Some people believe so fervently in their idea; the thought of spending time on anything else than building it is inconceivable. So these people focus 200% of their energy breathing life into their idea, staying up late, working when everyone else is taking a break. I wrote the foreword for Marcin Treder‘s free book released in 2013, UX Design for Startups. Reprinted below.
Not everyone has the inclination to go spend time learning more about potential customers. Some people believe so fervently in their idea; the thought of spending time on anything else than building it is inconceivable. So these people focus 200% of their energy breathing life into their idea, staying up late, working when everyone else is taking a break. Like Jeff Veen, founder of Typekit–now part of Adobe, said to me the other day, “It’s hard to persuade someone to go spend time understanding users. I completely believe in research up front; I did it for Analytics. But I didn’t do it for Typekit, because it was an idea I totally needed myself.” Then he said, “But you know, research would have made it easier to explain the concept to people who didn’t understand it.” (Those people being the folks with the money who were hopefully going to fund the effort.) No matter what, there is always an aspect of development that can be made easier by understanding the people you are building for.
I always ask entrepreneurs, “Who is this for?” Before I learn anything about their ideas, I want to have specific behavioral and marketing segments (personas) in mind. I want to know the real world in which the idea might be used. I used to always hear the answer, “Everybody!”. These days, entrepreneurs are smarter. They have a better idea whom they are creating something for, but it is still a sketchy idea. Spending a day or two putting meat on that user is powerful. It guarantees that you have no illusions about the things your idea will solve and the things it will not affect. And that word, “illusions,” is one to contemplate. Ask yourself if you’ve completely wiped away the fuzziness around the edges of your idea. Those fuzzy edges are the places that the monsters live; that’s where the problems come from that you hadn’t anticipated, and that can kill your effort before it is successful.
So, put a little time into making sure you have no illusions. Protect all that energy that you are investing in your idea by defining and directing it to the right place. Know your customers.