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Working Backwards

Have you thought about where you will be in 52 weeks time?

Will 2017 be just another year, or will it be the year your product (or service, or experience) takes the world by storm?


Start by 'Working Backwards'

The most successful projects often start by creating a clear vision of where you want to get to, and working backwards from there.

That’s why I love the aptly named 'working backwards' method. Most famously adopted by Amazon, it’s a method to create a customer-focused vision of your product’s future.

It starts by writing a press release.

That’s right. Before Amazon’s designers and developers start working on something new, they write a hypothetical press release from the future, celebrating the success of a product after its launch.


The benefits of working backwards

Because it’s written 12 months in the future, the 'working backwards' method forces you to dream big. To focus on your BHAGs (your Big Hairy Audacious Goals), and the the ground-breaking, game-changing changes you need to achieve them.

A well-crafted press release is a great use of good old storytelling. It gets the team excited and focussed before any lines of code are written.

It reduces waste because it keeps your team building the right things; if the press release isn’t worth reading, then it’s unlikely that anyone will be interested in you product either, which means you should probably think twice about building it.


Writing your press release

You can find a tonne of different templates and formats of press releases online. Keep it to one page in length, and include the following:

Title: A catchy but clear summary of what you’ve achieved in the 52 weeks ahead of you.

The lead paragraph: The opening paragraph should summarise the successes you’ve achieved over the last 12 months, and how you’ve achieved them. And most of all, why they’re important to your customer. Like an elevator pitch, it should be well crafted  and strong enough for the reader to read just this, and nothing else, to get the key details.

The target market: Writing a press release can help the team definite exactly who they’re targeting before they start building a product.

Problem / Solution: It’s important to describe your achievements from the customer’s viewpoint. Describe the actual problem that your customer has, and why this product solves that problem. What customer problem or task did you focus on in order to leapfrog towards your new-found success?

Quotes: Including quotes in your press release adds personality and emotion. Consider including a quote from a company spokesperson, or even a customer.

An image: Press releases with images are viewed and shared 3 times more, so make sure you’ve included a visionary concept of your future-product. Whether it’s a back-of-the-napkin sketch, or a pixel-perfect concept, thinking about what it looks like in the future can help bring your product to life.

Find out more: A quick summary, and an indication about where the user needs to go to learn more.

In my experience, the best results come from writing a press release collaboratively as a team, perhaps as a half-day workshop. This creates a shared understanding of your product vision, and how your roadmap will support that.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve written your press release, don’t hide it away in a drawer and never look at it again. Make sure you:

  • Stick it on the wall.
  • Show it to anyone and everyone.
  • Get feedback and iterate
  • Live and breathe it

Your press release should become the North Star for your product, and guide you towards making the right decisions to what to focus on 2017.

Where exactly do you want to be, one year from now?

Ben Rowe

Ben Rowe

Ben Rowe is a UX Designer and Product thinker based in Melbourne. After several years ux’ing at agencies, Ben went and got a grown up job - and is now a lead UX designer for a bank.

A marketer by trade, Ben moved into design in his thirties, and discovered that UX and of Marketing actually have quite a bit in common.

Ben lives in Kyneton in central Victoria, Australia, and is expecting to have a mid-life crisis any day now.

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