How Adopting Lean Startup Principles Can Benefit Web Development Companies

The lead startup methodology allows manufacturers, developers, and entrepreneurs to research products in less time with a lower budget. Web designers, developers, and development companies can take advantage of the lean approach and its principles in order to build better software products, get better results for clients and avoid wasting valuable resources.

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Even though the name of the methodology includes the word startup, it can be used by any business. It’s an approach that is often adopted wherever there is extreme uncertainty concerning the needs of the target audience, and the company using it could be any size. In terms of web application development, large companies can certainly benefit from adopting lean startup principles to get better results and build new products. It works best for building high-risk products but can be applied to almost anything.

The Main Concept

The build-measure-learn feedback loop is a concept central to the lean startup methodology. The idea is to develop a product as quickly as possible before giving it to the user to receive feedback. Feedback is then analyzed to determine what customers actually want and gauge whether or not the product has demand. It’s an approach that allows companies to make better decisions driven by data. If there’s a demand for a product, it can be improved further according to user feedback. Then, the process is repeated to receive feedback for the new features. A product that there’s no demand for can be redesigned according to the market need.

This approach works because:

  • It helps entrepreneurs avoid ending up in a situation where they have spent years building a new product, only to discover that there’s no need for it
  • It helps companies avoid adding features there’s no need for
  • It stops companies from spending more resources than are actually required for the product

How it Works with Software Development

There are many fundamental principles of the lean startup methodology that can be applied to software development. They include:

  • Building a minimum viable product (MVP)
  • A/B testing
  • Validating learning

Minimum Viable Product

An MVP is a prototype that includes only the key features of the product. It’s about getting validating learning while putting in only the bare minimum effort and resources required. Here, the main goal is to release a basic model of the product in order to use it for getting and analyzing user feedback. This can then be used to better understand what needs to be done in order to improve your product. Using an MVP means that you can begin learning what your target audience wants and adapt your product to this as early as possible.

However, building an MVP shouldn’t be rushed or taken lightly. It needs to be good enough to allow users to see the potential of your product and get a better idea of what using the finished product would be like.

Things to keep in mind:

  • An MVP should only include the most necessary features
  • It should be designed in a way that provides enough value to demonstrate future benefits to the user
  • It should help to gather user feedback

Many successful tech companies today have created popular products using an MVP first. For example, the social media scheduling tool Buffer was first started with testing whether or not there was a need for the product. The founders launched a two-page website with a simple explanation of what the app would do, to determine whether or not people needed their product. After discovering that there was an interest, they added a page with pricing to find out whether people were willing to pay for it.

A/B Testing

A/B testing is a concept where several different versions of a product are offered to users at the same time. It can determine whether any changes – even small ones – have an impact on consumer behavior, and allows you to determine the size of the difference that it makes.

A/B testing can be used in web development to test different page versions and determine which is more effective. Calculating the conversion rate, or another metric depending on your overall goal, will help you analyze the results.

Example: Upworthy

This viral content portal used A/B testing to test designs and layouts for recommended content on their media and news website. They wanted to provide users with recommended content but were concerned about a reduction in the number of social shares that they were getting. The approach that they took included:

  • Testing out several different designs with their users
  • Determining which layout performed best in terms of social shares and engagement
  • Testing different designs on the layout
  • Eventually discovering that a minimalist design and right sidebar increased social shares by 25%.

Validated Learning

Both MVP building and A/B testing lead to what’s known as validated learning. This is an essential part of the lean startup methodology which helps to make data-driven decisions. The process of validating product-related ideas is iterative, and results are measured by metrics. Validating learning occurs when ideas and features are improved, leading to a positive change in metrics. In web development, website features and their impacts can be tested by tracking and analyzing user behavior.

For example, Spotify created an MVP and iterated by taking user feedback into account in order to improve the product. This allowed them to get a clearer idea of what their customers wanted and avoid risks.

Another example of a tech company successfully using the lean startup methodology is Dropbox, which adopted it from the start. They began by showing a short demonstration video explaining how their product would work, which allowed them to generate interest during the early stages, engage users in development, and determine what improvements needed to be made. Using this method allowed them to give their customers the exact product they wanted, which was key to their success.

Pivot or Persevere?

Testing a concept leans to two basic outcomes:

  1. You find out that there’s a need or a desire for the product, so you persevere with the same idea and continue improving it
  2. You discover that there’s no need or desire for this particular product, so you need to repeat the build-measure-learn loop with a different hypothesis

When it comes to pivoting, you have several options:

  • You may want to consider rebuilding the product around a single feature after analyzing feedback, known as a zoom-in pivot
  • On the other hand, you may consider moving in the opposite direction and make an existing product one of the features of a new bigger product, known as a zoom-out pivot

What you decide to do will depend on what you discover using the validated learning process. For example, you may need to consider:

  • Changing the technology that you’re using
  • Targeting a different audience
  • Changing the problem that you’re addressing

It’s not always an easy decision to make, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to find better ways to reach your goals. In any case, your decision to go either way should always be based on data rather than assumptions.

Why Is the Lean Startup Method Ideal for Web Development?

As you can see, this methodology is ideal for helping entrepreneurs make more informed decisions during the product development process, helping them to better determine if they are on the right path towards their goals.

Using lean startup principles allows you to better determine if a particular feature is worth investing your time and money in, using feedback that you have gathered from users. In web development, the benefits of utilizing lean startup practices can help you to:

  • Determine whether or not there is a need or desire for your product
  • Gain feedback that helps you improve your product, meet the needs of your customers and maintain customer loyalty
  • Avoid wasting resources by adding unnecessary features to the product since you understand exactly what your customers are looking for
  • Develop a product that is successful on launch at a faster rate

You can learn more about the principles of lean manufacturing and how to apply this method to web and software development at Kettering University Online.

What are the Principles of Lean Website Development?

1. Eliminate Waste:

Everything that does not add value to the customer is considered waste. This could include:

  • Bad code not built around frameworks
  • Unclear requirements
  • Bureaucracy
  • Lack of communication
  • Involving team members who are not directly contributing to the project

Understanding what is wasteful is crucial to eliminating waste. If a process or steps within the process can be eliminated and still achieve the same result, it’s a waste. Features or processes that customers won’t use are waste.

2. Base Decisions on Facts:

The best results are achieved based on facts rather than assumptions:

  • Delay any critical decisions until they can be made based on facts
  • Adapt to change and correct mistakes
  • Work in iterations to reduce uncertainty

Once you’ve made a data-driven decision, deliver as quickly as possible:

  • Deliver the product without considerable defect
  • Gain customer feedback and iterate further
  • Communicate early and often to maximize the flow of information and value delivered

Lean startup methodologies have many benefits for web development and design, increasing customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

Video – What is a startup?


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