How we got 500 signups in 48 hours – Design Thinking!

Cracking a social-ish user generated content on a website is a precarious zone to get into. Critical yet, when people are already face deluge of products day in and day out. Top it with the fact that a great product only has so much acceptance unless your target users start believing in the product.

Now there are different ways to get them to buy into the product – marketing, distributionn channel sales, word of mouth and so. But this post is not about all of that. We are sharing our experience of how we built a product lean and fast – launched it soon – less than 5 weeks of product development – were reasonably embarrased with the first version, received some quick feedback and iterated

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As Reid Hoffman classically puts it – “If you are not embarassed with the first version of your product, you have launched late”. In the real life context – take it to be very late!

We realized early on that our users faced difficulty in migrating through the product and hence weren’t able to gather meaning, understand the product philosophy in entirety. We realized that the major challenge was our “information design“. While obvioulsy, going through the lean product methodology we worked on rapid deployment cycles and minimalistic core features. Cracking the right design with ‘minimalistic design’ and ‘maximum context’ to the end user was the objective.

We had our share of learning and challenges  from spending a major chunk of cash (which is always a constraint for bootstrapper) to picking up seemingly-beautiful design templates around the web, the results were never what we desired. We eventually applied our hacks and some tips that we realized while driving the mindset – that the product needs to walk-the-talk and behave as a friend and needs to be empathetic to the end user.

Delving straight to some of our learnings:

1) Assess your technical capabilities: Yes,the smoother it sounds, the rougher it gets if you put down your barins with some really kickass self-evaluation. This goes for you or the ‘hacker’ of your team. Though the foundation lies on a robust coding structure, it is very important to have a perspective about the flow of your product. Though there are numerous tools available online, I would strongly vouch for plain paer and pen. Freeze the structure and make it sure your other team members understand the flow. There is no better joy than all of the team members agreeing and understanding a rough sketch on paper

2) Talk in examples: I respect and value examples. You might not be able to reproduce your thoughts on online psd tools but if you can break down every component and show similar behaviours across multiple sites, that’s definitely an achievement. For example if there is a particular colour effect you want on your site, search through net and show it to your coder. You will be amazed what results in can drive. Of course, there lies a subtle difference between inspiration and copying, I will leave it to you guys to remove the blockade & march further

3) Break into smaller pieces: A bird’s eye view never reveals the complexities of the design till the time you start building it. So how would you tackle the hurdles that do not surface while sketching your thoughts? Divide the elements on the page into two components:

1. Static base or background
2. Dynamic effects/responses from the page:
3. User input interaction design.
So what this will provide you, is a granular level understanding of the layout & functioning. Each step will have multiple threads of texture, color, box dimensions, symmetry of borders, & many more, Exhaustive it is! Indeed! But what’s better than sweating over creating a master-piece
4) Deploy in short-regular intervals. Now this might lead you into a heated argument with with your development team. Thet might want to push everything after it has been built, but you seriously need to refrain form that. In particular when your site is up since few weeks. Your users want to have a better experience everytime they log in. So after you have your patches figured out, make a Deployment Break-up Sheet(DBS) and start pushing whatever you have built. What this gives you is:

1. Scope for iteration
2. avoiding scrapping a huge amount of work(if it needs to & this happens frequently)
3. Enough time to full-proof your concepts & fuse in ideas if necessary
5)Filter out unnecessary suggestions: All of us have friends & acquaintences that would be giving their feedback with the design. Now if you start listening to everything & trying to incoporate, it would be a mess for sure. I would suggest to follow the ratio of 2:3. it says, while taking suggestions, include 2 suggestions from peopel who are into the field of designing & take the rest from people who represnt the sample of your user base. Pick out the common points, discuss among your team & then build. Once done with that, repeat the process. Amazingly you will find, you have just taken 1-2 iterations the results are notches higher.
Well, that’s it for now. This is what we have learnt & incorporated in www.getechoed.com. Have a look & let us know your thoughts. Always attentive to your feedback!
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This post is written by Kumar Dipanshu, Co founder at GetEchoed. He handles product design, being the creative think tank and being resolute about his opinions! He loves poetry and mountains. Tweet to discuss anything with him @kdipanshu.
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