“If you’re not embarrassed by your first version, you spent too long on it”
This mantra, popularized by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, is meant as a call to action for startups. It’s also been known as “Release early, release often” and even more succinctly as “Fail fast.”
Regardless of the exact words used, these phrases all embody the concept of what is known as a Minimum Viable Product, or MVP. The idea is to identify, develop and release your MVP as soon as you can, and immediately begin iterating on your next version based on customer feedback.
With this method, you establish an early foothold in the market, and grow your reputation as a company willing to listen to users and adapt to their needs. It also means you won’t spend months developing features that your users don’t need. This can be crucial for startups who may be strapped for cash, but it also makes sense for any business to eliminate wasted time.
We work with our customers with a similar ideal in mind, and below are a couple examples of this philosophy in action.
Co-op’s initial release had just two key features: Store Locations and Flyers. As a pilot release, this was a low-risk and focused decision. You always want customers to be able to find your stores – and store hours – quickly and everybody loves flyers!
The initial release was very successful, so planning began for their next major release. The focus of this release was helping out long-distance truckers who utilize Cardlock locations. So the 1.5 release of the app contained a handy Cardlock instructions guide, Quick Maps to make it easy to get to a Cardlock location, and the ability to quickly see distances to other Cardlock locations.
While the 1.5 release was being worked on, planning had already begun for the next release. This release would see the most used feature of the app rolled out – digital coupons! WIthin a month of this feature going live, it became the most used feature of the app.
In fact, coupons were such a hit that when Co-op release the Blackberry 10 version of their app, the first and only major feature it was released with was coupons.
The BB 10 app will reach feature parity with the the other apps, but there was no need to wait until it was all ready to release. It was better to get something out to their users, especially if that something is the most popular feature of the entire app!
Nuunest is a very simple example of segmenting releases.
When developing apps for iOS, you have two major devices to hit – iPhones and iPads. To properly develop for these devices, you generally need to customize the layout to take advantage of screen space.
iPhones have limited screen space compared to iPads, so functionality that can fit on one screen of an iPad may be split across two or more screens on an iPhone.
For the first release of NuuNest, the decision was to target iPhones. Many of their customers did have iPads, but more of them had iPhones, so it made sense to focus on the larger user base first.
Once the iPhone version was complete and released, work then began on adapting the interface to the larger iPad size.
The app could have been held up until the iPad version was ready, but that would have delayed the release. This way, they got their app into users hands sooner and begin growing their customer base while getting valuable feedback much sooner.
Finding your MVP
There is no secret way to come up with your MVP. It’s a business decision you make on how small of a feature set you feel comfortable releasing to the public. But know that every day you wait to release is another day your competitor has to get ahead of you.
Just like money, an app now is better than an app later.