WeWork Engineer Shem Magnezi on How to Iterate Quickly on Your MVP

When you’re building an MVP, it’s never a one-and-done process. You need to continually measure its success, learn from your data, and iterate on the product. Labs mentor and WeWork engineer Shem Magnezi hosted a session during the 5 Day Charge all about fast iteration when it comes to MVPs. Here are the key points to remember.

The importance of iterating quickly on your MVP

Moving fast is part of startup life. “People say that the most valuable asset you have is your time,” Magnezi says. “You always need to remember to optimize for time by doing things fast and learning things fast.”

That means iterating quickly when it comes to your MVP. “It’s all iteration until you get a mature product,” Magnezi says. “And the state of mind you need to have every single day is how can you build very small things. That will make you able to build them fast and ship them often. And with that, you’ll be able to iterate fast because you’ll learn small chunks of information every time you build and ship.”

With the very first iteration of your MVP, keep LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman’s famous advice in mind: “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” “You don’t want to be ashamed of it, but it can’t be perfect,” Magnezi says. “If it’s perfect, you’re wasting too much time. Don’t get attached to it—it’s just a tool for you to learn new things about your users.”

Make user flow your focus

There are two main pillars to focus on as you iterate on your MVP, Magnezi says, and one is user flow. “The other is how to build more MVPs,” he says. “There is going to be a ping ponging between understanding the user flow, building an MVP to learn more about the user flow, then building another MVP and revealing another aspect of your user flow.”

With user flow, “you always want to optimize for users,” Magnezi says. “You start with minimal things and maybe you come to understand that they need speed, or they’re looking for security in your product. But in every single point along the way of building your MVP, you’re learning new things about your users and iterating. So when you build the user flow, you start very high level and slowly with each iteration of the MVP, you build another part of the user flow piece by piece.”

Think about your core task when you’re building MVPs

“There are going to be a lot of tasks that the user needs to do in the user journey, like filling in their email, making some kind of payment, etc.,” Magnezi says. “You’re probably not going to build those things. You’re going to outsource it or use other tools.” Instead of wasting time and resources trying to build those things on your own, “always focus on your core task so you can learn new things about what you’re building and your users.

Focus on working smarter, not harder, to get the information you need to move on to the next iteration. “Let’s imagine you want to test something, but it costs a lot to implement in time, money, or both,” Magnezi says. “So just put a dummy button, like Purchase or Get it Now. And when people actually click it, they get a message that says Thank you for your interest, we’ll contact you once it’s ready. You’ll be able to measure whether people actually want what you’re offering and if there’s some traction there, only then do you go invest the time to implement it.

Consider your personas

One of the most important aspects of product development is building for your actual users, and that involves a deep dive into your customer personas. “Understand how many personas you have and optimize for each one of them,” Magnezi says. Remember to do the work on your personas before you start the MVP iteration process. If you don’t, you’ll end up optimizing for way too many types of people. “Don’t optimize for a big crowd,” Magnezi says. “It’s much better to have a very small, specific crowd to aim for. It’s easier to build for that.” And always keep those users needs and pain points top of mind as you iterate. “You’re not building a product— you’re building a tool to make your users feel better, behave better, be more efficient,” Magnezi says. It’s more about a solution to a problem than a product.”

Don’t get attached to what you’ve created and don’t get too lofty with ambitions

Falling in love with what you’ve built is dangerous, and can make it difficult to create the product that will really drive your startup forward. “You might throw it out after two weeks so build it scrappy, build it fast, and don’t get attached,” Magnezi says. “And before you start building, keep the end in mind. What do you want to measure and change? Remember that you can only measure one thing at a time and it has to be specific. It can’t be how am I able to better convert our users? That’s too broad. It needs to be more like how am I able to make the user enter their email on this form?

Remember that you’re not building your dream product from the get-go. “There’s the thing you tell the investors you’re going to build when you have the time and money, and there’s what you’re building now,” Magnezi says. “But those dream features are off the table for now. And you’re not thinking about scalability either.”

Measure, measure, measure

“You are what you measure,” Magnezi says. “If you’re optimizing for engagement, for example, you’re thinking about how you can make the user stay on your app or website for as long as possible. It’s very important to think carefully about what you want to measure, because your eyes will be on that target only.”

There are many different ways you can measure, too, but some are better options than others. “You could send surveys and ask people what they loved, but usually people don’t really understand what they love or why,” Magnezi says. “People act differently in real time so we always prefer aggregated behavior tracking like analytics; something that measures clicks instead of asks questions.”

“The most famous tool is Google Analytics,” Magnezi says. “It measures things like clicks, drop outs, engagement, and churn. It’s also free. It’s very basic and lacks a lot of features, but it’s good to start with. And then you can advance from there. If you want to do surveys, you can use things like SurveyMonkey, TypeForm, or Google Forms. You could also do direct feedback with a chat bot. Session recording is also really helpful. You see what the user does on the screen—exactly what they click on, how long they spend on different parts of the page. But you have to be very careful and make sure you can legally record their sessions. You have to communicate to users that you’re recording. And there’s AB testing, where you give one group of users one flavor of your website and another group another flavor, and you measure between them.”

Be honest with yourself about what you learn as you iterate

When you measure and learn something critical about your users or product, “act upon it,” Magnezi says. “Denial is a silent killer of startups. There are going to be a lot of experiments and many of them are going to fail. You as the one investing a lot of time, might say yes but those users didn’t understand it, or maybe it failed because of the time of year or it failed because we used this design. No. Experiments are either successes or failures. There’s no in between. Deal with it. Learn from each experiment and always look for opportunities for growth.”

Learn more about MVP/prototyping.

This post is based on content from a WeWork Labs programming session.

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