You think you have a great product. Your product manager thinks you have a great product. Your developers think they have created a great product. The question is – how do you prove this before you send it out to your alpha and beta testers for real-world feedback?
Therefore, we recommend the multistage hackathon approach to ensure product-market fit and usability. With multistage hackathons, you can start them earlier than the “final product” stage to get more useful feedback. While the “final product” stage is not as well defined in our days of agile development and CI/CD, we’re defining “final product” as something that is generally agreed upon to be ready for market launch.
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Nevertheless, using a series of hackathons can make it easier to verify that you are solving the customers’ problem that you intended to solve. What you think you accomplished in the lab isn’t always the case in the real world. Use hackathons to inject a bit of the “real world” in the development process.
You want to have at least three hackathons for three main reasons: 1) You won’t catch everyone in a given day. 2) You won’t catch everything in a given day. 3) You need time to iterate and incorporate feedback.
Hackathon #1 needs to focus on the use-case level. For example, you want someone to test a car by driving to a specific location. During hackathon #1, you give them GPS and detailed instructions.
For Hackathon #2, the task is the same, but instead of GPS and instructions, you give them a road atlas and some verbal directions. Hackathon #2 is more of a guided, end-to-end test.
Hackathon #3 is a true, open-ended usability test. Hand them the car keys and tell them to get to the destination. The goal of hackathon #3 is to determine whether, without any specific guidance, the user can easily achieve the objective using the product. This allows them to spend more time exploring and comprehensively stress-testing the application.
Tasks for all hackathons