Projects are inspiring at their inception, and are overwhelming in their execution.
A few months ago, I attended the Atlantic Internet Marketing conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Keynote speaker Cap Watkins (@cap) gave a great talk about how to start a project. Cap is a UX Designer at Amazon, so a lot of his examples were related to internet projects but could be transferred to other projects as well.
The tough work of starting a new project
Cap started his keynote with an interesting point. What is the laziest piece of advice you can tell someone that’s starting a new project? ”Just do it,” or “Just start.” Start what, exactly? Where do I start? How do I start? What the hell am I supposed to do with that piece of advice?
Here are five pieces of advice from Cap on ‘starting’:
- Just start getting mad. What’s bothering you? What are you annoyed about? If you’re annoyed about something, you’ll try to solve the problem.
- Just start thinking. What is the problem? Try to answer this question: ” As a ____, I want to ____ because ____.” Start thinking if this has been done before. Was it good, was it bad? Also ask yourself this: “A successful solution will _____.” What is it that you want your website, software, project to do, really?
- Just start trying. What is the fastest, most useful thing you can do? Start with the fastest, most simple task you can do, and then improve on it. It doesn’t have to be perfect from the start.
- Just start iterating. Act like a mad scientist. Find out what works, and what doesn’t. Complete a task, then improve. And keep going.
- Just start pivoting. Don’t be scared to change direction. Twitter, Flickr, Groupon, and Instagram all pivoted from what they were originally. Twitter was a platform for podcasts, now look where it’s at!
Cap left us off with one final note: “Never stop.”
My experience starting a new project: SteamFeed
I recently went through some of these steps with SteamFeed. DJ Thistle (@djthistle) and I were mad because of all of the misleading information you find on the internet these days for small business owners.
We started thinking about what the solution would be. We decided to create a multi-author blog that focuses on providing value to the reader. Our authors are not focusing on generating traffic for ad revenue on their own website, but instead focus on providing actionable, valuable content to the readers. Our authors are also not ‘gurus’, but real life marketing, social media, or tech professionals. The goal is for them to rely on their current experience to provide great, valuable content.
Because of this, we started trying to put a website together, and gather some authors. We started with the fastest step, buying a domain name. Then we started iterating, and adding other things to the website. We signed up for WordPress.org, we bought a theme, we purchased and downloaded plug-ins, we created a logo, we emailed authors for contributions, etc. The only step we haven’t encountered yet is pivoting.
Now it’s your turn. What’s your advice when someone asks you how to start a project? Would you add more steps to Cap’s advice? Leave your comments below!