This article is inspired by a recent dutch article of Dionne van Dijk, about a talk from Tobias von Schneider (Source) she attended. During Tobias’ talk at the Awwwards Conference in Barcelona he shed a light on the way he handles side-projects. I wanted to give you an insight on why we develop our own apps at YipYip and what we’ve encountered so far.
Every Friday we reserve time for our employees to work on our own projects. We call this YipYip labs. Essentially our time is divided by the 80–20 rule, where we spend 80% of our time on client projects and 20% on our own side-projects.
There are several reasons why we applied this model (which isn’t new) to our business and why we have no plans to let it go anytime soon.
Play and learn!
The core idea is that you’ll learn more from projects that you create on your own because you tend to have more freedom in these kind of projects and raise the bar of complexity slightly.
That’s not because we don’t like our clients, in contrary, we love working for clients. They are indispensable for small creative agency. But clients come with their own rules, they have ideas, ways of doing their work and constraints of existing systems directing you to work a certain way.
Your own products, are autonomous, you have control about scope/features and especially have the ability to decide how you work.
- Don’t want to support iOS7 so you can work much quicker? iOS8 it wil be, done!
- Don’t care for a fancy CMS? We’ll edit our content directly via JSON, no problem!
- Always wanted to try out that new animation framework? Why not!
Not always will a project progress quicker but you’ll learn a hell of a lot more if you can do it however you please. It’s basically about experiencing new stuff, finding new skills and optimize that what’s lagging behind.
Where do our ideas come from?
In contrast to the article I mentioned earlier, our ideas don’t come from frustration. They come from our inner passion. We love to create certain types of products, it’s hard to pinpoint what that is but everyone at YipYip feels what’s right for us.
Ideas could come from markets or niches that we don’t currently service. For instance; we love to create interactive products for kids, we never got any client work in this area until we worked on Land of Mislaid — an interactive children’s book for iPad.
After we released this app (not our biggest succes story in the line-up but we’re proud of it nonetheless) we caught the attention of some well-known publishers and authors. This way we landed a project for the official Dutch Children’s book week of 2014, a real prestige project. This happened because we put our love and passion into the Land of Mislaid project.
What we do know is that we all love polished products, that work like you expect and got the care they deserve. We like projects that are slightly out of our comfort zone, we try to push our boundaries on that subject to keep us on our toes.
Product owner role
While working on client projects, there’s a client or product owner that gives you compliments/feedback and tells you when it’s “perfect, exactly what I wanted”. You don’t have that luxury when you’re creating your own project. All of a sudden you are the client, and as critical designers are at their work, it’s never finished. The risk of this is that you put in 5.000+ hours into a project and then never release it. — To tackle this we learned to assign a product owner that’s not part of that specific project.
A well-known issue when talking about development is feature creep. It’s another risk that could cause a project taking too long. — Avoid conversations that go like: “Let’s add these 10 features”, “No we should test longer”, “We’re not ready for launch yet!”. Set milestones and create a feature-scope or user stories like you would with a client project.
Because you’re not working on a paid project the risk is that you’d assume that there’s no budget involved. — Always set an internal budget for projects, even if they’re small. When you’re drifting off target you can make the necessary adjustments. When working without budget, there’s no way of telling.
Try to keep your own projects as simple as possible but advanced enough to make it stand out and most of all, enjoy it!
We’re currently working on some new exciting labs projects (located under the “what’s cooking” section of our labs page.