Prototyping a Book on Prototyping

March 03, 2019

List of 16 chapter in Notion App

I’ve been writing and speaking about prototypes quite a bit over the last few years. In my experience, carving out a proper prototyping process creates better products. It also helps you discover terrible ideas more quickly. At Paravel we value the process so much we offer Prototyping as a Service for companies that need help thinking through iterations of their products.

Over the past few months I watched a slow motion train wreck as an ill thought-out product was rushed to production. To be fair to that team, there were a lot of uncontrollable factors but one major issue I saw at the beginning was the design lacked a proper prototype. Trying to assist the product, I did the douchebag thing where you paste a link to a video of your own talk to show how products, via prototypes, could be approached to help solve some of the problems that team was facing… but it was too late.

I started thinking about how I wished there was a book on the value of proper prototyping I could hand around the office. Something in the era of MVPs and “Ship Fast, Break Things” that highlights business value of proving ideas before committing to them. Something that shows how shopping around a living breathing prototype is infinitely more valuable than a JPEG in a PowerPoint and can help projects more accurately estimate necessary levels of effort required to ship.

Now, I’ve joked about writing books before and this certainly isn’t any kind of official announcement, but I’ve started prototyping a book on prototyping!

“Dave, in writing we just call that an ‘outline’.”

Ayyy, good point. That’s the first thing I did. I took all the major sections and stories of my evolving prototype talks over the years and turn them into “chapters” for my outline. Then I paid for all my talks over the years to be transcribed. I assembled those sections into very short chapters and now have something that is starting to look like a short book.

And… (spoiler) it just so happens that’s one of the lessons in the book! A good way to prototype is to cobble together pieces of things that you already have and see if it produces something enjoyable.

Now that I have a prototype, what should I do with it? Do I send the prototype over to A Book Apart and achieve my long-sought dream of being an ABA author? I quite admire the path of friends like Brad Frost who self-published Atomic Design, Jeremy Keith who self-published Resilient Web Design, and Frank Chimero who self-published The Shape of Design. Should I hire an editor and attempt to self-publish?

Taking a page from my own book (literally!), I think I’m going to plop these primordial chapters into Jekyll, deploy to Netlify, and “playtest” the idea a bit with a small select group of trusted feedback-givers. If that goes well I should know more about my next steps and maybe open it up to you, dear RSS reader, to get your thoughts.

Mostly tho, I’d love to know what you would want to learn and would value most out of a book on prototyping. Or if you have links to any favorite process posts or stories, I’d love to read those as well.