Smoke Testing a Taobla

Taobla is a modular tray table that helps you munch better while watching TV. The product is currently in development, and I’m sharing everything that happens in the build-up towards launch. The idea for the table was the result of a problem I was facing when eating while watching TV. You can read more about the problem here.

One of the things I’m focusing on with this project is validating the extent of the problem. How many people are facing the same problem of modern multitasking? (watching TV while eating, watching an iPad while eating, etc.) This state of multitasking is the result of our technology becoming ubiquitous, and affecting our behaviour as a result. I almost always use my phone while watching TV. The technology around us has shifted rapidly. However, our furniture remains the same. The way our sofas, chairs and tables are designed still doesn’t seem to be aligned with this new era of media consumption.

My coffee table is bulky. The glass top becomes a mess whenever I bring in takeout food and use it. I find myself having to pause Netflix to clear the coffee table and move everything to the kitchen. Then I have to wipe the glass top. By the time I’m done and want to continue whatever I was watching, I would’ve lost interest.

Now some of you might be saying, “Wow. This is exactly what I go through.” Others might be thinking, “Is it really that big of a deal? I mean, come on!” That is what I want to test. How many of you are actually facing this problem? How many are actively looking for a solution? How many are willing to shell out an X amount of dollars to pay for such a solution? The answers to these questions will determine whether or not it is worth pursuing this problem. (ie, is there a market for the product I plan on building?).

One way to test these questions is through a smoke test.

A Smoke Test is simply a one-page website that tests assumptions. It can be used to test problems, ideas, pricing or product features. It showcases the aspect you want to test and has a sign-up form. Here’s an example,

Furthermore, you can do something called an A/B test with these one-page websites. A/B tests allow you to test a variable while keeping everything else constant. For example, if you’re testing for pricing, you might set a price point of $30 and $35, and compare the results. Some people that land on your page will see the $30 price tag while others will see $35. In this way, you refrain from making assumptions and let the data speak for itself instead.

For Taobla,the project i’m working on, I need to test different problem statements to see which one people relate to the most. For example, I could test the following statements:

Version A
Life is full of problems. Eating while watching Netflix shouldn’t be one of them. We’re designing a modular tray table that will level up your Netflix binge-watching game.

Version B
Life is full of problems. Pausing Netflix to clear your coffee table shouldn’t be one of them. We’re designing a modular tray table that will level up your Netflix game.

Now keep in mind that the product itself has yet to be built. The features have yet to be decided on. Instead of making assumptions, we’ll let the people decide. As you can see, smoke testing is a powerful tool. It significantly de-risks a project, and allows potential customers to dictate the features as opposed to assumptions.

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