johno

Iterative Ship

Iterative Ship is a WIP book I'm writing about building technology products quickly and efficiently.

The internet has provided the world with a democratizing force for building a sustainable business. Motivated individuals can ship a product in a matter of weeks to test product-market-fit and sometimes without even writing code.

This book is intended to be a manual on strategies, and even “hacks”, to ship products… quickly.

Iterative Ship will teach the tools and tricks of the trade while walking through the steps to build a practical, real world application. All code examples will be publicly available on GitHub and MIT licensed so you can repurpose it in any way you deem fit.

Table of contents

  • Ideation
  • Validation
  • Minimum viable product
    • Landing page
    • Logo (logojoy + dev tools)
    • Newsletter
    • Build for you
    • Deploy teaser
  • Marketing
    • Blog
    • Open graph
    • Design
  • MVP implementation

Ideation

Coming up with an idea and validating it can be one of the tougher parts of shipping your first product.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of throwing numerous things at the wall to see what sticks rather than being deliberate and calculated with a single idea. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for people to warm up to the idea, sometimes it takes a bit longer than necessary to reach your first inflection point.

Coming up with ideas

One of the best ways to come up with ideas is to figure out what aspects of your life can be more efficient (or even completely automated). It’s also important to determine whether there’s an elevator pitch. A good product is easy to sum up in a single sentence. If it requires a paragraph it likely means that your product is too complex.

Build for you

Figuring out the features of a product and QA-ing it can often be the most time consuming aspect. If not done well, it can make weeks turn to months. For a bootstrapped product you can’t hire an experienced product manager or build from scratch with every aspect of your app tested.

That’s why it can be useful to build for yourself. Firstly, building a product that solves pain points in your life means there are likely others that have the same problems and would love a solution. More surprisingly, building for yourself forces you to dogfood your own product.

Dogfooding is important for a few reasons, you will find mission critical bugs and workflow issues that you can iteratively address. It will also provide motivation for you to fix some of those issues you might ignore otherwise.

It’s important to note that it’s better to automate things that add up to a lot of time or discomfort each year. Optimizing infrequent tasks that are low friction won’t result in a drastic improvement.

Surveying users

Once you have an idea, it’s time to talk to people. When you’ve come up with the idea it isn’t time to figure out a name or worry about logos. You need to see if other folks are encountering the same issues.

Sit on it

Once you think you have an idea, sit on it for a while. Doug Wiegley, a friend of mine, always advocates for “waiting at least a week before implementing an idea”. When something is fresh on your mind you haven’t given yourself enough time to poke holes. You might not have been able to Google the product that does exactly what you want to build.

You might decide it’s not important enough to build.

You might come up with a better idea.

The idea is picked

  • Don’t Call It That
  • Logojoy

Building an MVP

With a name and a logo in place, it's time to begin working on a landing page. Since there isn't yet a product to buy, you will want to describe the product being built and try to get visitors to sign up for a newsletter.

One's first inclination might be to open up Squarespace or Photoshop to begin working on the landing page. Choose a template, input new text to replace the filler, and add a new stock image. However, that's putting the cart before the horse.

It's important to focus on the content rather than design treatments at the beginning. You're working on the sales pitch which is a conversation. For the first pass of a landing page you can write MDX/Markdown (or in a Google Doc). You need to be able to sell your product without the distractions of design elements before you introduce the design elements.

Not to mention, this is a landing page for a product idea and a newsletter signup. You don't need to start with bells and whistles. In fact, they might even be a distraction.

Deployment

Continuous deployment

In order to ship a lean product it’s imperative that your deployment workflow is continuous and automated as much as possible. As a bootstrapped maker you should be spending your time talking to customers, fixing bugs, and building new features rather than looking at build logs or manually running deploys.

This requires more work up front, but pays off tenfold during the lifetime of your product.