Something about numbers changing in the year makes us think about resetting our goals, coming up with resolutions, and planning for the new year. While, overall, 2021 was a good year for me, I found myself yearning for some product discovery activities at the end of it. So I decided to initiate a personal project.
Why run one experiment each week?
I genuinely believe in the power of user-centered design, lean UX, and early validation. Unfortunately, we can’t always apply all the learnings of these frameworks to the day-to-day job: whether because of aggressive timelines, or the necessity to satisfy external vendor requirements, often a Product Designer at a startup finds herself sacrificing those practices in favor of immediate business needs.
That said, I always wondered, what would it look like if a company committed to these practices to the T? Is it possible to find a product-market fit by running experiments? Can you bootstrap a company relying only on the power of design and product instead of millions of investments? What does it feel to be a company “founder” facing tens or hundreds of competing priorities and ideas at any given moment?
So my goals for this project are:
- Find and validate a product-market fit for an idea
- Validate the viability of the business
- Practice modern discovery technics and try new experiment ideas
- Practice writing about work continuously
- Build empathy for founders and stakeholders
- If I stick with it, get a remarkable case study at the end 🙃
StitchEase — an app for creating visual crochet charts
Earlier in 2021, I’ve picked up crocheting as a new hobby. While it’s a great way to produce some cool home decor and clothing items, this industry has for sure been overlooked by modern product companies.
Most beginners in crochet start by repeating someone else’s designs. Many websites offer patterns as a free download or for sale. While the best-written patterns have visual charts, many don’t, so you have to rely on the written description of steps. Not only does it go against the Designer’s visual nature, I often found myself lost in those descriptions and in need of creating a graphical chart of my own. There has to be an app for that, right? Sadly, existing offerings were disappointing both in user experience and the flexibility of software. I’ve also found that some crochet designers create such charts in Adobe Illustrator, which is also hardly the cheapest or the most convenient option.
The challenge seems contained enough for one Designer to tackle. At the same time, the market is not so niche that there’s no hope for profitability in the future: Ravelry (one of the most popular pattern sources) has over a million monthly users. There’s also a potential for scalability: if successful, the product could be expanded to other audiences: knitters, cross-stitchers, etc.
So, here it is! StitchEase (naming is WIP) is an app for crocheters that allows Crochet Designers to create visual crochet charts alongside their written patterns while allowing Casual Crocheters to follow those patterns easily.
Sounds like fun, but who’ll pay for it?
Designing an app like that feels like a fun and straightforward design challenge. There will be a fair amount of interaction work, ideation and validation of flows, usability testing… All the good design stuff.
However, if an app like that has any chance of seeing the light of day, it needs some funding (at least for initial development costs). So my first and foremost challenge as “founder” and the main product person of this “company” will be to find and validate the product-market fit. This is where the real fun begins!
Main focus: Product Discovery, not Delivery
The plan is to run one experiment each week. Some experiments will be relatively small (like data analysis), some will be bigger (find interview participants and run usability studies); some will only require time investment (read forums and blogs), some will need some monetary support (I want to limit this to $100/mo).
You, the readers, are my team. Your input is invaluable!
Since it’s a solo project right now, and UX and Product rely heavily on collaboration, I hope to find some support in the community here. If you read something that doesn’t make sense, please let me know! If you have a better idea, I want to hear it. If you’d like to collaborate, send me a note 😀
Wish me luck!