Week 22

Now, that was a week. We did it. We shipped. You don’t get to do that entire thing, from first chat to spinning up a dozen EC2 instances to cope with *blush* sudden popularity very often.

Artfinder is now live, go take a look. Go on, now – i’ll still be here in a few minutes.

There’s an official blog too at blog.artfinder.com where I will be periodically writing about design, feature and product issues. I’m going to write this one here first to try and collect my thoughts on our process and strategy.

Obviously we’re trapped in the classic startup dilemma of Time vs Resources vs Quality and I would like to talk about the choices we made and why.

Firstly there’s Time, and you may tell from the notes on this blog, and the gap between week 3 and week 19, that we didn’t move quite as fast as we originally hoped. But, at the end of last year we made a plan and we stuck to our dates* which was essential for us. First mover advantage is, in case, critical.

The second part of that equation is Resources, and it goes without saying we are streamlined to the extreme. On the design side it’s been just me so far, although we have an outstanding designer joining us soon. London has become extremely tight for exceptional design talent right now. Feels bubbly.

So with two parts of the equation fixed rigidly, we had to flex a little on Quality. We’ve made choices about features, implementations and shortcuts that have been difficult, but I completely stand by. It was only 4 weeks ago when we had a beta I could test in front of friends and family, with guidance on missing bits and known problems. Only did the iteration 2 weeks before launch did many of the elements fit together for the first time. Truly lean.

We’re very proud of what we’ve shipped, and the vast majority of positive comments has been very moving, but we’re extremely aware of many problems with it.

As designer and product manager I second this quote by Reid Hoffman, “If you review your first site version and don’t feel embarrassment, you spent too much time on it.” (Incidentally, Reid is an investor in Artfinder.)

How has this manifested itself?

“feature x is unpolished” – I agree, we’ve launched with the absolute minimum in place, the minimum of complex code (especially ajax and javascript visual effects) and the minimum user messaging. Are we going to add these missing layers? Of course, and as soon as possible.

“feature y is unclear” – From the feedback we sought during earlier, private, betas we agonised over some of the placement, naming and function of some features. Did we get it right? Certainly not, and we’ll continue to agonise over them until we do.

“feature z is missing” – The feature list of doom is massive, we picked out the ones we felt essential to convey what the Artfinder concept is about. The ones we did implement, we cut to the bone. For example collections – at launch *extremely* limited (you can see 8 artworks! No delete!) but have plans on how the next, next next, and later iterations expand on this.

“content x is missing or inaccurate” – We know, we’re working on it, the copyright issues we face are considerable but we think by being open, positive and doing the right thing we can include the work everyone wants to see while respecting living artists rights, as well as those deceased but still in copyright. More people seeing art they fall in love with = everyone wins, we think.

And that, is what it’s all about. My philosophy to UX, if I have one, would be best summed up as “Get the groove right, the beats will follow”

* Actually we shifted it by a day – we were one of the launch partners using the new Facebook comments system, and they rescheduled so we all went live on the 1st March together.

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