Presenting half finished projects for feedback

In my job, I tend to work as a sole developer, and quite often in a project there comes a stage where I need feedback on a specific feature, before the rest of the project is in a presentable state. When working on something tricky I will disable other functionality, add placeholders and special links to reach that feature (kind of like scaffolding in a building site), so I can try out different approaches. This could be something that getting locked down asap is important before investing time building the rest of the project. Often these are things which I cannot just rely on my own intuition about design to get right.

So typically after finding a solution I like, I would set up and share a development release, and ask for some feedback and a discussion.

However, sometimes when people see their whole project for the first time in this unfinished state it can be quite disappointing and confusing. This is the case even in early stages when there is plenty of time to go, and even with warning that it is unfinished. People want to see their idea in an embryonic state, but beautiful, not a jumbled ugly mess.

This problem is compounded because tidying up a design and visual considerations typically come later on. I think most people will imagine the project gets built like a puzzle with nicely finished parts just being wired up together, but the reality is more like building a Frankenstein monster where you start with bones, add the organs, muscles etc, and the skin and fancy outfit only comes at the end.

Initially I felt uncomfortable with the idea of 'hiding' the unfinished aspects, for some reason it seemed like it could be misleading. But the reality was that to the uninformed, half finished projects are just as misleading, or rather confusing, and it can even prevent proper attention being given to what's needed. So now, I treat projects like a building site, and so take stakeholders on much more carefully prepared, guided tours. Development releases now come later when there is actual testing to do, and early ideas are shared with wireframes, videos or shared screen tours . Here are some cute vintage work in progress animated gifs to lighten the appearance of unfinished areas of a project!