Mario Cardinal

"The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" – Marcel Proust


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Success start with understanding your customers

A few days ago (sept 9), at the Montreal Mobile .Net Developers community, I did a presentation (in French) to share what I learned designing a productivity app targeting IOS, Android and Windows. Among others, I reminded the attendees to validate the concept before anything else, to define a simple design language and to prototype at all stages:

Un point de vue personnel sur le design avec Xamarin.Forms

talkingtohumansRecently I came across an e-book that synthesizes well the core message of my presentation. This book written by Giff Constable is called Talking to Humans.

I encourage you to read this book. You can download it for free. As stated Steve Blank, entrepreneur and author of The Startup Owner’s Manual.

“Talking to Humans is the perfect complement to the existing body of work on customer development. If you are teaching entrepreneurship or running a startup accelerator, you need to make it required reading for your students and teams. I have.”


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Building the product “right”

In this post, I am providing a progress status on the development of DayTickler.

As I wrote last June, the first version of DayTickler (the one that we will officially published in the app store) must be a lovable and marketable product.  Because we aim at validating if a product/market fit is obtained, we must avoid publishing a prototype.

A prototype is perfect to test for usability because it allows evaluating facts.  However, it fails miserably for evaluating usefulness. It is not the appropriate tool to validate the degree to which a product satisfies a strong market demand. As stated by Laura Klein in the article Building the right thing vs. building the thing right, “you can’t use a prototype to learn if you are building the right product.

The right product is a product that does what we imagined, but it is design so it has what customers really want and need in a form that is easy to use and atheistically pleasing. In order words, the right product is a product that is built “right” or at least “right enough”.

However, as Ron Jeffries wrote in 2014, “You can’t build the right product if you can’t build the product right.

prototype Therefore, in June and July, we continued to validate our design with prototypes. As always, we are learning to be humble. Obviously, some of our assumptions were wrong. We found serious problems with the user experience. At such a point that we spent the last month redesigning our application. The good news is that our recent prototype tests are conclusive. We are on the right track.

When will you have access to DayTickler in the app store? Not until November.  We must build the product “right” and to reach that goal we need to do more usability testing.


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Developing for Universal Windows Platform

I have already written in the past on the importance of continuous education. Several training options are available. Among my favorite options, some cost a few dollars a month like Pluralsight and some are free like Microsoft Virtual Academy.

continuous_training

With the launch of Windows 10 and Visual Studio 2015 tool, now it’s time to update your knowledge.

Here is the simplest way to get started:

On this site you will not only find learning resources, but also everything to create your next Windows 10 apps.


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Daily Planner

In this blog entry, I explain that we should categorize DayTickler according to the structure it promotes.

DayTickler is a productivity tools that can be classified, in a general way, as a personal tasks manager. Unfortunately, I do not think it’s a good classification. DayTickler is a mix that paired a daily calendar with a to-do list. I think rather that it should be classified as a daily planner because it is the structure that it promotes and puts forward.

This might surprise you, but committing and achieving tasks is all about structure. In my life, if there is one key lesson I have learned, and on which I have already written, which has near-universal applicability:

“We do not get better without structure”

As a matter of fact, without structure, we do not change our behavior, and we do not become successful. Unfortunately, incorporating the right structure into your daily routine is challenging. This is why you should rely on a productivity tool such as DayTickler.

I am among those who believe that a mobile app such as DayTickler must be opinionated. By design, it should lock and guide the user to do things according to his way. Put another way, there’s clearly one right way of using the application which is nice and easy, and any other way of using it makes your life difficult. It provides a recipe that not only simplifies the user experience but ensures to achieve results. Recipe limits the options so that users are not thrown off course by externalities. When users follow a recipe they are relying on structure to simplify the complexity and improve the odds of success.

The most important structural element of DayTickler is the daily schedule.

workflow

Separating the “Today” schedule from the master “To-do” list of everything that need to be done is a clear incentive for action. If the user schedule its daily commitments, he (or she) is much more likely to achieve them. It is as if the act of scheduling that increase the moral obligation. The “Today” schedule lets the user focus on what must be done today, while the “To-Do” list gives the user a place to dump every little task he (or she) think that someday must get done.


