Traditionally, new website projects follow a very similar path: a budget is decided on, a set of requirements are defined and the development team or agency work until all of those features are complete and ready to launch.
For some web projects, this method is perfectly fine, but it can be problematic for a few key reasons:
- It can take a long time for your new website to launch. In this timeframe, a lot can change in your industry or within your business, and if your current website isn’t delivering any value, you are stuck with it until the new site is complete.
- Your new site is launched with a full set of features without testing them in the real world with real users.
- If your new site doesn’t perform as well as you had hoped, all of your budget has already been burned.
So how can we minimise this risk?
Minimum Viable Product
Minimum viable product (or MVP for short) is more commonly associated with startups or businesses launching a new product, keen to test that their idea actually works in the real marketplace before committing too much money or time early on. However, it is also a concept that can be useful for more established businesses looking to refresh their web presence, specifically those with outdated or under-performing websites.
Developing an MVP means delivering benefit to your business earlier, by defining and launching only the highest priority features that deliver value to your users and your company as soon as possible. If your current website is not fit for purpose and/or not delivering the conversions you need, it makes sense to launch an improvement on this as early as you can, so you can start seeing the benefit much sooner. It can be very tempting to ‘overbuild’ and try to launch in the first instance with as many cool features as possible, but not only does this not guarantee a successful product, it actually delays your ability to start seeing ROI from your website.
What constitutes an MVP will vary according to the needs of your business and what your customers already expect from you, so defining what it means to you is key.
Testing with Real Users
Let’s say you’ve got a decent budget and a list of features you want your site to have. Building all of them in the first instance runs the risk of using up all that lovely budget without ever testing those features on your real-life customers.
The benefit of launching an MVP is that it allows you to get your new website out into the real world and start gathering data early on. Perhaps your new site performs really well; your customers find it easy to use, they’re getting a lot of benefits out of the features you have already launched, your conversion rate has increased and your organic traffic’s up. Great! Your new site is delivering real ROI much earlier than it would have done, and you’ve got budget left over to make it even better, based on the data you have now gathered.
Conversely, perhaps your new site isn’t proving to be as much of a splash as you hoped. Those cool features you thought your users would love aren’t setting their hearts alight. Perhaps they’re not feeling the new branding you have decided to go with. Conversion rates aren’t exactly skyrocketing. Never fear: you’ve still got budget left over to improve the situation, and now you have real data to help you understand where you went wrong. You’re in a much better situation than you would have been if you’d launched the site 6 months down the line after burning through all your budget, before discovering that it just wasn’t going to work for your customers.
Of course, undertaking market research ahead of starting your website project, as well as engaging an agency with a lot of expertise in web development and UX will give you the best possible chance of achieving your objectives, but there’s just no substitute for testing your site in the actual marketplace with actual people.
Iterate and Improve!
So, you’ve defined and built your MVP, and now it’s out in the real world. What’s next?
It’s time to look at how your site is performing. Your users may be finding one feature particularly useful, but have some feedback on how to improve it. Maybe your services pages aren’t converting as well as you’d hoped. Perhaps your users are getting all the way through to your checkout, then dropping out at the last minute.
There are a bunch of cool tools you can use to figure out what the issues are (most notably Hotjar and Inspectlet, which have a bunch of nifty features such as heat maps, surveys and session recordings), as well as your trusty Google Analytics. Once you have identified potential solutions, you can use some of that leftover budget to iterate and improve your website.
It is best to make small iterations to your website, as this will allow you to identify exactly which changes made your conversion rate go up, reduced your bounce rate or increased your time on page. It will also help you maximise your budget and deliver the most value for your buck.
If you are considering a new website, either for an entirely new product or to improve on your existing web presence, you can talk to us about whether launching an MVP would be the best fit for your business.