Build super fast MVP's without programmers - Part 1vaidy
November 17, 2015
If you’re into software products, you probably hear the term “MVP” more often than you’d like. Sadly, this post isn’t gonna make your life easier.
At Multunus , we’ve been doing our experimenting with Lean Startup principles, running our experiments and creating prototypes to test hypotheses.
We love building quick prototypes with Google Docs and Trello. They’re both free and are available both online and as apps on your phone. I’ll dive into a few products that we’ve built just using these two tools.
This post is about MoveIt. Ourtool, with a twist.
I’m a neuroscience junkie. A common recurring pointinbrain researchis the link between regular physical exercise and higher brain power. As a bonus, you also have some happy hormones that get released when you
If more exercise is gonna make us smarter, we wanted that in our team. Get everybody to exercise and then make everyone smarter instantly. And then get the big bucks.
Okay, we got a bit carried away with all that excitement. But it was good, because fast forward 6 months, we’ve actually made some decent progress.
The first MVP
We’re a software company. And we like to build stuff.
Our problem: We wanted to start exercising. And we wanted to share our progress with everyone on team in a super easy way.
The first step to solve that problem: Of course, we need to build an app to track the team’s progress. And, if we could squeeze in a GPS based tracker into it too, that would be awesome. Oh, and we also need this to be on both iOS and Android.
[Like I said. We like to build stuff.]
Total estimated effort: at least a week something basic out the door. And that’s if, this was thething our team was gonna work on.
Could we wait a week and risk all the excitement of starting to exercise die? Since we like to build stuff, we almost said “Yes” to that question.
Thankfully though, better sense prevailed.
So, we created a Google spreadsheet instead - a much more lean way of doing things. 6 of us feverishly added our names to the sheet and made grand plans to get out of bed and get moving. We’d then celebrate by bragging our progress on the spreadsheet. It was going to be great.
Except of course it wasn’t. We met again a couple of days later, timidly opening up the spreadsheet to see a bunch of empty rows in there.
But we * had* to make this work.
Thank you, Nike
That’s when someone on the team shared about how great it was when the Nike app had run the charity campaign a few months earlier in Dec.
You did your bit by logging your running minutes in the app. And Nike donates a tiny bit of money to charity for each of those minutes.
15min later, we announced: “Multunions! Go move those bodies. We’ll make every minute count. We’re gonna do the Nike thing too”.
At this point, we had two options: Use the Nike App itself - it has a group feature that would have worked well enough. Or continue with our spreadsheet. We chose to continue with the latter.
The Nike app is more guided and somewhat constrained in terms of the kind of exercise activities that is accepts as input. We wanted less control.
We also needed a “leaderboard” with the total charity amount clearly displayed for everyone to see. This was much easier in the spreadsheet.
Besides it wasn’t like we were expending serious effort into tweaking the spreadsheet anyway.
Traction! And then a slowdown. Kinda.
Traction is about growing your userbase in themarketplace.
Our “market” was just the Multunus audience. But when was the last time you successfully encouragedto move it?
So, when the spreadsheet started to fill up with some nice meaty data - with folks logging in their minutes regularly, we were elated.
This was going well for a week or two. And then things started to slow down. The numbers were dwindling in the spreadsheet with fewer people updating it each passing day.
Just like you’d expect, right? Everybody knows consistent exercise is hard. How in the world can a spreadsheet solve that problem? It was time for some motivational talk to get things back on track.
What if the team was exercising, but was forgetting to put in the hours in the spreadsheet? I was one of the users and I’d noticed myself forgetting every now and then.
It was time for a quick survey. Sure enough, that was indeed the problem. Updating the spreadsheet was a chore separate from the exercising routine.
Zooming in a bit more, it turns out that it’s not the easiest thing to pull out your phone, open Google Spreadsheet on it, open the exercise sheet, scroll to the bottom and then fill in your data cell by cell. Especially when you have sweaty hands.
We needed something that was simpler.
Problem: We wanted a solution that would make allow us to log an exercise entry in less than a minute and thereby reduce friction to use the app.
We were now excited, once again. Could we scratch that “build an app” itch now?
The hacknight. And the second MVP.
The fact that we could start using the spreadsheet within 10min of thinking about it, had changed us. For good.
Now, with that kind of instant gratification mindset embedded within us, could we wait for another week to have our app ready? No way!
That’s why we’ve got hacknights. All we needed to do was to bribe our team with pizzas and coke. We got together the next Fri evening and started to hack away.
And by early Sat morning, we had an app. Not exactly * instant* gratification. But almost there.
We got together on Monday and took another look at the app. Was it good enough to replace the spreadsheet? We were almost there.
It was at least good enough, for us to spend another couple of late evenings on it - to smoothen it out. We moved the data from the spreadsheet and were now ready to exercise it (pun intended).
A communication tool
Fast forward to today. It’s been 6 months since that hacknight.
The app now has a decent bunch of features. Here’s some of the features it has:
Beyond the obvious benefit of being able to track and compete on our exercise minutes in a much easier way, we’ve now got a tool that allows us to “silently” communicate with each other - about how each of us is investing in our health. And how much we care about each other’s health.
And brain power. And making more money.
Here’s our key learnings from this experience:
MVP’s are not a fad. They do work. They’re fantastic for getting quick feedback and for learning from * real* users. We were able to speed up our rate of learning significantly using just the spreadsheet.
We knew that the single biggest problem we had was ease of accessibility of the app itself and not really about motivating our team to exercise. So that’s what we focused on when building the initial app prototype.
Initial spreadsheet prototype (timeboxed to just 10 min) and also for the,
App prototype (a working app was due at the end of the hacknight - which lasted about 6 hours)
It’s much easier to get a team motivated to get together to spend some extra effort building something that has traction. So, the idea is to keep going from one MVP to the next, as quickly as you can, getting real feedback from the market at each stage. Every dev team loves this kind of real feedback.
The upcoming posts
The next 2 posts in the series will talk about how we used Google Spreadsheets and Trello to not just build prototypes, but actually full fledged * applications* that we’re using on a daily basis within Multunus.