So this week I’ve handed the reins to my technical co-founder to give you some insight into just why it is so important to build an MVP, but more importantly, what mistakes to avoid when doing it. Over to Jan..
Building a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is now well popularised in the tech space and crucial for a startup company to reach Product Market fit as quickly and cost effectively as possible.
For those not versed in the lean startup movement, an MVP is all about building the minimum version of your product that you can take to market to test your assumptions with customers and then learn and iterate as quickly as possible.
Building Magnetic and being a tech Product Manager in previous jobs, I have always been weighing up in my mind what is the right balance for an MVP and have picked up a couple of learnings.
1. Don’t take shortcuts on visual design
Consumers have been treated with incredible tech products of late (iOS etc) and the bar is now far higher on what a polished, minimalistic, functional and sexy interface entails. It is an interface and the UX that sets many competitors apart these days. Building tech and features is cheap, but building a great interface and design is often where products fall behind and where tech companies lack the particular skills.
At Magnetic, we’ve always been very feature focused mainly because we are covering a wide scope of verticals and we just have to do X, Y and Z to compete. We needed to complete a UI revamp and it was an incredible success with existing customers and new signups. It was something we should have done far sooner. This was just a start and in the next few months we are completing a much bigger UI update that will definitely fill our customers with tons of excitement.
Remember, customers are a lot more forgiving about bugs and lack of features when they have an incredible interface, they love just clicking and toggling buttons while playing around.
2. No shortcuts on UX
This holds true for many of the reasons voiced above. Customers have high expectations and little patience to figure out how to work something. We regularly receive tickets from customers complaining that there is an extra click on a screen which shouldn’t be there. almost implying “when will this bug be fixed!”
We struggled with this issue when we launched a new module, built as lean as we could knowing the UX wasn’t great and that we would improve once we saw some traction. The result was a fail in the uptake until we revisited the UX, making the feature more intuitive. The change in customer response was 10 fold.
3. Your industry will influence the extent of your MVP
You can break this down into Sustaining Innovation and Disruptive Innovation. Sustaining Innovation is where you are building for an existing market with competitors. Often you will be in a feature war and so the need to build more than the minimum or must be enough to compete with competitors with some form of differentiation.
With Disruptive Innovation you are creating a new market with new innovation. Here just having a functional product can get early adopters excited with an imperfect product. Your focus needs to be to validate your assumptions and iterate. Once competitors enter you need to ensure you stay ahead and provide a high quality product.
Magnetic unfortunately falls into the Sustaining Innovation category being a CRM, Project Management and Accounts platform. A lot of initial dev has been catchup to align with the big boys with some innovation here and there. We have an incredible roadmap and it can be frustrating sometimes not getting to the true innovation while being bogged down with ensuring our MVP at least matches competitors. Lesson for us is to try reduce the feature set so we have more capacity for new innovation.