After receiving push back from users in the first rounds of testing, this startup decided to eliminate a significant portion of its product offering.
For the past year, I have been observing the early stages of new business, started here in Chicago. The technical co-founder, a close friend, has also been serving as the Head of Product, not uncommon for small companies. I have been keenly interested to watch how this team would bring their vision to market and all the twists and turns that path would take.
One interesting development occurred after they put their initial version of the product in front of their target users. The feedback was immediate and in my opinion, quite sobering. The team would seem to have gone too far in one direction and was now facing a critical decision to scale back the initial scope of its product.
What drove this decision
The originally envisioned product was intended to utilize a 3-step process. Users would complete a high-level questionnaire followed by a more detailed assessment to produce a curated product catalog where they could then make purchases in a familiar e-commerce scenario.
After developing a reasonable first pass at each of these components, the team put the product in front of a sample set of target users. The feedback was prompt and to the point: this is too hard.
The team had to make a change.
The decision: Drop an entire section of the user workflow
The (initial) users had spoken. The workflow had to change. It had to be simpler to complete. This startup team needed to step back and review the customer flow.
Plan of attack
The team ultimately decided to refactor the 3 step process and eliminate 1 of the questionnaires. After that, it would be time to test again:
- How would the new process change the results?
- Was there still a clear path to the purchase?
- What would the users find challenging about the new workflow?
Rethink the customer flow
The refactoring exercise began by decomposing the workflow process into finer grained steps, then exploring alternative paths for leading the user to the product registry at the end. The team focused on keeping what was needed most and trimming away the rest.
Redeploy the process with 1 fewer components
Having established the revised flow, the team proceeded to put the pieces back together to create a more streamlined activity for the users. The objective: a simpler process with fewer steps that produced the desired outcome.
Retest with users
Armed with an updated and improved product, the team scheduled the next round of user testing to validate their work.
Ultimately the team verified that their users could successfully complete the process without the extra steps. It takes courage to put an unfinished product in front of your customers and even more guts to go back to the drawing board when you get frank criticism.
Removing working code from a brand new product can be hard, especially if you look at the work required to build that code as having been wasteful. But I would argue that learning early leads to less waste. I applaud the startup team and encourage all product-minded people to follow their lead.