Some absolutely fantastic points of about lean product development/startup methodology made by a startup that is still in the lean phase. It’s so refreshing to hear in a time that we’re seeing millions of VC dollars being thrown at half baked ideas.
Blogging before Coding
This reminds me about Amazon’s product development process. Writing before building forces you to think through, to notice fallacies in your logic.
Is your market really big and totally bullish? If yes, you’re missing the point. If it’s big that’s too big. Start shrinking your market!
In other terms, segment your market, find a niche and focus on it.
First we asked: “What is our core value proposition? Why will our users go to our website”. Answer: “to see what movies they gonna lend or borrow”. Then we asked: “What is absolutely necessary for that?” We came up with 3 features: a movie listing powered by an external movie database, a loan dashboard, a friend system coupled with Facebook connect and a basic mail invitation. That was it!
No rating system, no wish list, no recommendation, no notification, no privacy setting…etc. All of that is useless. If people do not use the basic features, do you really think they will with additional features? That’s pretty hypothetical.
“We Don’t Have a Designer” Syndrome
First product ship objective is to learn, learn, and learn. If you don’t have a designer who consistently asks you to delay the product ship to refine the last design details, you will never complete product ship. As long as the platform design is not critical (in the case of a luxury fashion ecommerce website, it’s critical), you can start without.
At Peernuts, that’s what we did. With no designer in the team, I was the most adapted person to do the job. I bought a book about web design, bookmarked a few articles across smashing magazine, webdesigner depot and it got me started.
Did you postpone product ship for the 3rd time? If yes, stop messing around. Release it! If not, you’ve a little time to get it right but don’t procrastinate either!
When you’re building something, you always tend to think your product isn’t perfect, you should still refine it, there are a few bugs to correct, users won’t accept mistakes, … and you’re right. All of that is partially correct. Now, you need to get over it. If you keep your product in-development, you’ll lose time-to-market, miss necessary feedback. You’ll spend your time refining useless aspects of your product instead of learning with your customers. That’s one of the most important lesson I learned from the “lean movement”. Indeed, lean startups reduce their development time to the extreme.
The key point he makes though:
Today, I must say it’s pretty hard to go from theory to practice. Bad habits usually come up and prevent you from doing the right thing.
As people developing products, we naturally want to please our users. That’s almost impossible to do while still building a great product. You have to laser in and keep your focus, and always remind yourself why you chose your core functionality.