400 Minutes

Your ideas work about as good as you do

400 minute sprints to a social experience

When I started with 400 minutes almost one and a half year ago, the goal was to do it for a year and see what I got out of it. Well over a year later, I am still doing it and I think I found out what I really did get out of it.

Over a year ago, I thought lets think up as many goofy ideas that I can and see if any of them stick. Truth be told, no idea as of yet really stuck and it’s easy to spot why. They were much to far fetched and lacked commitment. But most of all, I think it’s because it would be my worst nightmare if I suddenly got stuck with an online wake-up call service or a bookstore.

What I always loved and still love most is making things, making things that make peoples lives better. What I really built in this 400 minutes experience is knowledge. I created web apps, mobile apps, websites and learned to work with api’s, developer environments, databases and so much more. Also I got into the whole Lean Startup philosophy and learned a lot about agile and Lean UX. This knowledge is to me of infinite value.

This does not mean at all that 400minutes as a process doesn’t work for product (-or software) development. In fact it works remarkably well. 400 minutes remains a really good timeframe to create something viable, it just isn’t enough to make something sustainable. Much like it only takes a bit of water and time to make a seed sprout and a lot more to make it grow into an adult plant.

Mainly for that reason the latest projects iterated through a few (and sometimes many) 400minutes phases. I am sure that someday I will make a great process image for this process but simply said, it consists of explore, create, validate, build and validate.

Having said that, take a look at the current work in progress, it is right in phase 2: create. For interaction14 I am making a social website where participants can see who else is participating, see the talks, meet up for booze (always a popular topic) and see if they can book rooms together and stuff. It is still superfull of bugs and a lot of 404′s of things I haven’t gotten around to yet but worth a look, the url is http://www.autopeil.nl and yes, I am still in need of a good name and need to graphic design that shit!

For the next update(s) I will see if I can keep this part entertaining, because frankly; looking at the code some interaction design/development/hybrid nerd wrote isn’t very entertaining.

WWYGO – Where Would You Go

I remembered this idea when I heard a presentation about the design process of a travel website a short while ago. WWYGO solves a very basic need; I am going on a round trip and I want to get suggestions to where I should go. Reading this I am sure you think: “Isn’t that what tripadvisor is for?” and you are right, but instead of listening to tips from people I don’t know, I would rather get suggestions from my own friends.

This project took much longer than 400 minutes, and I have not been very disciplined about writing in every iteration, but it did iterate in 3 400 minutes sprints.

First sprint was about getting the starting your own map part right. So basically just about everything you see in http://www.wwygo.com. The second sprint was about getting the suggestions right, in other words everything you see in http://www.wwygo.com/helpme.php?id=1670836001 (or any other map) The last sprint was the most challenging because it had to both connect the dots between the first two sprints, work out all the bugs that appeared along the way (a lot!) and at that point I did not know at all what to call it and how it should look (at that point the name still was “cocreatemyholiday”).

There are still a lot of things that need work on this site (for one it doesn’t work on small mobile screens) but I feel it has matured enough for a first version to see if the idea will stick with people. Feel free to try it out yourself at http://www.wwygo.comg and let me know what you think!

BookerBase 0.3: Deploy fast, deploy often

Two weeks ago the first version of BookerBase was launched. This version was far from a finished product and was full of bugs. Never the less I decided to launch it anyway.

After launch I received a lot of feedback as to how it worked (and mostly how it didn’t work) and some of the bugs that I knew were still there popped up, as well as some new ones. However some of the issues I thought would come up didn’t. This is exactly the reason why I launched! Prioritizing is probably the hardest thing to do when you are this deep in a product.

Here’s an example of how this early launch helped prioritizing. I tried to make the interface as clean as possible, so I eliminated everything that was not necessary at the moment. Therefor I did not have a save button, instead your profile saved automatically and when you didn’t have a profile yet, it would ask for you to create one once you added your first book. From a UX point of view this is a good way to do this, guiding people through the process and giving the appropriate feedback at the appropriate time. However, almost everyone who gave feedback, gave feedback about this; they hated it. I would have never prioritized this as high as I did now so I am glad users were able to give feedback at this early stage. Of course this feature is sorted in this release with a save and preview button.

