Reading Paul Kortman’s The problem with a Lean Startup: the Minimum Viable Product made me realized that Ansr.io is similarly guilty of pushing its early customers off the cliff (figuratively speaking).
The basics of the lean startup philosophy are to get user feedback, do user testing, and discover if people are willing to use (and pay for) the product you are creating both before and throughout the creation process.
Paul has used minimum viable product (or MVP) methodology when building ThingShare and doesn’t feel good about it. According to lean startup school of thought you try to avoid building features and functionality before there’s an established need for it by the customers. The results is a user experience where the features are not there yet.
So our earliest adopters, the people who trusted us, we pushed off a cliff in the name of Lean Startup. What am I supposed to tell them… “Sorry it was an MVP?”
At Ansr.io we have not been that rigorous with minimum viable product approach for mainly one big reason. We had a mobile survey product already built before we launched Ansr.io. It was gradually built over 2 years as an in-house tool for On Device Research to do mobile market research for corporate customers.
Our challenge was to break the software apart, simplify and streamline the user experience, hide a lot of power user features, to be easy enough to use for customers who want to create simple mobile-proof surveys.
In the spirit of “release early, release often” we’ve taken our fair share of shortcuts which can be confusing or annoying to the prospective and existing customers.
Fake it till you make it – 3rd party integrations
That Mailchimp and Salesforce integration we tout on our homepage? Nope, it doesn’t exist yet. It was put there as a test to see if we start getting “Hi, I want to do this Salesforce integration you promise, how does it work?” as a signal that it’s important.
In hindsight it should have probably been a different test with page of various 3rd party connections and better measurable way (people clicking on “tell me more about connecting with service X”). In its current form it’s been a failed experiment.
For the record, we’re working on minimum viable API but for the first integration taking a white glove approach – no development before we’ve taken a handful of customers through the various steps manually to learn about customer wants and needs, friction points etc. Only after this is done will we (and our partner) go ahead with actual development.
No, you can’t pay us (easily)
Ansr.io is largely a free service and even for the stuff that we charge (sending surveys out via SMS or to our panel of respondents if you want to do more traditional market research) there’s no obvious easy way to pay for.
Instead of spending X amount of days on building good enough payment flow we’ve focused on the core experience (creating and spreading surveys) and taken care of payments manually. Leaving it to the customer to figure out that they need to get in touch to up the credit on their account is not ideal but seemed like the right trade off at this stage (roughly 1,5 month after Ansr.io launch).
User Experience is Not a Feature
7 reasons mobile surveys beat their web-based brothers
Turning fire hose into bags (and improving them with surveys)
There is always a balance in life, and maybe we have taken the MVP process a little too far, but honestly there is not enough time in the day to get all the features I (and our users) want to be able to say we’re ready.
At some point you just need to ship, right?