The key to creating software that people love is to involve them in the process. Excellent software comes together after many iterations of feature tweaks, additions, removals and polishes. At Oven Bits, we call these iterations “loops”.
Our looping process begins with a simple hypothesis about how we think something should work. That something may be a visual design element or just a behind-the-scenes architecture decision that nobody ever sees. Next, we build that something quickly and get it in front of someone that values it and will use it within the final product. After each loop we can now begin the process of learning. What should we keep? What should we adjust? We’re testing a hypothesis in front of real people and making decision based on real feedback.
This process isn’t new. Great technology companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google test thousands of interactions every day. They have measurements in place to determine every interaction and optimize those interactions to get results. Teams at Google have mastered this art of release and iterate. Just take a look at how the interface within your Gmail inbox has changed over the past year to see a few examples. There are dedicated people working tirelessly to analyze, observe and adjust software based on actual usage patterns every day.
Software isn’t alone in this quest for continuous improvement and iteration. Do you think that car you drove to work today was created in one step and sent off to production? I think not. Thousands of sketches, prototypes, clay models and carefully concealed test models of new vehicle are produced years before the new vehicle model is announced and put on sale. Each step along the way there are real drivers brought in to give feedback, drive and discuss these iterations.
Over the past year we’ve been introducing these concepts and refining them with every new project. While this general idea has been around for a long time, our inspiration comes from The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It’s required reading for every new employee at the Oven and we’re bringing the looping philosophy of “Build, Measure, Learn” to each of our client engagements. Involving clients with our constant iteration, testing and looping makes better software that people love.