Members Save

Process

 

In this phase, the process is different than what I usually use. Whereas the usual 400 minutes process is more like scrum and focusses on getting an end result, this is more like kanban and focusses on getting as much done as possible. For this I use a lot of the Getting Things Done method and for instance put everything in my ‘inbox’  in wanderlust. Every task is small, and if it isn’t it’s broken up into small tasks.

Inbox

The next step

 

After this update we I hope there will be a lot of new feedback. Until that time, it’s time for a new project, I am not entirely sure what it will be but it will have something to do with a dashboard.

BookerBase 0.2 Leap of faith

Finally! After nearly 2 months of the customer need pivot BookerBase is ready for the next experiment. The very first version of BookerBase is online. It took much longer than the usual MVPs (Minimum Viable Product) Mostly because there is a lot to this platform that I simply wanted to do. In the end I am glad I did because after this experiment it will be easier to scale up or add functionality to it.

What is ready in this version:

Profile page (see http://www.bookerbase.com/richard for an example)

Create your own BookerBase
Add Books to your BookerBase (using the google books database)
Edit your BookerBase
Share your BookerBase

A lot is also still not in this version, in fact you can do very little in this version. Even though I am anxious to add more, I really want to do this based on the feedback from real users. So if you are looking for a way to organize your books: visit http://www.bookerbase.com, create a profile and please tell me what you think!

Final Chapter: BookerBase 0.3 >

BookerBase 0.1 – Iterate

It might seem nothing is happening at all anymore. After all the last post is from more than a month ago. This couldn’t be further from the truth; even though it is not extremely visible, there is a lot of work done on bookerbase and it is ready for the next iteration. After this iteration it should be viable enough to open it up to the public and we will see if I wasted 2 months on this idea.

Iterations done:

√ Homepage
√ Add books to a collection
√ Save a profile
√ Include proper welcome email and save profile details
√ Create a way to have bookerbase.com/[username] url’s

To do:

Profile page
Share your profile & books
Edit your collection

You can already create your profile at http://www.bookerbase.com As always feedback is appreciated!

Next Chapter: BookerBase 0.2 >

BookerBase 1st 400 minutes

First of all I have written a small part about why it seems that when an idea matures the 400 minute loops becomes bigger: http://www.400minutes.com/build-measure-learn-spiral/ Feedback on this is always welcome.

This spiral doesn’t mean that after one week the ‘rules’ change. Not at all, every week has 400 minutes, after every 400 minutes a working product should be available. However, after the first 400 minutes a product is ready enough for a test, after the next, this is no longer viable.

How does this work with bookerbase? I tried simple websites to do customer research and I think I know enough for my first leap of faith. In this leap of faith I do believe that when I build a user friendly way to archive your books, people will actually appreciate and do that. So that’s what I am building this. After one week I built something that allows you to look up books and add them to a collection. This however does not yet allow a lot of things that are necessary for it to work, for one it doesn’t allow you to save your collection, so when you navigate away, your collection is gone. Also it doesn’t allow for sharing, modifying and really basic functions like that. I estimate that I need another 3 weeks for this (each basic function is approximately one week) but I do aim to be done after each week and I do. For now you can create your first dummy collection here: http://www.bookerbase.com/bookrbase.php

Next Chapter: BookerBase 0.1 >

Leenboek -> Bookerbase

Leenboek has reached a pivotal phase. We can go two ways, and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t ask you for some guidance. Here’s the dilemma:

Lending out books can be viable. I managed to lend them out for a ridiculous amount of money. The book I lent out costs € 20,00 in the store and I lent it out for €9. Of this, €5 was shipping costs, which is way too much. So there’s a few ways to solve this, either get the shipping costs to go down by for example not making people send the book back but rather forward it to the next reader or making people order more books at once, which makes the shipping costs per book a lot lower. So I could continue with a price pivot and see how it fans out.

