John Petersen

Lessons From Fake Grimlock

Yesterday we had the most epic of all coffee meetings so far. David and I had the pleasure of meeting with Fake Grimlock while he was in town for a secret stealth mission. We all know of the genius that is Fake Grimlock from things like this, this, this, this, this and this, but it's quite another thing to be able to meet with him in person. We took full advantage of the opportunity and want to share what we learned.

Optimize for the Rat Brain

There have been studies performed that show that the brain will have an emotional reaction about something within one twentieth of a second. After that, the rational brain then justifies the reaction that the rat brain has already made. What does that even mean? Well, when a visitor looks at your website for the first time, they have already formed an opinion within a twentieth of a second about whether or not they like you, about whether or not they want to purchase what you're selling. Then the visitor proceeds to spend the next few seconds attempting to justify this decision by looking at your design, content, etc.

FG explained the two tests he uses to optimize for the Rat Brain -- the Squint Test and the Notebook Flash. The Squint Test simply means that you squint your eyes until everything is blurry. Now take a look at your landing page and figure out what pops. If your message isn't coming through properly when squinting, you're doing it wrong. The Notebook Flash is not what you're thinking, so get your mind out of the gutter. Find a notebook the size of the screen your optimizing for (i.e. legal for websites and small spiral notepad for mobile). Draw or print the mock of your site with all of the content, images, UI and UX included. Then flash this image for one second to someone who hasn't seen your site. Then ask them fun questions -- what did you see, what does the site do, would you buy from these people, etc.

The Development Tradeoff

Clients want a quality product delivered on time / budget. That's just common sense. The only way to consistently accomplish this is through experience. Inexperienced developers are either going to sacrifice on quality or miss on time / budget. A seasoned developer has been through the ring of fire before. He can look at a project and identify the pitfalls and black holes that can spiral a project out of control. An inexperienced developer will often times stumble upon these pitfalls only when it is too late. You get what you pay for with developers. If you want a quality product delivered on time and on budget, find talented and experienced developers.

Relocating Fake Grimlock and his Grim-Dog

If we want to get Fake Grimlock to move to NYC (or anywhere outside of his current home base), it can be done. He may or may not be looking for the perfect opportunity to make a move. There are critical factors that will drastically increase your likelihood of success.

  1. Present FG with an amazing opportunity to join your startup. Amazing opportunity means you have an insanely good idea and the right team behind it. Basically have a very strong vision for how you want to punch the world in the face.

  2. Find a new home for Fake Grimlock with a yard for Grim-Dog to play in. No dog should have to poop on concrete every day. FG and Grim-Dog need their space.

That's it. Let's bring the Grimmster to NYC!

Strategic Planning

Most people don't spend enough time in the planning phase. This is why you have scope creep, unhappy clients, incomplete projects and inconsistency.The most important thing that can be done to ensure success in a project is to have proper strategic planning to come out with an iron-clad scope, wireframes, storyboards and expectations. Having everyone on board and on the same page from the beginning is critically important. This brings us to the final lesson (and our personal favorite)!

Pissing on the Tree

When building a new product, you must give everyone the opportunity to piss on the tree as early as possible. Every single dog that walks by a tree that another dog has pissed on is going to want to leave their mark. And so it is with product development. Every single person who has any say whatsoever is going to add their input whether you want them to or not. It's best to force every major stakeholder to piss on the tree before any development begins to save incredible amounts of time and headaches down the road.

From what we've heard, Fake Grimlock's stealth mission was a success. We're sure glad that he made it back up to NYC and super-stoked to have been able to grab a few minutes of his time. Thanks for dropping some knowledge on the Firehawk Team!

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