Tracking Work In Progress

When launching a product, whether a prototype or a made for market version, it’s important to track work in progress. Prototypers should make a concerted effort to document the elements of production that are going well or not going well. It’s especially important to document the customer or target audiences reaction. Gathering this type of information from work in progress is critical for making process improvements through iteration.

Through experimentation on designing a process for developing rapid digital prototypes, I’ve found it extremely important to document any milestones, big or small. As an example, I recently launched the first part in a long form essay series titled, What are Smart Cities? and documented the process from start to present. In doing so, I have captured several key areas for improvement that will not only make the next version of the prototype more effective but will also make the creative process more easy going.

One of the critical take aways from the initial experiment in Rapid Digital Prototyping was that with each release it’s important to be prepared to take action for unlikely opportunities. The smart cities essay received way more support from the Medium content curators than I had anticipated and I had no strategy to capitalize on this opportunity. As a consequence, I was in an emotional and reactive state which resulted in what are, in hindsight, missed opportunities. In my excitement to get the prototype in front of a larger and more engaged audiences, I failed to implement any iterative improvements on the essay.

In retrospect, this is a very minor missed opportunity but one that is worth tracking. By documenting the elements of the prototype launch and focusing on what went well and didn’t go well, it’s possible to build a playbook for future Rapid Digital Prototype launches.

As I documented my initial prototype launch my primary goal was to develop a proper hook for engagement. This first iteration was an overall success mostly because it highlighted the importance of having clear quantitative goals for the first launch. Medium was a great platform to begin with because it provides several audience engagement metrics on the backend that are useful for future iterations. What became clear is that its important to have a game plan for how to quantitatively track success for a first version prototype launch. Moving forward, I will assess traction using Ed Latimore’s social media approach of measuring hard and soft engagements.

Any comments, follows on medium or visits from medium to will be viewed as hard engagements. Any essay views and reads will be treated as soft engagements. The hard engagements are strategically what I am hunting for and although the soft metrics are nice and important to pump up, they are ultimately vanity metrics.

The primary metrics I am concerned with in the long run are read time, reader average time reading and read ratio. These tell me how effective my copy is from converting from a title viewing to a read and then from a glancing read to an in-depth read. The ultimate goal is to iterate on the hook of the content and growing these metrics will indicate a move in the right direction.

As a final thoughts on the first launch, it’s become evident that excitement can cause a rushed and impractical mindset. Although this is a “rapid” prototype, the measurements and expectation of results will play out over long time arcs. It’s important to keep expectations measured and a proper perspective throughout the process. Keeping the process in focus will ultimately help move the work along towards a successful prototyping operation.

On to version 2.0.

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