On the other hand being the ‘library’ was never the idea and has some serious drawbacks. For one it would make me the librarian, and my house into a storage facility for books, neither of these things are very appealing to me. So there was the idea of people providing their books online. In the 2nd experiment I found out that people were not interested in a platform to lend out their books. However, in many talks I had about this idea, people told me that the platform to organise their books is interesting. So that would be the pivot, customer need pivot. What I did, I took the ‘needs’ people told me in the past weeks and turned it into a new landingspage: BookerBase

So here you come into play; I don’t know whether to continue with bookerbase or price pivot leenboek. So I made an iktwijfel.nu question and added a poll here. Whichever you prefer, should I continue with leenboek or bookerbase. Let me know: 

What should be the next step?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

 Next Chapter: BookerBase 1st 400 minutes > 

Leenboek: experiment 3 ended º Success

Previous assumptions

People are willing to register for leenboek (a platform for lending and loaning books)  Validated
More people than I expected registered for the website

People are willing to add their own books to leenboek  X Invalidated
No books were added after a week of trying to make people add their books.

This weeks assumption

People are willing to spend money on renting a book.

Why this assumption?

Core of the idea is lending out books, I did not get people to add their books but thats only one half of the idea. The other half is that I believe that there is a market for people lending a book (apart from going to the library), and pay for it like renting a movie.

The experiment

When I ‘pitched’ the idea of renting out books to people I often got back that the difference between lending and owning is not that much money. For this experiment I wanted to ensure that the price was plausible. In other words, if someone rents the book, can I send it without losing money?

The funnel

Funnel Leenboek ∞ The funnel started with a landingpage, I created two: The first one is a very popular book worth € 20,00 Link ∞ The Second book is a less popular book worth € 70,00 Link ∞ After that, a registration page (email adress and password) Link ∞ Shipping page (only accessible after registration) ∞ Payment Page (only accessible after shipping) Screen Shot 2012-12-23 at 00.00.55

Traffic was once again sent through search advertising. I advertised the books. The ads were displayed over 10.000 times.

The Results

Out of 10.000 impressions about 1% clicked on the ads. Most on the cheap book (95%) and some on the more expensive book (5%). From the 102 people that landed on the landingpage, 2 people ordered a book for around 8 euro. They both ordered the cheap (20 euro) book. One of which I actually sent the book and donated it after answering some questions:

1. What were you looking for when you found Leenboek.nl?

I was looking for the book from Andy van der Meyde, but I didn’t want to buy it but lend it.

2. Do you have some special purpose for this book? (for example read it on vacation etc)

To read it during the christmas holiday

3. After finding Leenboek.nl, what was your first impression?

I think its a good site, its good that there is a site where you can lend books

4. Did you miss anything?

Not yet

5. What made you decide to order the book at Leenboek.nl?

It was the book I was looking for and it was for a reasonable price

6. Do you have any tips or recommendations?

Perhaps you need to do more promotion (advertising, commercials). I think your site is rather unknown to the readers of the Netherlands

Lessons Learned

To be honest I would have expected this experiment to invalidate with confidence. However, it didn’t. I wanted to learn if people were actually interested in ‘renting’ a book and, to my own surprise, people did. This doesn’t mean that leenboek in this form is a success. What is evident is that the shipping costs (€ 5,00) make up for a much too large portion of the price. The main reason for this, is that the shipping is both to and from the reader, for leenboek to be a succes; this will have to change.

schets-2In the meanwhile, I also have been working on the other end of the market, getting people to add their book collections to the library. I tried to design (sketch) something that would not tap into the value point (making money from your books) but from a convenience point (simply organize your books).

Next week

It’s christmas season. Next week and the week after there will be no experiments, however a lot of contemplating on how to make this product work. Further more, we are approaching the one year mark of 400 minutes, time to look back on the year and think about how to make it evolve into something solid.

