When I got to class, it all changed. Zak, my partner, took my iPhone 3G, plugged it into his Mac and handed it back to me. “Create an account,” he said. “What?” I said dumbfounded. “Open the app and create an account.”
I clicked on a blank icon, entered my email address and was brought to a white screen. In the top right corner of the app, was a “+”. I hit it, which brought me to a new screen asking me to create an album. With my heart beating steadily faster, I typed in “test” and hit “Done.” I was brought to another screen with a camera icon. I took a photo. It uploaded. I then noticed an “invite” button. I hit it and entered Zak’s email into the pop-up box. One minute later a new photo, not taken by me, appeared next to the first photo I took.
Viola! A collaborative album.
Ditching the PowerPoint deck, we did a live demo for the class. When we were through, I asked: “How many of you would use this app?” About 42 out of 45 raised their hands. We were onto something.
At that moment, we had an MVP: a barebones product built quickly that is used to test consumer reaction. Given the positive feedback, the next step was to build an initial product for the market – you know, something thoughtfully designed and rigorously tested.
But did we do that? Nope.
I was so hopped-up on the lean start-up buzz, that I spent the next six weeks saying “we need to build a Minimal Viable Product.” So we took the barebones design and added to it. Some of the features were sensible; for example, attaching the name of the photo-taker to the photo. Others were unnecessary; posting a photo to Twitter, for example, could wait.
In the end, we spent 6 weeks adding features to a “minimal” product that had already tested positively with consumers. That time should have been spent enhancing our design, nailing the user experience, formulating the out-of-the-box experience and testing.
Repeat after me: I will stop building an MVP after validating my product with real users and move quickly to building a market-ready product.