Use Tuning

To continue the thoughts on prototyping, here’s a really important question you should ask yourself:

How many times will this be used? How many people will use it?

This is a really important one because these numbers should heavily influence your approach to the project.

It’s also one branch point where making a physical thing diverges from writing (for computers or people) because of the difference in iteration costs. When writing, you can always refine your creation by simply adding to or taking away from the original creative nugget. When building though, there are much more discrete tiers of use – most of the time you can’t build something for repeated use just by adding on to a one-shot demonstration.

The opposite danger is the trap of overengineering, which bears a striking resemblance to planning paralysis: engage in too much of a good thing, and you’re just shooting yourself in the foot. You don’t need to design an attachment system that can handle several hundred pounds and is robust to wear and tear if it’s going to be used a few dozen times to resist less than a pound of force.

It’s not just a matter of professionalism and shine – it’s actually about efficiency. When you’re making something for yourself and you can buy speed and ease by increasing the finickyness, because you will know every quirk and how to address it – ‘oh, if you hold it at just the right angle, it works perfectly.’ Additionally users won’t have the knowledge you gained by actually building it, so the quirkier your prototype, the more problems they will run into and the more time someone will have to burn figuring it out. This means that there’s definitely a break-even point in terms of upfront costs versus those that will pop up down the line.

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