The Next Big Thing
March’s goal was to “release a new product.” - My grade for this goal was a C.
As I write this the new version is not yet shipped but it is close. The product is nowhere close to ready to ship on Product Hunt, but it is close to release on https://storytool.co.
I decided to update one of my old products - Storytool - rather than starting an entirely new product.
I wanted to start with a known product and a known market so I could have a reasonable chance of shipping something on time.
What went well
- The new version of Storytool is almost done. Having a target of a product a month is super-helpful. It’s the only reason I’m very close to shipping.
- Using tools I know. I was very productive with Flutter and the new tool is much better than the old tool in my opinion.
- Showing my work on Twitter. I was doing marketing as I built stuff. It’s a new workflow for me and while I don’t have a ton of followers getting stuff out there felt good.
What could improve
- I didn’t end up hitting my target. It’s because the product is complex. I’m having to do a lot of fancy stuff with Flutter and I need to be at parity with the old tool. If I’d picked a simpler product and started with a smaller job to be done I could have finished the product in a day or two (I know this because I’ve built 2 other products this month as well in about that time).
- No time was spent on marketing because… the product was too complex. But, to be fair I wasn’t budgeting time for marketing and had no marketing plan so the next projects will start with a clearer marketing and product plan.
- The product isn’t addressing a common, painful job to be done. I did work on this for future products and I think I have a good solution going forward.
- I had intended to run some monetization experiments. I didn’t get around to it.
Moving - A - We moved and the new space is great
Collaborating - B - I started sharing progress with friends and we’re exploring AI tools together
Other - A - I continued work on product ideation and research. I’ve dialed in my experimentation process and I feel it keeps me productive and accountable
The big thing from the month was the work on productivity and the work on idea selection.
With productivity I continued my daily morning planning session. Every day I would ask myself, “what’s the main thing I need to be working on right now”. That’s why I ended up focusing on idea selection. I ran a lot of experiments and came up with some great new ways to pick opportunities.
Some tweaks / learnings
It’s very powerful to think of work as experiments. State the situation, hypothesis, experiment and expected outcome… then do the work.
This workflow works because ~
- The focus is on learning not “success” - you run the experiment and you win if it succeeds or fails. It’s much more motivating and it recognizes that most actions have uncertain outcomes.
- Cycles are faster - you state the assumptions, steps and outcomes up-front so projects are more concrete. Success is when you learn which often happens very quickly.
- Stating the expected outcome upfront helps with learning - If you write your expectations up front you can look back later and see where you were correct and incorrect. If you don’t do this you won’t appreciate how your work is teaching you lessons.
I have an experiment template I have created. It has prompts for each element of an experiment. Right now I’m running experiments around ways to create a marketing plan. I have experiments related to doing keyword research, estimating traffic, evaluating channel options, etc… Each experiment improves my “marketing plan making” skills and moves me closer to being able to launch a successful marketing campaign.
AI and our AI future
I did a bunch of experiments using AI to see how it would effect my workflow. I used GPTChat for research and writing work and I tried out Stable Diffusion for image generation.
These tools are very powerful.
My sense is that they will be very useful for creativity, brainstorming, broad research and content production. The more I play with them the more optimistic I feel. There’s a lot of opportunity to use these tools to create cool stuff.
I made some design updates to the blog. * I started focusing on my products because(that’s what I want visitors to focus on * I applied some design ideas I learned in the book Refactoring UI * I shipped lots of little tiny changes * I started moving towards a personal brand / style by leveraging my Storytool product
March Wrap Up
What got done
The Next Big Thing
- Outlined jobs to be done for my audience
- Picked a main job to be done to focus in on + began in-depth research on sub-jobs and processes
- Researched sub-jobs and how job is currently being done
- Did a sort of customer interview
- Came up with product launch plan
- Familiarized myself with jobs to be done “needs”
- Came up with a method to go from jobs to be done to product ideas
- Came up with many product ideas for this month’s project
- Created templating system
- Signed up for LemonSqueezy
- Posted 2 feature screen recordings to twitter
- Built comic bubble feature
- Add / remove bubble
- Change bubble text
- Context bubbles
- Got image resizing and positioning working
- Shared my progress on Twitter
- Updated blog with new header image (made with new Storytool tool)
- Updated design
- Added mailing list signup form
- Stripped theme from blog. Now it’s simpler and I can update it.
- Ran AI enabled JTBD experiment
- Tried out GitHub copilot
- Added persistence to JTBD experiment system
- Moved into the new office
- I really need to focus on keeping the scope of products VERY small.
- I’m thining that product work should start with a marketing plan. I’ll be experimenting with this.
- AI is very useful for identifying broad patterns in markets.
- The experiment approach is a very effective way to structure work.
- Micro releases on Twitter are pretty useful.
- If you’re not feeling productive start producing SOMETHING -> productivity comes from momentum. Start shipping and you’ll feel like doing more shipping.
- Asking, “What’s the ONE thing I should be working on today” can really help with clarifying priorities. I tend to have a list of tasks / projects but I am starting to wonder if I should just focus on THE ONE THING instead.
- I read a great book about design ~ Refactoring UI. Takeaways ~
- Design is about deciding importance
- Make things more important by de-emphasizing other things
- Good designs have some color and a lot of grays - grays are the foundation of most design
Goals for next month
The Next Big Thing
- Finish shipping a parity version of Storytool
- Ship another product - this time with a bit of marketing
- Ship a microproduct or two on walt.fyi (brainstorming tool, etc…)
- Use my storytool product to establish a more consistent brand look and feel
- Work on my marketing processes
- Improve my marketing planning
- Improve my marketing machinery (launch lists, sharing progress, idea selection, etc…)
- Improve my marketing production systems (landing pages, ads, etc…)
- Test out my idea selection process
- Keep experimenting with AI
- Experiment with AI in branding
- Experiment with AI in productivity projects
- Experiment with AI with programming ~ run experiments with using AI in small software tools