Phew. The final version of the functional prototype is up on our home page, and it works! It really helps almost anyone who is facing a big life decision. I find that amazing…the prototype works even though it’s not pretty.* In fact, it is pretty ugly.
Deciding to be proud of something that is ugly was a hard decision for me. If nothing else, every product I’ve ever managed was beautiful at launch, with plenty of demoable killer features and design elements that were purpose-built to generate demo oohs and aahs on a big stage. Experience matters, after all, and in consumer web it matters perhaps above all else.
It is amazing what a great demo can do. It excites people. It get’s the creative juices flowing. It makes the impossible seem possible. But, as I know well, in no way does a great demo guarantee success. In fact, a great demo can hide serious flaws in your assumptions, and hide those flaws not only from investors and potential customers, but also from yourself.
This prototype certainly doesn’t do that…the uglies are right there for anyone to see, including me.
Perhaps it is more amazing what a great story can do.
Imagine a 40-year-old woman spending all day resisting the urge to head to the casino all day. She logs into Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to distract herself, looking for a little work, and she finds a request to test our prototype. After spending twenty minutes searching her soul for the answers to our questions, she writes this note: “I feel like this was a God shot – I’ve been stressing out all day because I haven’t gambled. I logged into [MTurk] and this was the first task I received. Yes, very helpful. It made me think. Extremely helpful.”
Or imagine a 20-year-old woman struggling with the decision to move out, away from her roommate, to find her own place. She spends ten minutes with the prototype and says this,“I feel liberated. This helped me with a decision I’ve had trouble making. [Now I see] I’ll be proud and happy with myself. I’ll feel independent and confident that I can handle all my own problems. I’ll be happy that…I can do what I want when I want to.”
Or imagine a 50-year-old woman trying to decide whether to go back to work. After fifteen minutes, she knows what she needs to do, “As much as I love being a homemaker, I know deep down that going back to work is the right answer, even though I’ve been fighting it. This was a very eye-opening experience. It really was like getting a full session with a consultant in only a few minutes…it helped me bring to the surface the answer to this question that I had kept buried down deep inside for so long.”
Now imagine that there are hundreds of stories like those in our database already, including some from men, too .
It is hard to deny the feedback coming in about the prototype. The decisions are serious. People deciding to change jobs, to have children, to move across country, to stop gambling, to get married, to end their marriages, to have surgery, to go back to work or school. The results are positive. People feeling relieved, relaxed, clear, motivated, excited, thoughtful. Not everyone, not every decision, but the lion’s share.
The prototype was built for research purposes, and the research shows one thing very clearly:
“It’s not pretty,* but it works.”
Maybe that’s what the lean startup philosophy is all about.
So I added that slogan to our home page to get my heart and soul into being loud and proud about an ugly duckling that will be pretty, eventually…all that takes is a bit of money and time and some expert help from designer and developer friends. But the prototype helps people now, with real decisions, so out into the world it goes to gather more data for the mill.
Now we need to get the rest of our house to do that well. We’ll be rebranding the product…too many people stumble over our company name, so at least we’ll make it shorter. And we’ll be writing up the results of our decision research…we’ve gained some very interesting insights from our 600 participants and 100,000 data points. That will set us up to begin our word-of-mouth social media campaign to help 4,000 more people decide wisely, and continue our quest to build the world’s biggest database of life decisions.
Then while that it rolling, it will be time to recruit some great people and raise a little money.