Startup

MVP from a product designer point of view

Inna Shtuckmeyster
August 15, 2021

MVP From a Product Designer’s Point of View

I want to tell you about my experience working as a product designer. Mainly I’m going to discuss our first adventure here at anecdotes—creating an MVP. My goal is to show you how we, as product designers, can affect the MVP scope, influence the workflow and learn about our end-users, all with the primary goal of creating the best product with the best team. 


Let's start with the basics. What is an MVP, and why is it so important?

A minimum viable product, or MVP, is a product with a basic set of features that are enough to give your customers real value. Its main benefit is to capture feedback from users first before investing in developing a full product. The challenge is to find the right balance between value for users and cost for the company. MVP is significant for testing one's hypothesis, and it should have a clear definition in advance. Being a product company, not a service, makes this stage so critical since the interface is the product. 


How can a product designer make an impact on this process?

  1. Create prototypes and do usability testing as soon as possible to confirm or contradict assumptions easily. 
  2. Be a part of the business, understand it, and don't be afraid to ask questions or to suggest ideas. 
  3. Demand high standards - first of all from yourself, and then from others. 

1) Create prototypes and do usability testing as soon as possible to confirm or contradict our assumptions easily

When conducting usability testing, it's natural to hope users understand everything and are entirely satisfied with your interface. Having said that (and pushing my ego aside), when creating our first prototype to present to our design partners, my favorite moments were when we found problems in the flow and when we learned about user preferences and needs. Those discoveries demonstrate the real power of useability testing using an undeveloped prototype. 


There is nothing better than a real example

anecdotes (yes, with a lowercase “a” by design) makes compliance easy for modern companies by automating evidence collection. Each compliance framework is built from controls, which are predefined requirements the company has to fulfill and then must provide evidence of doing so. anecdotes decided to divide the controls into categories. With that, anecdotes presents the user with critical insights regarding the clients' information security and much more. Knowing that categories play an essential role in our platform, plus our desire to show them to users, led us to display them on the main controls page. 

We got two crucial pieces of feedback from users: 

1. The categories are brilliant and very important to the high-level view. 

2. They are absolutely irrelevant in the controls view.

We got so much value from one prototype! Later for the MVP version, we removed the categories from the controls view, switched them with "framework name" badges (another conclusion from customer interviews) and found a way to leverage the use of categories on the dashboard page.

2) Be a part of the business, understand it, and don't be afraid to ask questions or suggest ideas

By doing so, your managers and all relevant stakeholders will see that you want to take a significant role in driving the company's success. It will label you as a highly professional and valuable designer and will make you more satisfied with your work. I know it's not always straightforward, and not all managers are open-minded, but a proactive approach will be appreciated in innovative environments. For example, in anecdotes, I track business updates and customer feedback via fully transparent Slack channels and Monday boards to make sure I'm aware of market feedback. 

 

UX solutions can have a tremendous impact 

One of the main pages planned to be a part of the MVP is a control page, which is a drill-down from the controls list shown in the previous example. This page contained a lot of data and actions for the user and was considered a very complex page to develop by the dev team. However, without it, the user wouldn't be able to do the needed actions to operate the platform.

During usability testing with our design partners, one comment we got  was that it would be more efficient to do some of the controls page's actions without being redirected to a different page. Taking this comment into consideration with the desire to reduce time and cost led us to a UX solution - we made the controls on the main page expandable, giving users a sneak peek at the essential data and actions they need.  

When a UX solution saves time and money for your company and benefits the end-user, it is a win-win situation. What happens if your UX suggestion costs the company more money? That’s when you need to prove how it will benefit the business from a different perspective. Knowing and understanding the business side will help you with your arguments. There are many books and articles on this issue, and I recommend starting with “Business Thinking for Designers”, by Ryan Rumsey, which is available for free in PDF and audiobook formats. 


3) Demand high standards - first of all from yourself, and then from others 

You can't expect the development frontend team to read your mind. Only if you’ve handed off your design properly and included all necessary definitions, can you complain when something is implemented incorrectly. What can truly help is working with a design system right from the start. 

I started our design system in parallel with the first UI designed screens. It wasn't perfect from the beginning, and it's still not perfect now. A design system is like a living organism that keeps growing, improving, and becoming more complex. Overall, if you expect to create something perfect (especially at the MVP stage), get ready to be disappointed because there is no such thing as a perfect design. A good design (and designer) can adapt to changes and improve over time. 


Together with the evolutionary development of your designs, you need to develop as a professional. Working in a startup can be stressful, and there is a constant expectation of being ready ASAP. However, it's vital for you, and eventually for the product, to take the time to learn and explore. Don't be afraid to take this opportunity of starting a new interface and learning new design tools. I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to switch my primary design tool from Sketch to Figma, but it doesn't have to be such a dramatic change. 

Three months later, we released our MVP, one milestone along this rollercoaster ride that is the startup life. Have you ever worked as a UX/UI designer in an early stage of a company? How was your experience and what have you learned from it? How have your experiences shaped the way you think about and design MVPs?

Inna Shtuckmeyster
A real Gemini who believes in multitasking. Head of Design at anecdotes, Founder of the Startup Designers community mentoring program & a mother of 2 girls.

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