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Success is all about structure

The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth, while naming is the origin of the myriad things.— Lao-Tzu

higher mindWe live in a complex world and one of our first challenge is to structure it so that it seems simple. Obviously, we will not be left to ourselves facing this major challenge. Early on, our parents will provide us with the foundations. Among other things, they will teach us a language and the meaning of words. We often forget that the simplest way to reduce complexity is to name things appropriately. A Chinese proverb says that the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.

Slingboards Lab is not the first company that I founded. In 1991, after completing my master’s degree in management of technology from the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, I founded a software company to market a drawing program for value engineering. Unfortunately, my company did not had the expected success. This is explained by the fact that my product, whose name was Fastdraw, found himself competing against the Visio drawing software. I had customers, but not enough for this to be very profitable. After a few years, I closed the business. Oddly enough, 24 years later, I still have an old client using my product. They still consider Fastdraw as a better option than Visio. Lately, they contacted me because they wanted me to program a modern version. I politely refused while freely providing them with the original source code.

FD-DialogA few days ago, I took a look and I was amazed by the structure of the sources. This program was a 16-bits Windows 3.1x app written in C ++ using the Borland C++ v4.0 IDE and OWL library. Each object has its own CPP and H files. The naming convention makes it easy to identify visual objects such as windows and dialogs.

For those too young, in early 90’s the filenames were limited to 8 characters (a MS-DOS constraint), here is why we find names like TOOLBARW instead of TOOLBARWIN.

FD-Windows

As you can see, already at the beginning of my career, I was from the school of those who believes that words have meaning and names have power. By setting up an appropriate structure such as the combination of words with a convention, you can reduce complexity and make your code easily understood even 24 years later. Success is all about structure.


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Farewell to Chris Squire

Tales_from_Topographic_Oceans_(Yes_album)I was so sad yesterday to learn about the passing of Chris Squire, the legendary bass player and founding member of Yes. Of all the rock band I’ve listened in my youth, Yes has always been my favorite. Even today, on occasion, I listen to early Yes albums like Tales from Topographic Oceans or its first solo album Fish out of Water.

As I do not follow closely their career, I was not aware that Chris Squire was seriously ill. A few weeks ago, I listened to the song South Side of the Sky from the Fragile album. What a masterpiece. The lyrics expand on the idea that death could be beautiful. Not only do I love the power of this song but I also enjoy just as much the wordless vocal harmonies with Rick Wakeman’s piano. As wrote to me earlier today my childhood friend Luc Viau, “We just lost a great musician who scored the music of our teens.”

Soon, oh soon the light
Pass within and soothe this endless night
And wait here for you
Our reason to be here

Soon, oh soon the time
All we move to gain will reach and calm
Our heart is open
Our reason to be here

Long ago, set into rhyme…


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Minimum Lovable and Marketable Product

In this post, I explain why the first version of DayTickler must not only be lovable but also a marketable product.

Following my last post some readers were surprised that we will take almost nine months to produce a minimum viable product (MVP). According to Wikipedia, a minimum viable product (MVP) is the product with the highest return on investment versus risk. Usually, a MVP only has those basic features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. The product is typically deployed to a subset of customers (early adopters) that are supposed to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to confirm a product vision from an early prototype. As stated by Eric Ries in his colloquial book The Lean Startup, “The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

heart and dollarAt this stage in our product development, we seek to validate whether customers will agree to subscribe to the premium version of DayTickler. As we aim to market to consumer in an already mature market (there are already over a hundred to-do app), we can hardly launch a product that would be perceived as incomplete. We need to polish the software to the point of making it lovable, and this requires time. Furthermore, it must have all the necessary features to make it marketable. In our case, this requires building not only the core of the product but also the main feature that will convince customers to subscribe and pay for the premium version. This means that the product cannot be a prototype and this takes work. Especially that while building the product, at the same time, we continue to do consulting. Here’s why the construction of the MVP is so demanding and requires more than 9 months.