Lessons Learnt from Applying Lean Startup on a Mobile Phone

Blackboard Photo by woodleywonderworks on flickr

Lean Startup is all about learning and that’s certainly what I got out of this. This article is about what I learnt and to let you know about the future of Laters. It leads on from the first article Lean Startup on a mobile phone, where I explained my approach and outlined some of my fears.

Feature Not Yet Made AKA Feature Fake

One of the core features (or non-features) of Laters was the ‘Feature Not Yet Made’. This is what they looked like.

Not Yet Made - Share Article

My 1 Star Fear

This was one of my biggest fears when it came to making an MVP Android app and one that Web sites/apps don’t experience. It was people would one star the app and leave bad nonconstructive feedback because it was minimal. At the same time providing no way to engage customers (Android Market comments are all one way). Surprisingly though, there was no bad feedback left for the app in the Android Market because of ‘Feature Fakes’ or missing features. Feedback has been positive and currently it has a 4 star rating.

Measurements

Here’s what I learnt from the data gathered from the Feature Fakes, based on people attempting to use them. My initial guess was ‘share article’ would be the most desired feature. So I was surprised that demand for Night Mode (light font colour on a dark background) was almost 3 times higher. Without this experiment I wouldn’t have known this and would have developed ‘share article’. This outcome also contributed my thoughts for the Pivot.

Feature Fake Stats

Gathering Feedback

As well as analytics, I asked for feedback directly using this feedback forum from UserEcho. Although hundreds of visits where made to this online feedback forum from the app, the amount of feedback was very low. Difficult to know exactly why but these would be by guesses:

  • The feedback site does have a customised version for mobile screens
  • It’s not integrated into the app itself
  • Having to signin to leave feedback
  • People just don’t care enough about the app
  • Small phones and virtual keyboards don’t lend themselves well to providing textual feedback

For me I think if the feedback was more tightly integrated into the app. So it was all contained in the app, just a case of tapping to vote and entering short piece of text to provide feedback. Then maybe that would lower the barrier to peoples resistance to leaving feedback. One to build-measure-learn I think. Maybe there’s a product in this one alone!

The Pivot

One of the things that did happen that really put this app on hold and has forced a pivot on me, was the release of the official Read It Later app within a week of the initial Laters release. This forced me into making a decision, as to whether to continue developing the app or not. I’ve decided I’m going to continue and I’m going to take it in a different direction. Rather than try include other ‘later’ services, like instapaper, youtube/vimeo watch it later etc. I’m going to concentrate on it being great at doing just one thing, that is reading articles.

Features will optimised to allow customers to achieve this one simple goal. Other features will become secondary and either be chopped or moved out of the way.

I like the official app but I only use about half of the features and I think sometimes the extra features get in the way of what I’m there to do, read articles. It would be unwise to compete on features, so this new vision will be a ‘back to basics’. By not competing on features and having less features I can:

  • Differentiate my offering from the official app
  • Cut development costs
  • Sell the app cheaper than the official one
These combined, I hope, will allow the app to compete with official one. Well that’s the new vision. I will now test my guesses and continue down the build-measure-learn loop. Let the experiments begin!

Many thanks to those people who are using the app and have left feedback. If you’ve got an Android phone, it’s here in the Android Market. Give it a spin, provide some feedback and contribute to the experiment.

NB Apologies for this long overdue article and conclusion, a gorgeous little baby Sia has been a massive distraction, along with a couple of other lean startup projects Life Tuned and Pik Pak.

Blackboard Photo by woodleywonderworks on flickr

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