Earlier this year, Twitter quietly removed its vowels and released Twttr, a platform that essentially acted as a prototype for design changes and feature tweaks the company was considering for its regular site. By creating a separate application under the platform’s original name, the company signaled an attempt to get back to its startup roots. Unlike its more popular brother, Twttr is a place where the company can (if it wants) fail fast and often to find out what truly works best for users. You can create a product that truly delights customers.
For entrepreneurs, this prototype should serve as an example of what it takes to build a continuously successful product.
By introducing this platform, Twitter is attempting to create something that does more than keeping the lights on: It’s trying to create a minimum delightful product or MDP.
The pure beauty of an MDP
Many entrepreneurs are already familiar with the concept of a minimum viable product, or MVP, which is meant to do the fewest things required to accomplish a goal. Fewer may be familiar with the idea of an MDP.
An MDP is essentially what happens when you take an MVP and add a second goal of user enjoyment and engagement.
Where an MVP can mainly be developed in isolation from the real world, an MDP requires regular interactions with potential users to create something people will use regularly.
For entrepreneurs, an MDP is what should eventually come out of that first spark of inspiration. It shows that a startup is not only thinking about the business side of a product but also about its target audience. When an application is streamlined and engaging, it’s clear that it’s been put in front of potential customers and that developers have thought through what the user approach will look like each day.
To create and maintain an MDP, it’s essential to have the right processes in place.
After all, finding a problem that needs to be solved — and figuring out how to solve it in a way that pleases users and keeps them coming back — is far from simple. Luckily, there are a few steps startups can follow when developing a project that will help keep users coming back for more:
1. Identify an actual problem.
An idea that exists only in a vacuum will ultimately result in a product that’s set up to fail. It might seem like the most brilliant thing in the world, but if an idea isn’t solving a problem that a wide variety of people have, there will be no compelling reason for anyone to use it.
Tinder is a good example of a company that had an idea that was not only a smart design choice but solved a problem people regularly dealt with. To connect on other dating sites before Tinder, a person mostly had to shoot a stranger a message and pray the other was remotely interested. Not ideal for either party.
Tinder, on the other hand, offered an easy way for two people to signal they were interested in each other without one party having to put him- or herself out there first. The swipe was a simple and elegant solution that kept people coming back.
Ask three questions to figure out whether the path you’re heading down is a useful one: What problem is being solved? How is this product’s solution better than the competition? Is this an issue that occurs frequently enough to keep customers coming back? These questions are critical to a development process that will result in more than something that just seemed like a good idea at the time.
2. Figure out how the product will fit into users’ daily lives.
While it isn’t possible to check out every single use case for a product before it’s released, there are ways to get an idea of what typical use might look like. Develop representations of a variety of users with their own stories surrounding when and how they use the product. Knowing what the user is doing with your product helps bring a project into focus and indicates which features will be useful in the final product and which can be scrapped or delayed for future versions.
Many modern companies rely on user stories to develop and target their products, including Apple and JetBlue, but it’s a practice that’s been around for a long time. In the 1940s, the magazine Seventeen created a hypothetical reader known as Teena to pinpoint the type of audience the publication was trying to reach. In 2019, the magazine is still going strong.
3. Perform frequent A/B tests.
Just because a product works well for developers doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to do the same for real-world users. To avoid succumbing to unseen biases, perform A/B testing when possible to better capture customer preferences.
When my company worked with the cash-back application Dosh, A/B testing was a significant part of the process. Features, approach, design, and branding, were modified throughout multiple prototypes to best drive user behavior and increase audience buy-in. One wrong turn could have taken the whole project down the wrong path, but A/B testing helped us steer it right.
For a product to survive in the long term, it generally has to reach the MDP stage at some point.
Sometimes, it’s after the harsh reality of a market failure. Other times, it’s from soliciting feedback from paid users to figure out why a product isn’t working, or why some other part of the market isn’t currently working.
It’s not necessary to get there the hard way, however.
By being mindful of the problem that’s being solved and testing directly with users, entrepreneurs can create a product that will delight customers without bogging them down in bloat.