At PointClear, our clients often ask us to help with their product roadmap and to work with them to defined the features of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for the initial launch. While this approach has worked well, to achieve the highest level of success in today’s consumer-driven, app-focused world, it’s not enough. Rather than focus exclusively on a product roadmap, the best solutions center on a user experience roadmap.
In previous blog posts, I’ve written about the importance of using various research methods to gain empathy for your users – to help ensure their needs are at the center of your software design process, from start to finish. Today, I want to explore how these insights into your users’ primary goals and tasks should be considered to prioritize your user experience roadmap and help define the product you ultimately create.
Let’s begin by talking about MVP. While MVP can be defined as many things, I define it as the most basic thing you can build that delivers user value and allows you to cycle through the build-measure-learn feedback loop. When building your User Experience (UX) roadmap and defining your MVP iterations, there are two critically important things to remember to ensure you are building a product that results in a positive end-user experience. These include:
- Each MVP iteration should consider the entire end-to-end user experience.
- When defining each MVP iteration, your end-user’s goals must remain top-of-mind.
Often times, an MVP is thought of as a set of specific features. However, if you consider a user flow is a series of steps that need to be taken to complete a task in your product, the limitation of defining an MVP only as a set of features is removed. Features are often just one step along a user’s path. Instead, consider defining your MVP by key task flows for focus on a quality end-to-end experience. This works well even if it is heavily restricted to only a “single path” in the beginning.
For example, let’s say you’re building a wellness app that allows users to track exercise, earn badges based on achievements, view progress over time, and interact with family and friends. If you focus your MVP only on a set of features, say the ability to track exercise, your team will become consumed with the need to support all types of exercise (walkers want to track steps, swimmers want to track laps, runners want to track distance, and so on). The time spent trying to support all variations of exercise, while important, leaves little time to focus on the other features along the user experience path.
An alternative approach for defining your first MVP iteration might be to design a way for your users to log exercise, based on a number of minutes, to support various forms of exercise. Rewards might include a single type of badge and allowing users to share achievement with family or friends. Focus more on the end-to-end user experience for MVP. For your next iteration, you can enhance MVP and create variants of exercise tracking, add new forms of rewards, and consider social components too. This approach creates a version of your product that allows you to demonstrate, early on, the total potential value and to gain the much needed feedback on all aspects of your product.
Said Another Way…
A few years ago, there was much discussion in the agile and lean development communities when Spotify’s Henrik Kniberg shared the following visual to illustrate how best to go about building an MVP.
Kniberg shows two alternative approaches for creating a mode of transportation through incremental stages. The top row is an example of creating MVP one feature at a time, starting with a wheel, then the drive train, followed by the body, and finally a complete car. With this approach, early on, the product team decides that a car is the final solution. The incremental stages are based on ways to effectively engineer a car.
The bottom row is an example where each iteration of the MVP maintains focus of the end-user’s goal of getting from Point A to Point B. The product at the first stage is a skateboard then slowly evolves into a better performing mode of transportation. Although the early iterations may not completely satisfy the user, the team continuously builds something that advances toward the ultimate goal.
Team Skateboard has a clear advantage as they have a testable product at the end of each stage and can measure how well the product, as a mode of transportation, performs. This team’s approach allows for validation at each stage to obtain feedback and incorporate it to improve the system. It awards them the flexibility to pivot, as needed, and provides valuable insight into which features should be prioritized within the backlog, which helps significantly when defining the next iteration of the product. In contrast, Team Car’s strategy is based on a gamble that a car is the final solution.
Getting from Point A to Point B:
Some criticize Kniberg’s argument, stating that if the goal is to build a car, the first approach is the more efficient way to go about it. However, the point Kniberg is making is that the user’s goal is not “I want a car”, but rather, “I want a way to travel from Point A to Point B”. Yes!
The takeaway for software designers? While your end-users can often tell you about a experienced problem, they can seldom tell you exactly how to solve it. More often than not, it takes them being able to see and use something, such as interacting with prototypes, before they can provide the quality feedback needed to shape the ultimate solution.
What if after interacting with a bicycle, the team learns the solution must accommodate many passengers? The product direction can shift toward building a bus, or perhaps lead them in the direction of building a boat or a plane. The flexibility to pivot is available.Staying focused on the user’s end goal and going through build-measure-learn loops will uncover insights to help build product(s) your customers want and need. Click To Tweet
In the End…
Ultimately, this user-centric approach to roadmapping and MVP iteration is how the best features will begin to advance from your backlog into production, allowing you to effectively evolve your product over time. Want to learn more? Let’s connect.
Jeanie Barker specializes in design thinking and user research methodologies, having more than 16 years of usability and interface design experience, 14 of which have been spent in the healthcare and public health domains. Jeanie holds a master’s degree in human-computer interaction from Georgia Tech, and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Rochester Institute of Technology. She is a member of the adjunct faculty of University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Health Professions, teaching master’s level students about user experience in healthcare information technology.
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