How to Iterate Quickly: 15 Features in 15 Days

One of the major buzzwords when it comes to developing MVPs, or Minimum Viable Products, is “iteration.” You should be able to iterate through ideas for your product quickly and effectively.

However, is it always the best idea to focus on bigger features? What about the smaller features that get lost in the hectic battle of iteration?

After I launched Kobra.io two weeks ago, I had to come up with a game plan of how I was going to continue to develop new features, however I was being bombarded with requests for littler features that I had left out of the MVP on purpose.

I even left out the ability to name files that you created on Kobra, which seems like a pretty obvious feature to have.

The purpose of a MVP is to test whether or not your idea works. And people were using the new version of Kobra way more than I anticipated. Over 450 accounts have been registered, over 3000 files have been created, and 20% of visitors actually wind up collaborating on a file (woah!).

So you’ve built an MVP, it seems to be working, now what?

There were three primary things that I wanted to focus on now that I determined Kobra could possibly be a success:

  1. Polish off the MVP with small usability features that were left out.
  2. Add larger features that would take time to develop.
  3. Focus on conversion rates from free to pro members.

All three of these areas are majorly important, and all three have pros and cons associated with them.

Polishing off the MVP will give off a more professional vibe, and will drastically reduce the amount of “Hey, I want to name files.” emails that I receive. Adding larger features would give me a better edge against competitors, but they require a rather large amount of time to develop and I have a day job. Larger features also have a higher risk associated with them, what if people don’t use the new feature, or it isn’t programmed correctly? Focusing on conversion rates would make me more money, but then I wouldn’t be focusing directly on the product.

Another way to look at this is that polishing off your MVP is a concrete process, you know what the simple features you left out are, and you have emails coming in asking you for specific smaller features. Larger features aren’t concrete, especially this early in the game when you don’t have many users. And conversion rates definitely aren’t concrete, as you product is still in its infancy.

So, from there, it seems reasonable that we should polish off the MVP a little bit.

15 Features in 15 Days

So I decided to program and add 15 features to Kobra in only 15 days, and I encourage you to do the same. Many people told me I was crazy, “How can you responsibly add 15 features in 15 days?”

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But I’m not talking about big crazy new features, I’m just talking about polishing off the product, about making the user experience just a little better. But how does “15 features in 15 days” fit into the big picture? Here’s my game plan:

  1. Add 15 features in 15 days to polish off the MVP
  2. Redo the landing page and add a few small things that should increase the conversion rate of both registrations and pro users.
  3. Program one bigger feature.
  4. See where we’re at, and start this whole process over again.

The 15 features that I decided to add where all based on things that I knew I left out on purpose, and smaller feature requests from users. Here’s the features I chose just so you can get an idea of how small I’m talking:

  1. User Dashboard w/ list of created files.
  2. Naming URLs / Files
  3. Easier way to change Syntax Highlighting
  4. Copy Share Link to Clipboard Button
  5. Password Protect URLs
  6. Place most common languages at top of syntax highlighting list.
  7. Tab Spacing Settings
  8. Remember previous Syntax Highlighter choice
  9. Link Highlighting / Clicking in Chat
  10. Chat Notifications
  11. Ability to collapse sidebar
  12. Adjustable sidebar width
  13. Detect video/voice capabilities and only turn on ones that are available.
  14. Timestamps in chat
  15. Add files you’ve viewed, but not created, to User Dashboard

I’m currently working on #8, but if you notice, I actually skipped #5. Why? Because it was taking to long to program. I was trying to limit myself to one hour per feature, and I had already been trying to figure out how to do #5 for 3 hours. So what did I do? I moved on.

Sometimes features will slip into your “short list” that aren’t actually short. Instead of wasting time trying to figure them out now, move on and focus on polishing off the product as whole.

After you’re done with this process, then come back to that bigger feature and see if you can get it done in a reasonable time.

Polishing off Kobra should give a better first impression to users, and allow me to gain more users quickly. That is the primary goal right now. Then I’ll go through the iterative process again.

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So I’d like you to take a step back for a few minutes, and ask yourself, is what you’re working on truly the most important thing you can be doing right now? If you’re still in the early stages of your MVP, have you determined whether or not you’re getting enough traction to add that next big feature?

Make sure your prioritize whether or not you should be working on “polish” (smaller) features, larger features, or customer acquisition and conversion.

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  • http://justinmcgill.net/ Justin McGill

    Great stuff Matt. Loved seeing your list as you are working through them. One hour per feature is pretty impressive. Look forward to seeing an update to this after the 15 days!