by Benjamin Dell
Having recently released the Updatey beta, and having spent numerous hours trying out other people’s beta products, a thought struck me about the possible failings many beta products out there are making.
MVP’s (minimum viable products) seem to be all the rage these days – or certainly, it has become a bit of a buzzword. What does it truly mean to build and release an MVP, though, and is there a right and a wrong way to do it?
In my experience, it is all too easy to become transfixed with the notion that all you need to do (in the early days at least) is build something that contains the minimum amount of functionality and content in order to get your early adopters using your product for the first time and for you to test out your customer hypotheses.
Actually, these are valid objectives but I don’t believe enough startups are executing them in quite the right way. If taken too literally you end up narrowing your vision for the beta product and consequently end up with something too simple and too far removed from the quality and principles that your ultimate product aspires to become; and this can be dangerous.
There are two extreme ends of the scale that can help explain this point. On the one hand, you have the out-and-out salesman that simply wants a “squeeze” page in order to gather initial interest in their idea yet they have absolutely no working product sitting behind it – they are literally waiting to receive enough interest before building anything. At the other end of the scale, you have someone like myself in a previous life, where my team spent close to two years building (what we thought was) a phenomenal product. Problem is, we didn’t really test it against real customers at all and ultimately it failed.
Logic would suggest that you need to be somewhere in the middle – indeed, this is what most would interpret the Minimum Viable Product to represent.
There is a disconnect though; somewhere, somehow – founders are still not focusing on the right things. I have lost count of the ‘beta’ products I’ve tested in the last week alone that just look horrible! Sure, there might be some interesting features sitting in there somewhere but I’m not going to dig any deeper when I’m stuck in an app or site that looks and feels un-inspiring and ugly. And quite frankly, you shouldn’t expect your first customers to either.
As much as it is important to deliver a product that meets the MVP criteria, it is equally (if not more) important to deliver a design and environment that can be considered the Minimum Viable Design (or MVD, as I might start calling it). At a minimum, your design should convey the same quality and eye for detail that your end-product aspires to have, it should have a brand identity that accurately represents your vision – in short, it should be well thought out and fitting for your market. A beta product based on a vanilla installation of the Twitter Bootstrap framework cannot be argued as accurately representing your general design goals, so please don’t do it.
Get the MVP / MVD combination right and your first users will love engaging with your beta product and will possibly even forgive a couple of features they hoped would have made it in the first version, dare I say it – even bugs.
Kennisland | Courtesy of Benjamin Dell