For most entrepreneurs, getting a startup off the ground is the dream, the final realization of the conceptual work done so far. Unfortunately though, it also is where the real work begins.
Running a startup is not a full time job. It is your life. If, in the first years of your startup, you have time to kill, something is wrong. Most startups and entrepreneurial ventures fail for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest culprit is not understanding your target market.
There is a common urge among business owners and marketers to market their services to everyone. This is a mistake. The problem is that a campaign designed to attract a target audience of everyone will attract no one.
We live in a world of targeted, customized experiences. Trying to market to the entire world will result in a broad, unfocused strategy that will attract no one – and you’ll burn through your budget. Instead, modern marketing theory suggests that the better tactic is niche markets and iterative testing – also known as Validated Learning. This concept owes its origins to a business strategy known as “Lean Startup.”
Lean startup was a concept created by Silicon Valley legend Eric Ries in 2008. It differs from a normal startup in some significant ways, which will be covered in detail further down in this post. However, it is generally easier to explain a concept through a common example.
As we are a tech company, we will talk about how you can use the lean startup methods, especially validated learning, to intelligently design a website user interface/experience (UI/UX). When you’re finished reading this post, check out our portfolio page and then get in touch with us to get your project started. Don’t worry, we have an extremely fair pricing structure – just $800 will get you a completed website!
Lean Startup vs Startup
First things first – a lean startup is still a startup. The basic idea is that a startup can use iterative methods to create a product or service that is intelligently tailored to a specific user base. In the context of Web development and UI/UX, a normal startup would follow these basic cycles the Lean Startup process would look something like this:
• Market research
All startups thrive off a market strategy based on good research. You should determine the competition and your market before you even launch your startup.
• You create your website;
This is pretty much your final product. Sure, you’ve done some limited testing and you’ll probably make some minor tweaks, but this website (your product) is essentially the final version.
This is where a lot of the risk in running a startup lies. First, the development cycle is a high investment, costing you and your SMB a lot of money and time. Second, if the product is a flop, you just lost all of that money and time – plus you need to go back and do it all over again.
With lean startup, you don’t invest as much in your product prior to launch, because it’s basically a minimum viable product (MVP). With a lean startup, the process of creating a website (or another product or service) would look more like this:
1. You do your market research;
Just like a normal startup, you need to do research. However, most of your user research will be tested when you launch your project so don’t sink too much money and time trying to figure out your user base. You’re basically doing light research to form a hypothesis.
2. You develop and launch your startup’s website;
This first version should be pretty light and lean, with some hardcoded features but not many. You’re still trying to figure out what will resonate with your market so this iteration should be little more complex than an MVP. Essentially, this is where you begin to test the hypothesis you developed in the previous cycle.
3. You analyze the usage data of your website;
See how users navigate through your website. Where are they spending time? What links are they following? This is especially easy to do with a website – tools like Google Analytics and MixPanel make it easy to track web traffic. Already got a website, but aren’t sure how to use analytics? Send us an email to talk about hiring our developers – only $20 an hour!
You should also survey early users – what do they like about your current UI, and what they don’t; what was confusing and what was crystal clear. These are all questions you will want answered, because they go into the next cycle…
4. Rinse and repeat.
Study the data you’ve collected. Go back to your MVP and use that data to create a more informed UI/UX for your website. Keep in mind, this isn’t your final product either, it’s merely the next step.
Relaunch, collect more data, redesign, and relaunch again.
You’re essentially creating a dialectic process with iterative cycles, where each cycle is producing a slightly more refined product. The final result (if it can be said there is one) is a product that is extremely tailored to fit the needs of your market.
To boil it all down, instead of one long development cycle with tons of investment, you are creating multiple, smaller development cycles, each with minimal investment. The advantage here is that your end result is an extremely customized product, scientifically tested and evidentiary-based.
The biggest criticism of this is that running lean (as it is the cool people call it) can be mistaken with cutting costs. However, running lean doesn’t really refer to cutting costs. Arguably, the iterative cycles can eventually lead to a product with more financial investment (though the product will be designed better). Running lean is about breaking up the costs into many cycles, instead of one.
The other big weakness to running lean is that it is harder to apply to startups outside the tech world. While it’s growing in popularity and many people are figuring out how to run lean in other industries, conducting iterative product cycles is cheaper with a website or mobile application than it is nearly any other non-tech product.
Got a website you’d like to launch? Give SDI a call at 408.802.2885 today and we can get started right away. Call now and we can design the first page for free!