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The lean startup is a book that describes a way of managing and building a business or startup through experimentation, testing, and iterations. This methodology is however applicable to product development and will be our focus.
This approach focuses on the development of a Minimum Viable Product or MVP which we’ll discuss as well as the reasons why this methodology is interesting and if you should implement it or not.
The lean startup methodology is used to develop business and products in a short time, the goal is for creators to quickly determine if their business model is viable.
The idea behind this is that it's better to fail early in the development process than later. In the early stages, investors might not be on board, things might be less official and everyone shouldn’t be as involved as in the later stages. Failing early also means you can start a secondary project that might just be the successful one.
The approach revolves around quickly getting a product that fits the desired most important specifications of the client and getting his feedback on your product. This product is called a Minimum Viable Product or MVP. At this point, and depending on the user’s feedback, you should have a good idea of whether or not your product works and if you’re going in the right direction.
The main idea behind this process is to remove wasteful practices that usually happen in the early stages of the product development plan, steps that usually require large amounts of capital and don’t serve the final goal of delivering what the customer wants.
Once that MVP is achieved, the feedback phase is just as important, it helps make sure the product develops in the right direction, as close to the client’s request as possible. Following this process should result in no or few useless features, saving time, money, and overall resources.
Let’s now take a look at the reasons why someone should choose to use this methodology.
It’s important to understand this methodology because it can serve as the entire mindset behind your company. It provides a thought process and a particular approach that can save you resources.
With it, you should design products that actually solve a real-world problem. In most traditional development methods, you acquire capital first and then move on to designing a product. That initial investing phase can be very time-consuming and doesn’t contribute much to the result of the final product.
This methodology works because it focuses on innovation and solving real-world problems, the backbone of a working product. As opposed to products that rely on heavy marketing to be sold.
The approach follows 3 ideas: Build, Mesure, and Learn
This phase is all about your Minimum Viable Product, the product that has enough features to keep customers satisfied while you test your theory and make sure the product can be successful on the market. MVPs shouldn’t be distributed to all of your customers, think of it as a small-scale experiment. Only a small subset of customers, possibly one that crosses a wide range of demographics, should have access to your product.
This is the first component of the lean startup methodology, it’s highly recommended that you begin creating a basic product in the early days of your startup.
The measure phase is subtle, it doesn’t come as the next step after the build phase. Entering that phase doesn’t mean you stop the first one, rather it’s more like a new objective. It’s essential that you effectively measure the result of your product while continuing to develop the features of your product. It’s not because you’ve achieved an MVP that you should focus entirely on the measuring part, keep developing your product while you receive feedback.
If at this stage you find that your MVP isn’t gaining traction with the customers that received the MVP, you have to let that product go. That’s why the methodology was created, failing early to avoid wasting too many resources.
If your project is solely online, you should focus on sending out surveys, trying to reach customers with various forms, and possibly getting an email exchange going to ask more precise questions. One way to achieve this is to contact the people who actually answer your forms and ask them for more information directly. Try to understand the analytics for your website to determine what you’re doing well and what’s not going so well.
If your product is being tested before coming to market, feedback should be easier to get as you can directly ask testers questions about your product directly.
Once you recover that information, it’s time for the third aspect of the methodology.
Measuring your results from the product you’ve just created and looking through the feedback is simply not enough. If you want to eventually create and push your product to market, it’s important that you learn from the data and feedback that you’ve received.
The feedback should be used to understand what aspect of your product isn’t working and which ones should be refined. Learning from that feedback means making changes that take into account the customer’s point of view so as to get a product that meets the needs of a target audience.
The lean methodology is a product development approach that is centered around developing an MVP. The aim is to use that initial design to check whether or not your product finds a target audience and to try and develop your product to match that audience’s needs. By doing so, you minimize the risk of failing in later stages of your product development, where the stakes are much higher.