Minimum viable product approach for the business website

I have planned to finish my new website by the end of January. Well, it’s the end of the March, and the website is still in the temporary form.

Did I fail?

Wasn’t I concentrated enough?

Or was it something else?

The answer is I wanted too much. I spent hours generating ideas, planning structure, rewriting the copy. I have changed headlines and site map ten times, but in the end, I didn’t finish it. All the time when I thought I had a good idea, the next day I got a better one.

If I carried this on I would never finish my project. But I’ve stopped. I have made my decision. I’m building a Minimum Viable Website.

Are you going to finish it?

Do you know this moment when a thought is slowly but gradually crawling into your mind seeding uncertainty and fear that you are not going to finish the project you have been doing for yourself ever? It is the moment when you are thinking all that work you have done is pointless because you are not going to succeed. Well, this is me right now.

My portfolio website has been under construction for four months now. You won’t be surprised if I tell you that I was busy…

cliche…

 

screenshot of the bottom part effective designs' webste
That is the disclaimer I have put on my website in December. ASAP… right?

 

The truth is I took a wrong approach to my website. I tried so hard making it super perfect from day one that I have lost the aim of the site. It’s very easy to lose track of what is necessary and what is not when working on the own project. But in the end, it’s a portfolio, a business product and it needs to suits the purpose. I should have set a target, the deadline and aim for it.

“Of course you should make it perfect!” you may shout.

Hey, don’t take me wrong – it is a superb approach – but it only works if you have resources available (time and money). If you need a new website, and your budget is enough then, ride on! Put the 6th gear, and off we go. I’ll be more than happy to help you build your product from ground beginning to successful completion.

But if your time or money are on limit then you may seek for another option.

Minimum Viable Product

I hope you have heard the term “Minimum Viable Product (MVP)”. If not, a quick recap – it is a product with fewer features but functional and ready to use.

You could think about it like the new-built house which you buy and need to furnish, but for now, it is liveable. It could be a sketch of your next picture. It is black and white, but you can see the idea. You get it.

Startup approach

MVP is very popular approach within a tech industry. Every start-up releases a simplified version of the product first. They let users check, use and test it. So then with the time, they can deliver rest of the features.

Such approach creates benefits for both sides. A company is providing a product in phases, so it can launch it as soon as possible without losing a market. Users who get an early version, can use it, test it, report bugs, flaws, suggest ideas make the product better. It’s a win-win situation.

Learnt lesson

Two years ago my client required a website for his new estate agency business. In the first scope, he needed a user-friendly, modern but small website to present his company and properties he sells. But soon he started asking to add some extra features. He was changing elements and implementing additional functionalities. By the time the design was ready, the project was nothing like the initial scope.

It was my mistake that I had allowed that. We had a scope, budget, brief, and I should have carried on building its first version. I should have finished the first iteration of the website according to the scope. Once it was finished, I could work on another iteration, make a new budget and add some extra features into it.

But I did not.

The client was insisting that he got these ideas and cannot wait because they will change his business. I became over-stressed; the project suffered, my developer went furious. And I wasn’t paid any extra for that.

I have learnt my lesson.

Kill the project if you have to

Last year I was working on the project for another client. We set up a plan, scope and begun the work. Within few following months, his company expanded so much, that the initial scope was completely outdated.

We have decided to kill the project and start the new one. But because we had a year delay with the project we changed the approach. We have chosen elements to include in the minimal version and started working again on it.

So this time it worked because we had a small scope which didn’t allow us to add anything extra into it. The strategy describes what limits are. And we have a long run plan. We know that after completion of the first version, the site will be functional enough for the users. Then we will start working on adding other features, other pages. We’ll be testing various version of existing design. All to make the website convert better.

Change your approach

I know what you are thinking. You want to have the best possible product (website/app) right away to start promoting it and making money. And you are right!

But also you are a smart person and have lots of great ideas. It’s possible you will want these ideas to happen right now, to install them onto your website today.

But don’t.

Slow down. Yes, it is awesome you have new ideas for your product, but keep it on the side. Make a note in the notepad, sleep on it. Let’s make the small product a real and then work further. Your product experience will benefit.

Spread the cost

Also, it is easier to build the product that way looking from the financial perspective. The minimum viable website will be cheaper and quicker to build than a complete product. Start little, spend less at the beginning. By the time you will have a chance to gather more money for the second phase and to develop the site further. High bill spread over time is much more manageable.

Plan in phases

So, whatever the product you work on, don’t rush. Take it easy, plan in stages. Run a minimum viable product and make something accomplished. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I will do it anyway. I am deep into my Evernote notes to decide what pieces are going to the website for now.

Want to hear more about UX?

I need my website to be functional by 11th April, when I am speaking on UCLan networking event. I’ll be talking about user experience design approach to your small business. I hope you can make it and turn up for the event. I will post details on social media as soon as I know them.

In the meantime stay safe and build a better experience.