Because the team was small and we needed to move fast, I wanted to use Lean methodologies in my approach to delivering value quickly. The Lean Startup methodology claims that every startup is a grand experiment that attempts to answer a question. The question is not “Can this product be built?” Instead, the questions are “Should this product be built?” and “Can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?”. Lean UX is a call to work iteratively, streamline design, eliminate waste and maintain a customer-centric perspective in decision making.
The product I would be working on was called WhoZoo.io it was rooted in the problem that in large dynamic organizations it’s hard to find people and get skilled help when you need it. WhoZoo had already validated their main “problem” in Seed 1 and 2 with many user interviews and even got early feedback on the potential solution via flat mockups of the app they wanted to build (they had just entered Series A when I joined the team).
Currently at Problem Solution Fit, WhoZoo hired ME to lead the UX and build out the next phases of Lean Startup – Product Market Fit.
So, now I had a good understanding of WhoZoo’s journey and reviewed their Lean Canvas (& the user research that informed it), I mapped out my plan to get the product in users hands. But, every delivery needs a quick inspection before it goes out the door. That’s why I jumped in and did a quick once-over of the product.
I learned to treat design as a hypothesis, I don’t have to get things right the first time in the very first iteration. It’s all about getting ideas out into the market early and validating them.
The Beta launched and we gathered insights from engaged users and users who felt blocked. This issue was already heard from paid testers. The app lacked formal on boarding and communicating the value proposition. However it wasn’t until these Beta testers walked through the product and got stuck in the funnel did we truly hear the signal loud and clear that on boarding and messaging should be fixed.
Another problem we faced was making small edits in the Beta version of the app. Our foundation instability was proving difficult to build iteratively and it was preventing us from making progress for these users. So we rallied on a plan and aimed to improve the following upon the final MVP release:
We launched our MVP with an improved platform (Angular + Material Design) that would allow us to scale and iterate with the experiments we needed to run in the coming months.
So, now we had a fully functional MVP out in users hands. It was time to dig into the process of Lean Startup. The most famous concept of the Lean Startup philosophy is the ‘build-measure-learn-loop’. This process of “validated learning” requires you to move through the feedback loop as quickly and thoughtful as possible. I was already building, measuring and learning through our Beta to MVP launch and I would continue to persist to get to our goal of Product Market fit.
I completed around 18 experiments in about 6 months, and boy did the time just fly by! Some experiments were small bets and aimed to get a signal to iterate on, these were usually quick and manually executed. Other experiments were big bets or big assumptions we had after seeing small user signals. We tried to invest more development time in these big bets to help gather the evidence we needed to move forward confidently. Here are some examples of big and small bets:
A key experiment was to improve a user’s profile. We were hearing that our Data Science + Machine Learning wasn’t providing “Instant Value” upon the automated creation of a users profile. So we experimented with the idea of customization and saw a 45% increase in usage based on the new features.
We were gaining momentum, we were on the path to it. We had validated the problem, found who it resonated with most, who would pay for a solution and what the sales delivery model would need to be. But… we ran out of time and our funding was paused. WhoZoo would not continue.
Resilience is what gets you through. Staying focused and pushing through to understanding is the reward.
During my deep user interviews, I asked a user how she measured success in her job role. She paused then responded, “That’s pretty difficult for me in this chaotic position, but maybe success is progress in motion.” That statement didn’t sink in right then but think I can look back and resonate with it now. I’m going to keep progress in motion, I’m going to keep trying to get to… understanding.