loose good ideas.
3. 🏗 Prototyping
How: Draw paper prototypes of an experience. Wire up the "happy path" with mocks. Put it in front of people and force them to interact with it. Listen to what they say (or what they don't say).
Goals: Build something cheap. Time is money. Prototypes are brutal for revealing gaps in even the best ideas. Identify what's working and what's not. Double down on the good parts, in increasingly higher-fidelity. Throw out the bad parts.
This stuff is all about de-risking what comes next: the enormous amount of time and resources it takes to build and ship the real thing. I want to make sure that the ship is pointed in the right direction before I start juicing the engines. It feels so bad to claw your way to the top of the mountain and realize you're on the wrong mountain. That's why design matters.