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Hatch Cast S01E01 - MVP
24 September 2014

Hatch Cast – Minimum Viable Product – S01E01

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About This Podcast

The first episode of Hatch Cast, a weekly business podcast with tips and insight in 10 minutes or less, because life’s short and time is money. This week, we’re joined by Ross Chapman. We’ll be talking about shipping your minimum viable product.

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Episode Resources

Ross Chapman’s blog
Shipping your MVP

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Transcript

A
Hello and welcome to Hatch Cast, our weekly business podcasts. We’ll be discussing live business issues and events in 10 minutes or less because life is short and time is money. I’m Ali

T
And I’m Tony. Tonight we’re here with our friend Ross Chapman who is a user experience designer at Erickson television based in Southampton, if hiss website is still up to date Ross, is it?

R
It is, of course it is. What do you think I spend all my evenings doing?

A
Ross why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself first.

R
Ooh, where to start? Yes, I’m a user experience designer. It hasn’t always been the way. I’ve been kind of in web design for the last, ooh, dare I say decade, nearly, and I actually taught myself. It started as a hobby, Front Page came out and it looked shiny, and I just wanted to touch it and um, I started making bizarre website for make belief clubs that would never actually turn into anything. And, um, then I moved up the chain to Dreamweaver and ah, then started reading on the internet that actually this wasn’t the way to make websites, that you should actually learn some code and stuff. So, ah, I taught myself HTML and CSS and started kind of hand coding stuff together. About that time I discovered WordPress as well so I could actually put things together and I thought, ‘Great,’ I need some new projects, I need some new ideas. Yeah, I just realised it is a ten minute podcast so I don’t want to give you my whole life story.

A
We’ll fix it in post, don’t worry!

R
But it’s good. Yeah, I’ve kind of been professionally a web designer moving to a digital designer moving to a user experience designer over the last five years. I’ve found myself at Erickson making TV Production a better place.

T
So your post about the MVP is something that I read a little while ago. It’s a really really good thing that I’ve shared with a couple of friends and yeah, some people that I know quite closely are trying to adopt the strategy with their clients and it pans out so nicely.

A
Well, first of all, what is it? MVP, what does that stand for, what does the concept mean, Ross?

R
Well, quite simply, MVP means Minimum Viable Product, and you’re right, clients get it because it is getting the most simple solution to whatever you’re putting together out as quickly as possible. And, so when you say this to clients they completely get it. You know, yes I want an all singing all dancing website or mobile app, and any kind of thing, but the realisation is to, really get a return on it we need to get it out quickly, get people using it, and that’s where MVP really kind of plays to the advantage of saying, ‘yeah, lets take that route, hand in hand with Agile, and getting things out the door, you know, testing response.’ And yeah, I’ve been using it for the last year or so and people’s eyes light up. They’re like wow, we could have something working and using and we can measure off of it and improve it. Once you put aside you know it won’t be pixel perfect on day one to which some people are like, ‘we’re not sure we want to ship this if it doesn’t look fantastic,’ but then that goes to what they mean when they say fantastic.

A
Yes, precisely. On that point, how do you draw that line? How do you guarantee something is viable despite being in its minimum form?

R
Yeah, sure. Let’s take the example of a website. So, the absolute minimum you’d need for a website is one page with a bit of information about what it is, erm, probably some contact details and you know, that is it. I guess it’s a matter of opinion. You have to think from a user’s point of view. They come to your site and you say, ‘what you’re about,’ and, you know, are there calls to action?

T
We’ve just tried this with Hatch, with the Hatch website lately. So, what we mailed you the other day was only three or four page website. It was basic, minimum stuff, and we’ve just been pushing it out there and seeing what people are actually using?

