Week 2 Summary: Planning the Smart Home Matrix

Completed the initial planning phase of this project, from figuring out what I'll be build as Proof-of-concept to the user journey and more.
28 February 2022

Jumping straight in, I needed a plan. What was I building?

While I have a general idea, I found some good questions I should answer first. Who am I building this for? What problem am I solving? Why would people want to use this?

Who am I building this for? People interested in smart homes or have already started to buy products.

What problem am I solving? Lots of smart home products are on the market, but not much information on which ones connect together (without a lot of research).

Why would people want to use this? Single source of reliable information that’s simple to use, helping people cut possible hours of research on smart home products.

Speaking with other entrepreneurs I was advised if my business can’t be summed up in a single sentence, I need to re-think what I was building. 

Here’s my attempt.

“Make it easier for people to build a smart home, with products and services that work together.”

It’s pretty straight forward I hope, giving a nice high level goal of my solution.

How I went about planning

The process and planning of a no code application isn’t too de-similar to a bespoke coded app, which is to say, you need to make sure you’ve adequately planned before starting.

I wasn’t happy with last week's research in terms of depth, so I turned to keyword research which I normally do for smart and practical (And went back through Quora, Reddit and Facebook Groups)

I found a lot of searches around “X for Y” (smart light bulbs for google assistant) and “Does X work with Y” (does philips hue work with amazon alexa). This is what will drive my main focus for the initial proof-of-concept build.

Note: The above screenshots are only a snippet of the keyword research I carried out around.

I’m not going to go into detail of all the keyword searches I carried out (honestly doesn’t provide much value), I now feel more confident that a market for this matrix exists and it’ll help people.

What the competition looks like

None. Which isn’t as great as it sounds.

Either it’s been done before but hasn’t succeeded maybe due to lack of marketing or no demand, or no one has created something similar / succeeded at creating something similar.

What I did find searching however, was a lot of articles around helping people find the right products that work together. Keyword research is showing people are searching everyday for products that work with X, but there’s no helpful matrix type solution - just article after article (which isn’t necessarily bad).

Speaking to a few colleagues they see the potential of this app - which is always a good sign.

Before starting to build

It would be great to do it all, but what do you build first? I went ahead and quickly broke down what I plan to build and at what stage. 

I stuck with a traditional 3 stage approach, Proof-of-concept (PoC), Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and Minimal Marketable Product (MMP). (I could have gone with Alpha, Beta, etc but for this project I’m sticking with PoC/MVP/MMP)

Deciding what I’ll develop first took some time. I didn’t want to get bogged down with fleshing out every stage, so for now I put extra focus on what the PoC will include.

Doing a brainstorm and additional research, I came up with a few ideas on what my solution could potentially do.

As you can see I have many features I hope to include by the MMP (last) stage. 

It was now time to decide what goes into PoC, essentially what I’ll look to build first.

Proof-of-concept (PoC)

After playing around with ordering, I settled on two features.

  • Select a product and find what products in a category works with it 
    • e.g. You select Google Assistant (product) then Smart Locks (product category) it’ll show you the smart locks that work with Google Assistant
  • Find a products based on criteria
    • E.g. Select Bluetooth (criteria) and find smart locks (product category)

While it’s not the most complicated matrix out there, with logic that shouldn’t be too difficult to create it does have value in the fact it’ll be a single source of reliable information.

I like these two features for a few reasons

  1. Allows me to gather data on a lot of products, this data will be useful for other features I plan to build in later on
  2. Will provide a real benefit to people using the matrix at PoC stage

I also think this is quite achievable in a few weeks of development which will allow me to start gathering feedback.

Getting Feedback

Getting feedback can’t be stressed enough, I don’t know how many times I’ve come into a project to realise it’s been built without user feedback. 

With over 75% of all start-ups fail, this is something I want to avoid.

The result being a product that people just don’t need or even want. What a waste of resources.

Following a lean start-up approach, I plan to build and gather user feedback as soon as possible to avoid waste.

Minimal Viable Product (MVP), Minimal Marketable Product (MMP) and Beyond

For the features my smart home matrix will include going forward, I’ve listed a few ideas but these are subject to change. Not all these ideas are going to be feasible or even worth time to implement.

After my PoC, I’ll look to gather feedback which will gain me valuable data that I’ll use to pick what to develop next.

This data driven approach is a great way to build a product or service, as it allows you to build a solution people want and need.

What I’ll need to build the solution

When building anything I like to start by understanding what exactly I’ll need from the onset, listing everything I can. Taking the agile approach, I won’t be creating massive amounts of documentation up front, instead creating documentation as and when needed.

Data, lots of data from multiple sources. 

This solution is essentially a massive data dump with great filters and a unique way of finding products that’s simple and intuitive. 

Getting this data will be quite a manual task, I’m most likely going to gather a set amount so i can structure it - making sure my solution works. Before looking to outsource the data collection.

Data Storage (Database), to organise and structure the data.

Having data is great, but the power of this solution comes from turning data into information. After collecting data from numerous sources I’ll need to structure it in a way that makes it usable and updatable.

Picking the right type of data storage is key, off the top of my head I know there’s no code solutions like Airtable or I could go real simple and use a Google Sheet.

Platform, how the data will be displayed and the user experience (UX).

Once the data has been collected, how it’ll be displayed and linked is the sole responsibility of the platform that I choose. As I want to create a solution that uses no code tools I need to find one that will do exactly what I’m after or close enough for a prototype.

Failing this I might need to get creative, though the platform just needs to provide me the ability to pull data from a list and allow me to run logic on said data before displaying it (Sounds simple yet complicated at the same time).

Hosting, how people will access the solution

For the most part the hosting is already taken care of. In future projects this won’t be the case but for now I have smartandpractical.com already set up. 

It’s powered by WordPress and I know a bit of coding, so I don’t see this as a huge problem (let’s see if that holds true)

Integration, how the solution will hook into my site.

As I said above, my site uses WordPress. How I integrate my solution with a no code tool will need to be taken into consideration. 

At this stage I can’t really comment on how “easy” this will be - however I’ll keep this in mind going forward. 

Getting it all to work together

Now I have a good sense of what I need to make this solution, I’ll be working on each part next week.

I’ll need to make sure that each part will integrate and work together, such that the platform can access the database, and the site can host/display/integrate the platform.

The user journey, what to expect as a user

User journeys are great, they’re a visual way to show how someone will interact with your product or service.

They can help you find gaps, pain points and possible issues with your solution and will help ensure everyone understands what will happen and when.

I’ve used them in the past to highlight pain points in existing ways of working - which in turn enabled us to implement a solution that reduced or mitigated the pain points, found gaps and overall reduced user dissatisfaction.

The above is a basic user journey, giving you a  general idea on how someone will visit and use the matrix. it’s quite basic at this stage, with the user journey evolving as I gather feedback and create the matrix.

Going forward once it’s built and we have some users, I’ll re-do this user journey with more detail as with the feedback they provide.

That’s it for week 2

I must say I’m happy with where I am at right now.

Next week I’ll be designing the system with a larger view on the technical aspect, this part is really  interesting to me and I can’t wait to get started.

As always, keep track of my progress by signing up to my newsletter or feel free to send me a question 0via the contact form (in the footer).

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