At Maxcode, we are strong believers in the power of feedback when developing a product. Eric Ries’s Build-Measure-Learn principle, which he describes in his The Lean Startup book, is the philosophy we aim to keep in mind every time we implement a new innovative idea on behalf of our customers.
Build-Measure-Learn is a fundamental approach used by startups to quickly validate ideas and adapt to market response. The whole concept is based around transforming an idea into a minimal functionality, measuring its impact on the userbase, and then drawing a conclusion: should you pivot, or should you persevere.
This feedback loop is essential in predicting the success of a feature, or even of the entire product. The beauty of this principle is that it creates value, no matter if you’re a fintech startup struggling to disrupt the space with its next big thing, a large organization aiming to reshape a feature, or even a bakery looking to test out a brand new pastry recipe.
The entire approach may sound complicated at first, but when you begin looking into it, it just makes sense. You start from an innovative idea, a tiny light bulb shining bright, foretelling tremendous success, but there is more to it than meets the eye. The purpose is to validate this concept before you start throwing money at it because often enough, before you even realize it, costs start piling up.
So, what do you do? You build the most basic version of it (also known as a minimum viable product, or MVP). Think small, think simple. The goal is not to create the best possible product yet, but to begin the process of measuring as soon as possible. Now there are several ways to do that, but whether it’s through usability testing sessions or interviews, the end goal is to obtain information and learn if you’re moving in the right direction. Remember the options: pivot or persevere.
Since this is at the core of our software development strategy, we make sure to showcase the benefits to our customers from the beginning. For example, in our checklist for new partnerships, we describe how the uncertainty of turning ideas into reality can easily be overcome through MVPs and user involvement. Knowing how the market will respond to a concept is the turning point for any product we develop. Getting the inside lane on this kind of feedback is key, but even more so, it’s important to be quick. There are several key points that can help achieve a fast and concise feedback loop. We put together some of the ones we battle-tested ourselves:
🔹 Empowering flexibility through Agile software development
For some companies, this can be a real challenge, but we see it as the strong foundation on which everything is built. Whether you’re using Scrum, Kanban, or another approach from the plethora of Agile methodologies, it’s critical to plan for short iterations and to easily adapt. When you must pivot, being able to do so in short bursts allows for faster time-to-market which, in turn, shortens the feedback loop.
🔹 Quick validation through automated testing
Imagine receiving some great feedback from a user group, quickly making the needed adjustments, and then having to wait for an entire week for the testers to quality check everything before you are able to measure the impact. Also, having to perform the same tests repeatedly every release is tiring, demoralizing, and completely error-prone. The power of automated testing comes into play here, allowing teams to get the repetitive (and, quite frankly, boring) work out of the way and focus on interpreting feedback, identifying patterns, edge cases and ultimately increasing stability.
🔹 Easy decision making through A/B testing
As software developers, this is probably the closest we get to performing actual experiments. The idea behind A/B testing is to facilitate choice by measuring the user engagement for each of the options. When you are split on having to choose between two (or more) solutions for the same problem, you want to make an educated decision. Whether it’s the color of a button, the position of a menu item, or something much more complicated, you can build multiple implementations of it, distribute them to individual groups, and assess the results. If 75% of users shown a red button clicked it, but only 25% of users shown a green button did the same, you might have a strong indication to go for red.
🔹 Swift releases through stable continuous delivery pipelines
Say you’ve done everything right: you are relying on Agile to power your team, you have built a strong testing framework that is easily accessible, you have everything ready to A/B test a small idea you got from the feedback loop. But in the end, actually releasing a new version of your product is an unpredictable, error-prone process, with a consistent mix of human interaction. That’s a short recipe for disaster right there. Luckily, there are several techniques that allow us not only to automatically build a new iteration of the application every time a change is made, but also to quickly release that “into the wild”, with the minimum degree of human intervention.
Ultimately, one of the Lean Startup’s key takeaways is to work smarter, not harder. Through our field experience of over 15 years in building reliable and robust products, we truly believe that we achieved a state of mind that allows us to follow through with what Eric Ries preaches.
About Adrian Marinică
Adrian has been a Maxcoder for over 8 years, a time in which he has grown from software developer to Team Leader and now Team Manager. His focus has always been on creating a strong setup for the team he worked with, a setting that would enable growth while encouraging his colleagues to learn the needs of the client and the purpose of the software they build. Adrian’s goal is to create an effective channel of communication between the team and the client, which results in happy developers, happy clients, and happy code.