Sketching Business Models

At the start of a project, we like to make sketches to help us understand the business we are trying to create. Who is the user? What is the product or service? And what is the business model? This helps us quickly identify the big risks on a project and then start targeting those risks in our work.

Spreadsheets + The Business Model Canvas

Until recently, the business model sketches have not been very satisfying. Read more →

Does Agile Have to Hurt?

Agile was born of good intentions. The framers of the Agile Manifesto were seeking better ways to make software–and they declared their highest priority was to create value for their customers. And yet, it’s brought … Read more →

Lead With Vision. Test Ruthlessly in the Market.

One day a couple of years ago, my colleague Jono Mallanyk was working on decorating the walls of Neo’s first studio space in NYC. He was hanging a set of posters he had designed and … Read more →

You’re Not Building an App. You’re Going Into the Software Business

Last year, I was discussing a software development project with a senior manager at a major corporation here in NY. He had a $2M budget for software development to be spent over about 12 months. I asked him what kind of software team he was planning to build. “None,” he said. “I’m not starting a software business. I’m just building an app.”

How_Much_Would_it_Cost_QuoraThis is a really common attitude—on display in questions like this one on Quora: “How much does it cost to build a web-site like Etsy?” And you can laugh at the naiveté of the question, but the fundamental idea is really common: people still think that web-based products and apps are just big versions of shrink-wrapped software—like their own personal version of Microsoft Word.

It’s easy to fall into this way of thinking: we understand how to buy products like Microsoft Word. It’s not that different from buying a box of Cheerios. It sits on the shelf in the store. It has a fixed price. You pick it up, take it to the cashier, take it home, and you use it immediately and easily.

But building a web-based product or app for your business isn’t really like that. It’s like bringing home a puppy. Sure you only bring it home once, but you’ve signed up for a dog’s-life of obligation.

What obligations? My business partner Giff Constable just posted this on his blog:

“ The product lies at the center of a suite of capabilities that together form a total experience for customers (and often partners too). For customers, these capabilities include how you market to and acquire them, how you support and continually engage them, and how you charge them.”


Exactly. And it’s in the “suite of capabilities” that the obligation lies. This suite of capabilities… From software developers and operations people to all of the business operations that go into fulfilling the capabilities that the software enables—this suite of capabilities? Well… you’re not building an app. You’re in the software business.

Not a Metaphor: Getting Out of The Deliverables Business

I’ve been thinking about contracts recently. That’s not surprising, given the amount of time I’ve been spending in contract negotiations with a very large new client. I’m excited to get started working with them, and … Read more →

Amazon Deploys to Production Every 11.6 Seconds

Recently when I’ve been speaking at conferences, I’ve been talking a bit about the context in which LeanUX thrives. To understand that context, it’s important to understand continuous deployment and the way that this body of devOps practices have radically changed the way software products are managed.

Modern devOps is emblematic of the new reality of software: across the software world, we’re seeing increasing use of practices that are continuous in nature, and that promote flow, small batch size, and continuous improvement.

When I talk about devOps and continuous deployment, one figure that consistently blows peoples mind is this: Amazon deploys new software to production every 11.6 seconds.

Let me say that again. Amazon deploys new software to production every 11.6 seconds.

The source for this little nugget is this great talk from Jon Jenkins of Amazon, speaking at Velocity 2011:

It’s worth spending 15 minutes on, if you’re interested in reflecting on the future, and they way Amazon (and others) have been inventing it. And while you’re thinking about this, you might ask, “what am I doing to prepare myself, my practice, and my company for this new reality?”

“Designers shouldn’t code” is the wrong answer to the right question

My friend Wayne Greenwood asked me what I thought of his recent blog post in which he argues that designers shouldn’t write code. He wrote, “Your time is the ultimate zero-sum game. The more you … Read more →

Nordstrom Innovation Lab: What Happened Next…

A few years ago, I was lucky to meet some of the team at the Nordstrom Innovation Lab. They shared a video the lab produced to showcase of the types of projects they were doing … Read more →


I was fortunate to spend most of the day yesterday at Lean UX NYC listening to a great slate of speakers open a 3-day event devoted to the topic. I’m pleased to see so much … Read more →

A Designer’s Introduction to Lean Startup

Earlier this year, I gave a 10-minute talk at Interaction ’13 to introduce designers, specifically interaction designers, to the key concepts behind Lean Startup. The conference organizers recently posted the video from the session, so … Read more →