Yarone Goren on Validating Product Ideas with Mockups
Yarone Goren is the founder and CEO of Iteration Group, a product firm that relies heavily on Balsamiq Mockups for its projects. Yarone told me that of the 10 or so employees "we have about 5 people at the company who use Balsamiq Mockups at least 3-4 hours a day."
I spoke to him to learn more about the way he works and how he helps startups and other companies create products that are successful in the marketplace.
He described his company this way:
We are a boutique product development firm. There's a lot of dev shops out there, and a lot of designers and agencies, but not a lot of people focused on product UI/UX. That's all we do. We help customers nail their product vision.
We do work for startups (partnering shoulder-to-shoulder with the founders) and also established businesses who are looking for startup folks like us to help them innovate (build new products or re-imagine existing products).
Yarone gave me a typical scenario when a potential customer comes to him with an idea:
You're 45 years old, been in business for a while, made a little money, you have this idea that you've had for a year... and you want to get it built. I think the lay person doesn't know what ought to happen next. They say 'I've got this idea, I want to build it'. So they go finding a developer, or if they're enlightened, they're looking for a designer. And so, somehow I meet them, through my network. They say 'Oh, you've got an idea, go to talk to Yarone'.Let's make sure we build something people actually want.
So they come to me... [And I say] let's spend some time right now to figure out if people care about what you're talking about [before building it]. Let's make sure we build something people actually want. I convince them to buy in to this idea.
We do research to understand the space. We meet with users or target users, do competitive analysis, etc. We nail the product vision. Then we start wireframing, The core UX, 4-5 screens. Once we've done a few rounds of that, we start filling out the user experience.
Here is a video from a series by Docstoc of Yarone describing why they encourage customers to go through this process before starting to build anything.
Just like Michael Bourque, Yarone believes strongly in wireframing the complete application before a single line of code is written.
We would rather spend a ton of time up front wireframing than in development. Development is hard, it's costly [in terms of time], it's expensive. You should never build something until you have a really good feeling that it's something that people actually want. For us, wireframing makes all the sense in the world.
We do mockups of every screen. We're militant about it, every permutation of every screen. Then we meet with a visual designer and make it look good, slice it up for CSS, etc. Balsamiq is 90% of what we do.
In this video Yarone talks in more detail about his design process.
I then asked Yarone why he uses Balsamiq Mockups.
I used pencil and paper for probably 10 years. I used Visio for the longest time. I used Powerpoint. All of them had their problems. With pencil and paper, I used to cut out screens and use a copy machine to tile them on top of one another. [With Visio] once you start putzing around with alignment, colors, icons, images, it looks too real, so it was a problem.
Balsamiq for me changed everything. Finally there was a product that gave me what I wanted. I hit myself, thinking 'why didn't I come up with this years ago'.
Balsamiq is low fidelity enough that no one's going to assume that it's final work. But it's clean enough that it's presentable and respected. Balsamiq has been the backbone of our business, it's been great.
He also mentioned some things he'd like to see in the product that aren't there now.
The number one issue is definitely controls. [Mockups] really doesn't have support for [modern mobile] interfaces and interactions. [The Google mobile app] bounces, shows tiles, it flips, you can swipe to remove. I don't know how to express that [in Mockups].We're starting to do more user testing.
That's one opportunity, more controls, more types of buttons. It may hurt the product, it may benefit the product, I don't know. I'm complaining that I don't have enough controls with Balsamiq, but, on the other hand, I don't want it to go too far.
What I'd like to see more of, aside from controls, we're starting to do more user testing, it would be great if you could improve your tools for taking mockups and turning them into something testable.
Thanks, Yarone, for opening up and talking about your process and workflow. You are a Champion! If you enjoyed Yarone's videos, you can view the other two in the series on his blog (part 3 here, part 4 here).
Do you have a story to share about the awesome things you do with Balsamiq? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your stories or blog posts!