When to hold off on shipping your product

My Building Doesn't Recycle

Some say you should ship your product as early as possible. If you’re not embarrassed by it, then you’ve waited too long. That whole hurry up, get data from the wild and fail fast thing. Others say ship when your product doesn’t suck so much. You don’t want to embarrass yourself coming out of the gate, right?

I drifted somewhere in between, until I heard Claire Micklin talk about the UX work that went into her baby, My Building Doesn’t Recycle. She deliberately held off on shipping sooner than later — a decision that paid off for her and her team.

In Chicago, building owners are required, by law, to provide recycling for their residents. For those with five or more units, hiring a private hauler is the only way to go, and the extra cost (along with lack of enforcement) is enough for most to ignore it. So Claire took matters into her own hands and created a product that gave residents a way to report their building, and generated a visualization that would gain attention from policymakers.

Since most users wouldn’t interact with it for long, Claire spent a lot of time getting it right. She conducted extensive background research, engaged community journalists and activists, ran her idea through the gauntlet, refined her strategy, checked every feature recommendation against the ultimate goal, tested and retested. A year later, My Building Doesn’t Recycle came to life. Since then, it’s received 2,000+ reports for 1,500+ buildings, and was featured on WBEZ’s Curious City, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. Not bad for a bootstrapped product that’s only been live for about a year.

After hearing her story, I’ve come to realize the value of not shipping right away, especially when you have a product with a short-lived user relationship cycle. In this case, it’s important to take the time to rethink, redesign and retest your UX.

To your digital success,