How to Develop Sound Product Principles via No-Code Methodsby@dirtyronin
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How to Develop Sound Product Principles via No-Code Methods

by Samuel LudescherJanuary 28th, 2021
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A little guide about how to develop sound product principles by being flexible in your methods, plus an example.
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MacGyver some sh*t.

Tools are only a means to an end, and which one you use doesn't matter nearly as much as the valued outcome it provides. As Indiehacker Pieter Levels says, "ship to learn." I'm 100% behind that.

With no-code tools, designers can build, validate quickly, launch & learn—though design tools aren't extinct by any means!

The no-code phenomenon (for us coden00bs) coupled with my recent introduction and ensuing obsession with Notion have led me to try prototyping a goal tracking UX in it, a template called Climb Higher - Reach for your goals, a home for all of your personal goals, skills, and projects.

The goal here is to put the principles of a real product to the test in a low-risk, high reward environment like Notion, one where building and distributing are easy.

This is basically a love letter to Notion, however, Notion is just one of many tools that makes this possible. I invite you to use methods flexibly to iron out your product's principles.

The No Code Development Landscape: Every Tool To Create Without Code, Categorized

This is just another method, another tool

I'm not against design + prototyping tools by any means. I love Figma, though I may switch to Adobe XD. But, the tools are interchangeable.

Since I can't code, yet I have a desire to make, I'm thankful for no-code. In fact, this template is a precursor to a real goal tracking product (in user testing) that I and a fellow Indiehacker and I are building in Bubble. *Pro tip: keep your product under a Bubble io and you can effectively test a product for free and have as many live users as you like.

Rather than create screens in Figma with my lackluster UI skills (which I am still improving), and show people how it could work, I decided to make a live version in Notion.

The Climb Higher - Reach for your goals template is a set of bets I created to further our user research before investing precious time building the features into our Bubble backend.

Notion isn't what always comes to mind when you think of a no-code design tool, but it's for more than just docs. I like to experiment with UX, and Notion makes that easy.

In Notion, opportunities for visual design are capped because of limited design options, however, opportunities for intuitive UX design are expanded because of its ubiquitous feature blocks. I like working within these kinds of constraints because I am a problem-solver first.

With no-code, anyone can build a functioning product if they know what they are doing. It isn't easy, just viable.

What's more important is sticking to principles

Principles are your compass. Methods are the shoes you walk in.

I believe that UX is universal. The experience may differ according to the medium and its design, but all roads lead to usability. Stay user-centered.

Plus, that kind of variety is good for the user. To each their own, after all.

Yet, what the button looks like and where it's located only depends upon the size of the screen. What is intrinsically more important is the value it provides. The feature, you might say, something shiny and new. Branding is a bonus.

Therefore, each product should have its own differentiating principles, and those principles should be expressed through design. Paint the walls last.

The driving forces behind the Climb Higher template

I wish to prototype a goal tracking system that intends to give users confidence to tackle bigger goals, learn cooler skills, and finish projects they've always wanted to start. The main principles are to define success, to establish consistency in preparation, to strategize & to reflect.

These were designed as the following features:

  1. 🤳 User onboarding - a gentle guiding hand
  2. 👾 Customization - ala Notion.
  3. 🕶️ Defining success - the end result
  4. ♻️ Habit tracking - establishing consistency
  5. 🏆 Creating achievements for yourself i.e. milestones - compounding success
  6. 🔢 Understanding prioritization - Eisenhower matrix
  7. 🧗‍♂️ Creating an action plan
  8. 📓 Reflection - conducting self assessments of progress, identifying key areas for improvement and any obstacles, and a place to assess one's own mental health.
  9. 💡 Curated resources
  10. Nowhere in there is motivation. That's because I believe motivation isn't found, it's made. Here's the equation:

    Belief + action = motivation

    Why prototype in Notion?

    It's something I haven't seen yet.

    For what it is, Notion is gorgeous. It's fully responsive, though it's most desirable habitat is akin to a webpage in design and layout; think subreddit because of the option to choose a page header and an icon as page designators.

    You know when you're looking at a Notion page, whether it's a database, a custom template such as mine template, or operating as a website.

    Products can be managed with Notion, and built with Notion.

    What might be the most wonderful thing about Notion is its open source capability. Templates are definitely the bread and butter of the platform. I took three other existing templates from other creators and incorporated them into the Climb Higher template (credited, of course).

    Notion's template gallery

    Outcomes over output

    This would be in vain without an opportunity to get some research done and hopefully speak with users. So, I included a built-in typeform, which is very easy to do in Notion, and like any good UX designer I'll be gathering as much feedback as I can in my efforts to launch & learn.

    Nothing beats talking to strangers about your product.

    Hopefully I can get in touch with actual users.

    Blaze your own trail

    I used to think I had to use the right tool the right way to get the right answer. But, your users don't care. The right answer is subjective. Its value will always be weighed out, and there are riches in niches, so don't fret if its great for some but not all.

    I'd like to encourage you, designer or otherwise, if you want to make something cool on the Internet, just make it however you can, and put it in front of people until they love it. Once you succeed, you'll relish all your beautiful failures that much more.

    Coding cannot be replaced. But, with no-code now you can build as you design.

    Go ahead, tweak tools to your needs, and ship to learn.

    Good design is good business.