How not to launch a product

It all began when I was selling an item on Ebay, my ipad air 2. I decided I didn’t need it anymore and could do with the cash to buy a shed, (Ohh how things have changed). I listed it and got some bids, it sold for about the average price.

I have lots of other items I want to sell but don’t want to give some American giant all my money

Then the charges began, £12 to PayPal, £27 to Ebay, the item that sold £270 resulted in £230 in my pocket. You have got to expect charges and everyone wants their cut but this seemed a bit excessive. I have lots of other items I want to sell but don’t want to give some American giant all my money. What if you were selling a item for a few thousand? I could see how the charges can huge. So…

The idea

Sell items with no charges except for the payment to pay pal. Only sell authentic higher end items. Photography of item has to be on point. High personal customer service. Now as I found out this is not a hugely original idea but I would find a USP later.

So what to do about it? I can write front end code that can now power the front and back end. I am a UX designer, so can plan, research and design the user experience. I can also do a bit of UI design so why not give this problem some thought.

I decided to create a all singing and dancing app that has a massive list of features and functionality. So began the journey.

Feature list

I started out thinking of every possible feature that the user could want. Login, search products, product categories, post products, receive messages from users, take payment, authenticate users and their products. I don’t even think this was the end of the list.


I left out the user research, my idea was that I would base it all on assumptions and competitive research of products like Ebay. I dived straight into sketch (I can design this as I go and think of the user journeys on the fly, or so I thought). The design was under way and I then wanted to code.


I fired up atom set up a repo and started to code. I got a simple login sorted, with users and product list. I added categories and pulled in products to the home page. I got a working build together of some key areas. Then I thought the design needed some work and jumped into sketch as new bits popped into my head so I carried on.


I had fallen into the trap that I had heard about and thought “That would never be me”. I was designing as I went and building at the same time. I can do UX as I go and test at the end. I was using React.js, Meteor as my app engine and Mongo databases to hold data. I had a login area and you could post products it was all going so well in my head. Then I got bored, had some doubts like “no one wants to use a product if i don’t have a large customer base already” or no one knows about it. The doubt creep in and I shelved the idea for several months.

I was doing everything the “correct way” at work, usability testing, research, analysis, UX design, transaction and user flows. So why wasn’t I doing this on my own project? Good question.

I read a book called UX Strategy by Jamie Levey that inspired me to pick up the project again but adjust my process. I also read Lean UX and I started to have some new ideas and ways to market.

The things I took out of these amazing books.

  1. User test early and often.
  2. Get it in people’s hands as early as possible.
  3. Amazon, Uber, google etc all started out doing one thing and doing it well and adding features later. (The example given in Jamie’s book was of a product that similar to mine had no users, was feature bloated and the development time was holding up the release and testing).
  4. Create something simple even if you have to manage it yourself without powerful back ends and messaging systems, and process one product and transaction at a time.
  5. Create a buzz make it exclusive.
  6. Get a MVP out as quickly as possible.
  7. Get as much data as you can from this MVP.
  8. Iterate and develop.

My new plan

  1. Narrow down to one product type, with no charges (except paypal).
  2. Instead of opening it up to hundreds of products just sell one at a time..
  3. Handle all correspondences via email no need for time intensive messaging systems.
  4. Put one high end item up for sale, make it a timed sale to create interest.
  5. Let people sign up to email notifications and request to sell their item, gather potential users and information to promote later.
  6. Once I have enough people wanting to sell their item, open it up to them. Again only keep it to one item so its exclusive and will create a unique personal experience.
  7. Gather user research on this MVP. Do people want to use it? How are people using it?
  8. Refine and perfect the experience.

How to make it profitable.

  1. Start to sell multiple products.
  2. Start to charge a low percentage to use the service. 1 or 2 percent. (This is how it will start to make money)

Follow the journey from how-to-not-to-launch-a-product to fingers crossed something we can have enough users to start getting some real data.

Follow the journey

How not to launch a product

How the journey started

Step 1: How to launch a product - Empathise


Step 2: How to launch a product - Define


Step 3: How to launch a product - Iterate


Step 4: Build a MVP / prototype and design


Step 5: Test on the MVP / prototype

Promote on facebook, instragram and twitter. Gather shed loads of user data. Google analytics, surveys, hotjar, usability testing etc. Get it into the hands of users.

Step 6: Analysis the data

Analysis data and create usability maps of real data.

Step 7: Iterate and improve

Revisit UX design and adjust.