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Building with Minimum Viable Product
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about product development processes lately. We’re working on a bunch of new stuff around here and the team has been growing pretty rapidly (we’re up to 14 total, with nine on the product side).
Recently I was asked a question about how we think of minimum viable product and where design fits into the process. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked the question, though it usually manifests itself more as “how do you know when something is ready to be launched?”
Anyway, here was my recent answer to the question around how “designed” a minimum viable product (MVP) should be:
I think of MVP as applying to functionality more than design. We have a design baseline that must be accomplished with every product, no matter how limited. For us that’s about looking good, making sense and eliminating complexity for our users. We’re even applying these same standards to our backend interfaces for managing clients. With that said, it’s not about perfection: Something not perfectly aligned, as long as it adheres to brand guidelines, might make the cut (though I don’t imagine it would because our designer and frontend engineer are very much a sticklers on that stuff, plus we use Bootstrap, so it pretty much deals with that problem).
So what does this actually mean?
When we’re thinking of new products (which we’re doing pretty frequently) we’re always trying to figure out how we build it as quickly as possible. Sometimes that means we can do it without any code at all (a notification email can be tested by sending it out manually) and sometimes it means bolting something onto the site rather than doing a full integration. With the latter we know this isn’t where the feature would live long-term, but it makes it much easier to get live and get feedback (as a SAAS company we can pretty easily reach out to our clients directly and ask them to try something).
The process, then, starts to look something like lots of different components at lots of different stages of maturity. I’d say at all times we try to have a few MVP-like products out there that we’re testing and experimenting with.
Everyone has a bit of a different take on this sort of stuff and we’re still a very small team, so obviously we can do things pretty quickly, but I’ve been very proud of our approach and ability to ship a lot of product (we pushed a lot of major features in the first quarter of the year). I’m sure it will continue to evolve, but it seems to be working pretty well for now.
As always, I must add that if any of this sounds like fun we’re hiring on the product team. We’re currently looking for engineers and designers. Come join Percolate.