Remember that scene in Jaws, where the old salty seadog Quint and the plucky young marine biologist Hooper are comparing scars? Well, I’m about to roll up my trouser leg and show you something nasty…
The truth is, it’s really easy to get a project to fail. And the worse part of it is that enthusiasm and hard work can kill a project just as surely as being careless or sloppy.
To help you avoid these pitfalls, my developer and I have sat down with a cheap bottle of vino and chatted over some disastrous projects we’ve worked on, good ideas gone bad, and times we’ve royally screwed up.
Here’s our list of five definite DON’Ts.
1 – Don’t think about who your audience is
It’s worth taking some time to work out exactly who your users will be. This may seem obvious, but ask yourself this – who is your average user? What age are they? What sex? What other websites do they use? Will they use your software every day? Where will they use it? Why?
By building up a detailed idea of who is going to use your software, you will be better able to anticipate their needs and create something wonderful that will enhance their lives.
If you don’t do it, you won’t be sure you’re making something that people actually want, until it goes live.
2 – Don’t check out your competitors
The easiest thing to think is ‘my piece of software is unique’. But let’s be honest – there’s going to be something out there that is doing a similar job, or appeals to the same type of user.
By taking time to investigate similar products you can:
- See what they’re doing well
- Learn from what they do badly
- Know exactly what features make your product a one-of-a-kind
Remember – competitors don’t just include similar products, but also the ones that compete for users’ time and money too.
3 – Don’t stay on track
It’s crucial to stay focused.
You know who your core market is. You know exactly what makes your product unique.
Now, let’s try and cram every good idea that you’ve had into the build straight away. This is easy to do. Especially now that you’ve analysed all of your competitors ideas. Suddenly there are thousands of features that you can add to your original design!
But, what you’re doing is losing sight of your core goal.
Stop. Ask yourself what’s essential and what can be added later. Be brutal. Your users will be.
This was a big one for both my developer and I. We’d both worked on projects where great ideas were thrown into the development mix all the time. Or the project ballooned with extra functionality before it was even launched.
The end result was always the same: something that looked fantastic, but that users abandoned in droves because it didn’t do what it was meant to do.
Get the basics right first and then every time you add one of those great functionality ideas to the mix, it seems like an added benefit to an app that your users already love!
4 – Don’t give yourself enough time
Sure, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk set their development teams impossible deadlines.
And do you know what happened? Those projects failed.
Getting it right takes time. Make sure you build a realistic schedule. Set a priority list and ask yourself:
- How long will each of these things take to do?
- Are there functions that we can build at the same time?
- When do I want to be at each stage of development
And more importantly, don’t forget to test, test, test, test, test. And then test some more.
If you don’t build testing time into your schedule you’ll be releasing a product that you don’t really know if it will work or not.
I worked on a project where we decided not to do thorough testing beforehand. Do you know what happened?
Yep. There were glitches everywhere. And customers hated us. They called me up personally to tell me how much they hated me. It’s not nice and it’s easily avoidable.
Sure, you’re going to be rushed at times. Yep, you’re going to miss meals and sleep. But if you don’t have a proper schedule of work, you’ll miss more. And hungry, sleepy entrepreneurs are just no fun.
5 – Don’t keep to deadlines
I booked a stand at a trade show. It cost £5,000, which was a big chunk of change for us. The sole purpose was to showcase our brand new app. I was excited; I emailed everyone on the marketing database and said ‘hey, come see this amazing app’. Guess what. The app wasn’t ready.
A simple way to avoid that sort of expensive embarrassment is to factor in any important dates into your schedule. Working back from these deadlines, you will be able to better plan your time.
It seems like such an obvious thing, but unless you know when any ‘miss this date and DIE’ milestones are at the very beginning, then they’ll not surprise you.
You will also mitigate any disappointment from your customers or potential business partners.
Five deadly errors, one simple solution…
Okay, so there’s five ways that you can really wreck your great idea. But the brilliant news is that you only have to do one thing to make sure you don’t actually make these mistakes.
All you have to do is plan.
It’s really easy to rush headlong into a project. After all, you’ve just had the best idea ever. Certainly, both my developer and I have seen more disasters where we’ve just plunged into something.
By building a plan you give yourself that time and distance to work out where you are, where you want to be and how you’re going to get there. It’s the easiest part of a project to make, but it’s the easiest piece to forget.
I have one final piece of advice – if you’ve not watched the film Jaws. Watch it, it’s amazing.