A
Fundamentally for me, when I read your post Ross and when Tony was evangelising on this concept, what sold me was the shift in mind set. I’ve always been the kind of person who wants everything picture perfect before anybody other than a close circle sees it. But, that’s always been an impediment to me, it’s held me back. It’s produced a barrier to me actually producing content. Erm, one of the most helpful things I’ve found about shifting mentality, ‘at least get something out now, and fix it later.’ But, before you do that, erm, how do you actually gauge user involvement with the product? So with your example of the website, feedback forms and stuff like that, more generally, Ross, how would you recommend people go about gauging user responses to your product?

R
Sure, erm, I guess on that point, when you launch a website, a thousand people aren’t going to see it immediately. You know, this is one of the things that people don’t think about. Well, for the really obvious stuff, grab the nearest person to you and say, ‘what do you think of this? What do you think it is doing?’ and just get eyes on it. There’s this common thing of, ‘what’s the automated solution, what’s the quick solution?’ you know, subscribe to this service and it’ll give you all these reports and stuff. Just start really raw and just get your friends around, get people walking down the street and say, ‘hey, look at this app, what do you think?’ and just gauge their reaction. For some of the user tests I’ve done I actually put something in front of them and didn’t say anything. Just try and see what they’re working out because you know so much more about this website or app than they do, and you probably overlooked something that’s so small but so vital and just getting eyes on it is one of the things. And in a big company, sometimes that’s really difficult. Say you’re at a university and you’ve designed the new student intranet. But, getting a hold of students in their free time to give you feedback on something they’re probably going to use every week or even every day like a calendar or something, you know, one thing I’ve found works is pizza.

T
Free Pizza?

A
Free Pizza?

R
Honestly, you get a group of students you know, a nice wide range of potential users and they’re offering their time. You give them pizza. I’ve done one session in the past for students, and I had like 5 questions, got some feedback and that took about ten minutes. Then the next twenty minutes was the students putting up their hands suggesting things and other things. Some of the kind of, listed and surveys and everything they’re great for a big range but when you’ve got people in the room, you’ve got to use that to your advantage. And you know, just having this wide open forum, and you know, after the pizza disappears from their mind, actually, ‘we could contribute to this and make this something really successful.’ So, yeah, pizza and time.

A
So, students and Italian food are a winning mixture for you.

T
So say, someone’s been refining their idea over a long period of time. They’ve been running through and perfecting it, going over the business model. Draft after draft of stuff. How do you convince them that it’s more beneficial for them to get something out there and perfect it later?

R
Yeah, sure. I’ve seen this a few times.

A
This is not based on me by the way.

T
It is.

R
Yeah, especially when it’s a pet project or business idea, that person will spend forever and a day, every living moment trying to tweak things. They want it just right. What they need to understand is that it’s not them that’s going to be on the receiving end of whatever. Say for example you’ve got a conference, here’s an original idea, and you’ve spent weekends and weeks and months and years planning how this conference is going to work, and all the kind of details because details matter. But, you are not a seasoned conference goer. You’re attracting a market that’s new to you. You’re only going to get validation of your decisions by asking people. And, yeah, a year or so ago they used to ask, ‘when’s the right time to use a test?’ and you know now-a-days I’ve seen examples of weekly user test, especially where there’s an Agile kind of setup going on where you’re delivering and designing and analysing and doing all of that within one sprint. And, you know there’s always the right time to use a test. Even if it’s an idea, it might be way before a website, and you might test that out, ask some opinions, get some feedback, and actually maybe the website wasn’t a good idea, you should do something else! This is something that I really love. Some of the work we do in digital design and user experience kind of spreads out of our own sphere and goes out into wider circles, I guess. Yea, that really ticks a few boxes for me.

A
Final thoughts, Ross, how would you across three floors of an elevator, ten to twelve seconds, how would you pitch this idea to an executive?

R
A Minimum Viable Product gets your idea out into the marketplace as quick as possible so you can gauge feedback and make it even better using real people’s feedback. That’s kind of it from my point of view. It’s that simple.

A
Well, thank you very much Ross, and this has been the first episode of Hatch Casts!

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