How to (not) build the best product — Start-up roadmap part 9

It’s impossible to build the ‘best’ product because you’re users never stand still, your competition never stands still, and the market in which you operate never stands still. This means building the best product is an ongoing process with one important lesson: the product is never finished.

Start with the bare minimum

My start-up, Vindy, was born out of multiple failures. I’ve been involved in product development and online concepts since I was fifteen. As a result, I’ve ‘lost’ a lot of time and money in the process. But that’s not how I choose to look at it; the lessons I learned and experiences I gained helped me turn Vindy into more than I could have ever imagined.

One of the most important lessons I learned through previous start-ups was the importance of starting with the bare minimum. I’ve also made the common mistake of trying to incorporate all of the features I came up with into the first version for potential users. But the hard lesson is this: your users don’t want these fancy features. What they want is a product that adds value.

That’s why you should focus on the bare bones of your product.

This is important for three reasons:

  1. You can launch your product more quickly; the sooner you go live, the sooner you profit from points two and three below.
  2. You can collect crucial feedback from real users. Coming up with your own features is fun, but it’s much more important to listen to what your users actually want.
  3. You can turn a profit with minimal investments. Each new feature requires time, money and energy. Focus on laying a solid foundation and then go from there. If necessary, start with a ‘freemium’ model to bind your users.

The surprise effect

Applying the above scheme will help you avoid misunderstandings with your users. Instead of offering a dozen features, keep things clear and simple. Roll out new features over time so you have something to surprise people with. (‘We’ve got something new that you’re going to love…’)

Start with a primitive version of your product and then introduce new features based on the feedback you receive. As an added bonus, you’ll end up developing features you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. Your customers will appreciate this, as you’ll be meeting their needs.

Expand your product in phases

Laying a solid foundation makes it easier to roll out new developments in phases and create a mature product. Keep the following steps in mind:

  1. Collect feedback: add a live chat option to your product and encourage users to contact you by phone, e-mail, social media or via a feedback button on your website. This keeps feedback clear and simple. The easier you make things, the more feedback you’ll receive.
  2. Involve your users in beta versions (e.g. introduce new features and test releases on a blog).
  3. Roll out new features in phases or make it automatic. Consider making new features available based on how long someone has used your product. For example, you could release ‘feature X’ after one month of active use, ‘feature Y’ after two months, and so on.

In short: start at the beginning. The road you go down with your users is a long one and you’ll reach milestones along the way that will give you the energy to keep going.

About my start-up Vindy

Love to share everything about our roadmap as a marketplace start-up in a very competitive market; from product development to investors to valuable lessons learned. Let me know what you think by liking or sharing this post or by leaving a comment below. I would love to hear your feedback!

PART 1: Why I gave up my business for a start-up