February 2022

Product Principle #5 - Learn on the cheap

We created Loomery to make it easier and faster to ship great digital products. We’re a young company but we have pretty strong opinions on how great products are built quickly. So, we’ve attempted to capture our approach in six principles that our team follows and promotes, six beliefs we think are important that guide our behaviours and decisions. 

You could even describe them as anti-principles; as they describe what we don’t want to do as often as they describe what we do want to do. The principles are:
1. Products not slides
2. Do then document
3. No data, no debate
4. Business cases lie
5. Learn on the cheap
6. Start by shipping

In this series of posts we dive into the six principles in turn to explain what they mean and how we apply them day to day. Here we’re discussing our fifth principle 'Learn on the cheap'.

Principle #5 - Learn on the cheap

The first point to make here is research and learning doesn’t need to be expensive.

Long-running diary studies and lab studies aren’t always required; you can learn loads from lo-fi methods. Whether it's a quick zoom interview, an in-app survey, or even with a  run of Facebook ads. You can start learning by screen-shotting your competitors’ apps or websites, stopping people in the street to ask them a few questions or buying some potential users pizza and shoving cards in front of them to sort. 

You should learn as much as you can, as fast as you can, spending as little as you can, to test assumptions. The question should always be “what’s the cheapest way for us to learn what we need?”

Behind this needs to sit a mindset of curiosity, questioning and customer-centricity - which we try to embed with all of our clients. So if you're thinking about how to design the perfect study, stop immediately and speak to some customers.

Hear what our team and friends have to say about how we apply this principle:

‘The exciting new dimension here is this: how much you can learn on the cheap has changed. That has changed some of the assumptions about why and how you can do product research.

Low-code tools have shifted the line on how quickly and cheaply you can build an experience to test with customers. In almost all cases it’s now possible to create something that approximates an experience cheaply. If the first time you put the experience in your customers hands you’ve already spent £500k, you’ve done something wrong.

This is particularly important because people are bad at telling you what they want and predicting how they will behave. Traditional market research isn't very good at predicting what to aim for with digital products. The best way to understand behaviour is to build the thing or get as close as possible.’

Brett Thornton, Founder

“Discovering something is a total flop before it’s a thing is a real gift. You will be thankful that you found it out before it’s too late.  The value of testing is apparent, and it's not just about accessibility testing, it’s also about proving the value in a good or really bad idea. Imagine you had a £3,000 investment that saved £300,000 in the long run because you didn’t go ahead with a horrific idea.”

-  Ana Monzon, VP Digital Product, Burberry

‘The biggest risk with any form of product development is you waste time building things that people don’t want. It’s one big exercise of making sure you focus your time, money and resources on designing and building the right thing.

As my old colleague Ana from Burberry points out, if you’re going to fail, fail fast because it’s much better to invest £3k in something and learn it was a total flop than £300k. You will be thanking yourself later when you realise how you avoided costing the business by pushing an idea too far down the road.

You need to be set up so that everything you do is a learning exercise. If you want to launch a new proposition, do it as quickly and cheaply as possible so you can launch the first version early and start finding out if people actually have the problem you are trying to solve and whether your product does it well enough.’

- Joni Mortimore, Lead Designer


We’d love to hear what you think about this so get in touch. We’ll be talking about our sixth and final principle “start by shipping” next week so look out for that. Thanks for reading.

Loomery is a faster path to product progress. We deliver trusted teams, when you need them. Our community of expert makers, remote teaming approach and flexible partnership model mean we can demonstrate progress on your priorities next week, not next year.

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