After chatting on Skype with someone who has a brilliant idea for a product but not quite knowing how to take it to the next step I made a suggestion. Not with the idea itself because in reality it is actually a brilliant one but in the way of getting these ideas into the first solid step you can take. One that I know helps you clear up a lot of the issues you face when you have a great idea and want to bring it to reality. The idea is based on storyboarding and prototyping and is a method I got involved with when I was working on usability.
The problem is always at the beginning, what do you do to flesh out an idea and make it into something real. In the IT world you would be expected to create a detailed specification of what you want but often it isn’t people with that kind of experience that have the idea. So you need enough to be able to describe fully your idea to someone who can actually do the work, write the code, create the product and make it something you can sell.
Of course having an idea in your head is not enough. You need to at least know that it solves the problem that created it. You need to create your imaginary product in your mind and test it all out in real life. This is the most efficient place to make changes to it, anywhere later will cost you time and money. Now assuming you don’t have the capacity of a great inventor like Tesla then you need to make some notes and drawings. This is where the storyboarding comes in.
Now whatever you artistic skills are and thankfully it doesn’t matter when you do this you need to draw how the product will be used. You draw up each function it performs and put in just enough to spark the imagine of seeing it for real. Even if you have to draw a little stick-man operating or using the product it will help you see its use more clearly.
There may be a number of ways that the product is used so for each one you can think of draw little pictures of how it will look. When you go through a function or action with it you can use a comic book like style to show each of the steps. If you have many pictures of certain aspects of the product then you can reuse them as you think of how the product will be interacted with. All this helps your cognitive functions analyse and imagine all the pieces that are necessary for the product to work.
I know that film walkthroughs are done this way, at least showing the ingredients of each action as the idea is fleshed out. Of course it is so simple and quick to change, rearrange, throw out and add to the story line this way you can see the film being someone using your product.
The next thing is that once you have thrown every problem and possible function at your product on paper you will then want someone to prototype it. Well the sketches will help for this too. If you are able to it will give you plenty of information for writing a specification. At least it will give you enough to know what you are asking for should you go online to a freelancing auction or service provider. The one thing that will always save you time, money and communication problems is having as complete a specification as possible when approaching a service provider. You could possible even just use the sketches or storyboard as the means of describing what you want and have the service provider help you get round any technical issues.
Creating a storyboard will help you make your idea a reality by helping your imagination flow in creating it, forcing you to consider it fully for any issues it might have and ease the communication you need in telling someone else what you need to create the idea into a prototype.
I did find a number of sites that describe this method though any search for ‘storyboarding prototyping’ should bring up more than enough background info.