Radically Honest Blog

Beyond the Facade: Painted Door Tests for Product Success

You may have encountered a building that, while designed for practical use, tries to add some flair with decorations like fake windows and doors. The painted door test draws inspiration from this very idea. 

In product management, though, this technique isn’t about architectural aesthetics. It’s a strategic way to measure if users are interested in a feature or product that doesn’t actually exist yet. We’re going to explore the concept and discuss:

  • What exactly is the Painted Door Test?
  • Its effectiveness in product management
  • Whether to apply or axe the Painted Door

By the end of this article, you will have a solid grasp of how this method could guide smarter decisions in certain cases—or why sometimes it might be best left out of your strategy toolkit.

The Unvarnished Truth About Painted Door Tests

Painted door tests are a straightforward, no-frills approach used in product management. 

Users interact with what appears to be a new feature, but it’s not actually functional. In effect, it’s an illusion created to measure interest. 

It’s not deception or trickery, though. It’s calculated research. If people click on the inactive feature, you have valuable insight that can guide whether or not to build the real thing.

What Does This Mean?

This technique isn’t groundbreaking by itself. It draws from basic common sense: 

Don’t commit until you’re sure there’s interest. 

Product managers use painted door tests as a savvy move to align their work with what users really want. It reduces the chance of wasted resources, saving time and money in the process.

The Value for Product Managers

Developing features means investing in what we believe will succeed tomorrow. These tests give us a glimpse into whether we’re on track. 

They allow informed decisions based on actual user behavior rather than guesses or assumptions. They help focus efforts where they’ll truly resonate with our audience, ultimately aiming for higher satisfaction while spending resources wisely.

Is It Just a Fresh Coat of Paint on Old Ideas?

The concept of the painted door test may seem simplistic—like trying to modernize something old without making substantial changes. However, its value in today’s tech world is significant, offering a straightforward yet effective product development method.

Painted Door in Practice

In practical terms, it’s a way to check for genuine interest before diving into full-scale development. 

Take a streaming platform contemplating adding a ‘watch together’ feature. By hinting at the possibility and observing user response, they can gauge whether it’s worth pursuing or not. 

An e-commerce app might display an option like ‘find similar products.’ If users frequently opt in when presented with this choice, that signals real enthusiasm for such functionality.

This strategy prevents wasting time on features nobody will use while funneling resources where users show actual excitement.

A Double-Edged Sword

There is one important consideration, though. Misapplication can lead to annoyance among your customer base. There’s nothing more disappointing than clicking on what looks like an innovative addition only to find out it doesn’t exist (yet). 

The goal here should be clear communication and constructive use of any feedback received. It’s about ensuring these tests pave the way for success instead of paving the path toward disappointment.

When to Swing Open the Painted Door

Painted door tests require a balance of daring and discernment. This methodology isn’t universally applicable. But wielded with care, it becomes a key to unlocking profound insights.

Ideal Scenarios for the Test

Here are some situations where the painted door could work:

Foundational Phases

The test can work wonders when your product remains pliable, and you’re distilling potential standout features.

Development Constraints

When resources are tight, you can prioritize more accurately by gauging feature merit through this litmus test.

Market Affirmation

It allows you to confirm actual demand before fully committing development bandwidth. For example:

  • Innovations that resonate with your core offerings may be prime candidates.
  • Potential improvements targeting crucial user experience gaps deserve exploration here.
  • Experimental ideas requiring candid user input should also pass through this sieve before expansive rollouts.

When to Hold Back

While intriguing, not every feature concept merits a faux rollout. Herein lie instances where restraint is prudent:

  • Mature Offerings and Expectant Users: Established products boasting committed followings shouldn’t tease what they can’t promptly deliver—trust is at stake here.
  • Intricate Proposals With Substantial Back-end Complexity: Should realization post-validation prove time-consuming, the initial enthusiasm might wane or extinguish entirely.
  • Excessive Deployment: An overdependence on painted doors can signal strategic drift rather than direction, muddying perceptions among users and investors.

The painted door test is just another strategy lever within your product management toolkit. 

Making the Decision: Painted Door Test or Not?

So, how do you decide whether the painted door test is right for your project? 

It’s important to think about whether this approach fits with your unique product and what you’re trying to achieve.

Verdict on Value

For product managers, the value of a painted door test is significant—when used in the correct circumstances. 

If done carefully, it can reveal what users are looking for and help steer development towards meaningful features. But if you get it wrong or use it without careful thought, people using your product might feel misled or annoyed.

Setting Success Measures

When putting a painted door test into action, knowing exactly what success looks like is vital. 

Whether that means specific numbers around how many people take an action or gathering user opinions directly will depend on your goals. Having clear targets helps make sure any information gathered informs decisions effectively.

Getting your painted door experiments in a row - all in Fibery
Getting your painted door experiments in a row - all in Fibery

The example above, created in Fibery, clearly shows which painted door tests are successful and which tests suggest abandoning the new feature.

Situation Assessment

Before going ahead with a painted door test:

  • Think about where your product currently stands. Newer ventures might gain more from these tests.
  • Consider how trust between you and your users could be affected.
  • Check whether the insights gained would make sense when considering the time and effort spent setting up this kind of experiment.

Ultimately, the decision to employ a painted door test should come after careful consideration of its suitability for your specific context. 

Assess the potential risks and benefits it may have on user trust alongside resource implications. Maintaining transparency with users and aligning closely with strategic objectives is crucial in this decision-making process.

Closing the Door (or Leaving It Ajar)

The painted door test is a subtle yet powerful tool that can provide valuable insights but also has the potential to create confusion if not used wisely. 

It highlights the importance of taking a thoughtful and informed approach in developing products, always considering how choices affect customers’ experiences and their trust.

To measure success accurately and manage projects with finesse, Fibery offers an intuitive solution designed specifically for product managers. 

We invite you to sign up for our free trial – give Fibery a spin and see firsthand how we can enhance your decision-making capabilities, including the application of tools like the painted door test.

And don’t forget to check out our blog. It’s full of insights geared towards PMs just like you who are on the verge of their next big project decision.

Psst... Wanna try Fibery? 👀

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