Merry christmas everyone

Next Chapter: Leenboek : BookerBase >

Leenboek Experiment 3 is live – Pivot

First lets recap what I am trying to build here. I think by creating an awesome website I can make the first real social /internet library. I tried to call it “the airbnb of books” and I think that really explains best what it should be. Together, we can be make the worlds biggest library.

Riskiest assumptions

For this to work there are some assumptions I made. The first one was that people actually want some websites to lend books. Basically, the assumption is that there is a need? I got the idea for this by reading a twitter stream with a tweet like this

I am looking for a website to lend books from. Does anyone know any?

Pretty straightforward, but also pretty n=1. So I built the first website where people could register. People did, much more than I expected. There is a need.

The second riskiest assumption I then wanted to tackle is to see if people were willing to lend out their books. So I built a small website to add your books to library database, just to see if people would.

The results

Over a period of a week I did some advertising. The ads I created have been displayed over 11.000 times to people who were searching on relating keywords. Screen Shot 2012-12-15 at 15.45.02For instance I targeted “sell books” but also clear out bookshelf. From all impressions, 65 people clicked on the ad, which was also targeted to the keyword. For example the key word “sell books” had the ad “trying to sell your books? – Lending them out will pay better”

Out of the 65 visitors, 4 people registered. These 4 people have added 0 books to the database.

Screen Shot 2012-12-15 at 15.04.40

 

 

 

Conclusion:

There’s little to no need for renting out your books. You can still see the experiment here: http://www.leenboek.nl/sprint3/uitlenen2.html

Pivot

If people don’t want to lend books to each other, why shouldn’t I be the one lending out the books. That initially was the question I tried to answer anyway.

I am quite sure people are interesting in lending a book from someone, and that someone could be me. However I am not so sure if people are willing to pay money for it. So this is experiment 3.

Experiment 3

Are people willing to spend money to basically rent a book. I created this flow, with one book, if traffic is too little (which I do expect I will add another flow with another book)

If you wonder why I am adding the ‘designs’ of the pages and not the experiment itself. It’s because I wouldn’t want you to mess up with the numbers. I am sure if I promoted last weeks experiment on here, I would have had books added to the database, and not come to the (just) conclusion that the social library path wasn’t going anywhere.

Next week the results!

 Next Chapter: Leenboek 3 – Success >

Leenboek.nl: Experiment 2 – it’s live

In our new proces, we take the riskiest assumptions to an idea and really validate (or invalidate) them. Which seems to be the absolute bridge between the ultimate timeboxing in 400 minutes and creating a big long-term idea (vs. creating a fluke)

So the previous riskiest assumption was to test whether people would actually sign up for a some sort of online library. You can still find the experiment here: http://www.leenboek.nl/sprint2/ This experiment validated, in fact it validated much better than I expected. So I persevered [<I will write about this]

However, apart from finding the perfect product – market fit I believe that in 400 minutes I try to do more. I am also trying to find a customer – design and product – technology fit. Such fancy words for something you build in 6.6 hours! I agree very much so, what I try to say is that I try to build it as quick and decent as possible and try to make it look as appealing as I can.

For the first experiment Leenboek worked really well but the framework and design wasn’t really on the level you would want it to be when actually trying to get people to register and add books. So I threw out the old design and quickly made a new one. I also chucked out the 1140 responsive layout, not because it was not good, in fact the layout is fantastic but I felt it took me too much time to get it right. Instead I started using the good old 960 grid again. So this 400 minute sprint was not just about creating a new MVP, it was als about sorting the design and tech out.

I am very happy that this week a new experiment has gone live, I will test whether people will actually add their books to leenboek.nl. For this I redesigned it, created 2 landingspages, 1 FAQ page, a registration page and a book adding module (using google books). After one day the results seem to point to having to pivot at this point (huray! I wish I could have failed faster!)

Next Chapter: Leenboek 3 >