The Best Way to Build a Product that Resonates with Consumers

People like to throw around the word MVP (minimum viable product), as if it gives you carte blanche to build something sub-par. This is the scenario you never want: Developers are head down in code for weeks, they build the product, rip the cover off, and your beta users’ reaction are, What the heck is this?

As a founder, developers and time are the two most important and scarce aspects when building your business. You don’t want to waste precious development talent building an MVP that no one cares about. If you have a big idea and then the next thing you do is hire a dev shop to build a “wire frame,” you’ve already failed.

You are absolutely flying a plane in the wrong direction. You will wind up fixing it while it moving 500 mph (spending a lot of money and precious time while you do).

User discovery is always the first thing you should do when starting your company. Talk to hundreds of people who have the problem you are trying to solve or are using a similar product that you intend to improve. Build your MVP based on user research. It’s the difference between creating a product that people actually want–or at least see the potential in–and building a vanity project. Develop your business model landscape.

So how do you prioritize your product development? Yes, start with your vision, but build your products iteratively based on user feedback.

ShopKeep’s cloud backend was first built for a PC. The cloud technology eliminated the drudgery of issues that were endemic with server based technology (still existing today actually, but that’s another article). The PC front end worked just fine in 2010 for a wine store and specialty grocery.

One day Jonathan Rubinstein, cofounder of Joe Coffee, told the company, “If you build this on an iPad we will try it in our new location. You have 3 months to do it though.” At the time, the company was so focused on PC development that the company’s founder was actually thinking “hmmm, iPads may be a fad. Should we spend the time and money to develop on an iPad?” But because of what Jonathan said, ShopKeep did it. They built what their earliest user asked for.  

Today, the company has almost 30 thousand customers and is one of NYC’s largest and fastest growing SaaS businesses revolutionizing how small businesses use iPads and the cloud to operate their businesses.

That’s why you need to understand your users’ needs. Most companies take this for granted. Talk to everyone. Understand what they are doing manually that you can make better or more efficient. Then build the software to solve for that.

Don’t take it from me, however. Take it from the father of the lean startup movement Steve Blank. He talks a lot about customer development as the key to building early stage companies. He has said, “Instead of arguing internally about what features we need or whether or not to make the button blue, find and talk to your customers. There are no facts inside the building, so get the hell outside.

Stop chasing shiny objects. Be focused and tactical about what you’re building. And, above all, always ask these three questions before starting development:

  1. Why are we building this?
  2. What’s the goal?
  3. What data do we have to support this?

Steve literally teaches an entire class on just this topic at Columbia Business School to students who are developing actual businesses (which I somehow elbow my way into teaching with him — note, he does the “teaching,” I kinda repeat what he says at the back of the class and hope he remembers my name later).

Every day starts with asking the students, “How many customers did you talk to yesterday?” The students who say zero better be wearing a helmet.

Tech

AOL Kills Off AIM, In Many Ways a Perfect Product

Software makers would do well to emulate the simplicity, single focus of AIM.

Even people who haven’t used AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, for years, were distressed to hear that it would be killed on Dec. 15.

I never wanted to leave AIM in the first place, but since Apple stopped supporting it three years ago, it was just too difficult to maintain on a Mac or other Apple device. Yes, there was a complicated workaround, but who had the energy?

AIM was a key go-to communications channel for me for more than five years. That AIM “buddy list” included hundreds of people—friends, colleagues, PR people, and less official sources at various companies. It was the perfect channel for getting a quick quote or confirmation, and then move on. No muss, no fuss, and no need to listen to voice mails.

Why AIM Was Beloved

One AIM buddy was Barry Appelman, one of the AIM developers who launched the service in 1997. Four years later, AIM had 36 million active users. Appelman explained at the time that AOL had debuted AIM around the same time Microsoft started pushing its rival MSN Internet portal and network. AOL’s original goal with AIM was to make its network more interesting to users and not, as some contended, to get existing members to use up more paid online minutes. In its early days, users did pay AOL by the minute, but by the time AIM came around it had gone to a flat monthly fee, Appelman said.

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Joe Raedle—Getty Images

But millions of those AIM users never paid AOL a dime, which probably did not endear AIM to its corporate overlords. AIM was a quick-and-easy (and free) download.

Many of those millions probably got siphoned off to rival chat apps, and many Apple users let AIM go when Apple dropped support.

Related: AOL Instant Messenger is Going Away. Here are Your Options

And Why it Failed

AIM’s prospects weren’t helped by the arrival of me-too chat apps like Yahoo Messenger and Microsoft msft MSN Messenger either. Then there were a number of business-focused versions of chat, like Lotus Sametime (now IBM ibm Sametime.)

The ironic thing there is that many AIM devotees saw its existence outside of corporate IT as a huge benefit, not a flaw. “The day corporate can track my messages, is the day I stop sending them,” one colleague said years ago.

At the same time, Facebook adopted instant messaging by adding Facebook Messenger, another AIM wannabe, to its social network.

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The great thing about AIM, which tech news site TechCrunch referred to as the “pioneering chat app that taught us to text,” was its seeming simplicity and lack of bloat. If you had an Internet connection, it worked.

AIM showed you your Buddy List in a box, and who was available to chat. You could set a “Do Not Disturb” sign or even will yourself invisible by clicking on the little on-screen eyeball. It was a great tool for stalking a buddy.

Compare that to most of today’s desktop apps that seem to do everything except the one thing we want to them to do. Feature bloat makes many modern software products too complicated for mere mortals to use. AIM was the antithesis of that and that’s It’s so sad to hear of its passing at the ripe old age of 20.

Tech

Searching For The Best Spray Pepper In Your Place

It is now possible to find pepper sprays from hardware stores, firearms shops, and also from the supermarkets because it depends on which state you are in. Some can be bought on the internet.

These items are made from some chemical called Oleoresin capsicum which is a product of cayenne pepper. It is possible to get some pepper sprays that do not have very active OC concentration because most times the one that is active will be up to 5%.

Finding the one with perfect concentration is not easy because either is too high or too low for it to work properly.

Now there is a pepper spray with just the right amount of concentration, at 10 percent concentration which is perfect. It is called the Mace, and is manufactured by the company that has been producing self defense items for years. Mace is quite active and at 10 percent, will succeed in immobilizing the attacker in seconds.

Get to know the state laws dealing with this matter since there are some states which do not allow the mace to be carried; neither openly nor hidden. Then there are those who want you to carry a permit for it.

Some states put restrictions on the type of pepper spray that can be allowed, others require that one gets a permit but others also insist on people going to classes. It is not strange at all to find that some states do not even allow its use. For you to know exactly what the statutes are in your state, you will have to contact the local police station in order to know what is expected.

You will also note that all the pepper sprays have protection features that prevent accidental discharge as well as belt loops for easy carriage and use. Its serial number is for tracking quality.

These products go for less than $20 in most cases which is a fair rate for anyone thinking of personal safety and tranquility of mind.

See various other writing pieces penned by this same author dealing with areas including garage roll up door and area rug pads.