7 lessons I learnt from the Teen Events MVP build

Some stuff I found out whilst building the Teen Events beta.

LESSON 1. You’ll validate the idea before the first line of code is written

Do you need a working prototype to validate your idea? No. Before the first line of Teen Events code had been written, the site was generating pre-registrations and Twitter followers. And lots of them. We reached out to a large number of relevant influencers with an outline of the concept and some very rough design work – and not only was the feedback fast, it was overwhelmingly positive. I knew immediately that more time and money was worth investing. You can validate an idea in the form of a sign-up page, text, design work, sketches, a prototype or a pitch. But do it before anything else. Do it today!

LESSON 2. Building meaningful relationships is incredibly labour intensive

Once our concept started getting positive feedback from influencers, I wanted to empower them to raise awareness of the site. So we created the Teen Events 50 – a set of Twitter accounts tasked with testing, promoting and experiencing Teen Events first. These people did an incredible amount of work for us – acting as a digital street team and helping to increase our pre-registrations. But the leg work to make this happen was significant. 12 mailers, 100s of emails and their replies, 1000s of tweets, all to build *meaningful* relationships. It takes lots of work to build meaningful relationships with the right people, but it’s worth it.

LESSON 3. Design and UX doesn’t matter

Actually it does. It really matters. But not necessarily in an MVP. If you clearly set user expectations to low, but your product still answers their need, then most beta users will forgive a multitude of design, UX and functional sins. But if the expectations set include improving rapidly (‘sorry it looks so shoddy, we’re working on it’) then you’re going to need to do it. Users don’t know what they don’t see. On Teen Events the account confirmation page is not even styled. The mailer (double) opt in rate on this page is 35%+ – it does its job well, and it didn’t take any more of my budget to create.

LESSON 4. There’s going to be late nights and lots of them

User event listing. Related content uploading. An invite system. All time-saving automated processes that I wanted built, but decided not to pay for. Instead these things happen through a manual interaction or process… by me. I call these late nights. For example, manually listing and communicating with 500 invitees (beta users) in the site’s admin area and over email, took a good 20 hours of work; but developing an automated invite system would’ve cost money. And that’s money I didn’t want (or have) to spend.

LESSON 5. Do it all crappily rather than some of it well

If your MVP has enough functionality to give a sense of the whole product experience, your idea’s essence, you’ve done your job. With limited development resource, I focused on having some aspect of event discovery, following and alerting [the complete Teen Events experience] rather than having one aspect built comprehensively. That’s not to say you should do lots of things shoddily, but you need to ensure that your MVP creates a good sense of the complete value proposition for the user – connect the dots and create the ohhhhh moments.

LESSON 6. Use good tools
Trello is great for listing user stories and bugs, SendGrid is great for sending emails on behalf of your app, Google Analytics takes seconds to install, Mailchimp has beautiful templates, Notable is great for snappy front end and design feedback. All of them are free.

LESSON 7. Make decisions quickly and just get the bloody thing out there

Time is your most limited resource. Value it (or the lack of it) over everything else. Make decisions quickly and remove yourself from productivity black holes by doing… something, anything. *Everything* is easier when your product exists. People ‘get it’ (or not) instantly, you get feedback and insights from analytics, and you separate yourself from everyone else with an idea but nothing to show for it. Launch when you’re still embarrassed and you won’t have launched too late.

And that’s when things get fun.

The Teen Events MVP was built by Howie

7 days on – Teen Events beta in numbers

Following on from my tweet-as-post here’s some more figures from the Teen Events MVP testing period over its first 7 days until today:

  • Have invited 500 users to test the site, of which approx. 400 accepted.
  • 150 of those double-opted into the mailer.
  • Generated 1,936 event follows from this, with one event having over 95 follows.
  • Generated 6,102 website visits between April 10th and 17th, 31% are return visits.
  • Manually listed 349 events including signings, webchats, radio and TV appearances and online events, across 6 music acts (Topics).
  • 22 user ideas, 26 tickets, 491 visits to the Uservoice.
  • Generated 5,310 pre-registrations through launchrock.com for post-testing (since before beta launch)
  • Generated 13,000 Twitter followers on @teenevents (since before beta launch)
  • 200+ content / ‘today’s events’ emails sent a day.
  • First Teen Events mailer sent – 66.9% open rate, 0 unsubscribes.
  • And lots of tweets like this.

This is Teen Events

What’s £10,000 going to get me? Probably not very much.

But it’s more than enough to build and test something that I believe will be both usable and useful for the audience, and have a good stab at delivering against some pretty ambitious aims to form a strong narrative for further investment.

It’s amazing how your perception of your product’s minimum viable product (or, absolute must haves) changes with your resources.

I’ve decided to strip back Teen Events’ functionality to its core ideas, and precisely define the aims of the product build. It’s a terrifying but incredibly liberating process – especially if you can look at your idea in its simplest form and say ‘that makes sense’. Whizzy bits, bells and whistles and overbaked functionality aren’t going to turn a cruddy idea into a good one.

THE AIMS?

Within first 30 days. Teen Events should…

  • 60% Show traction – 100,000 users
  • 20% Show repeat usage – at least 30% of users go on to use the site 4 more times
  • 10% Collect data – 5,000 email addresses into Mailchimp, 5,000 twitter followers
  • 10% Look beautiful – great UX and establish the brand Teen Events

Dear me, this makes me pretty accountable doesn’t it?

WHAT IS THE MVP?

Teen Events is…

  • Responsive HTML5 design – less finesse than a native mobile app and website, but cheaper and quicker to execute across web, app and tablet. Great for traction.
  • Users can browse upcoming and previous One Direction Events using a visual timeline. Because the timeline navigation is core to the UX.
  • Events are formed of [DATE/TIME] [TOPIC – One Direction][TYPE – what it is][LOCATION] and [LINK – for more information]. No pictures, no further information.
  • Users can post Uploads against previous Events.
  • Users can Follow Events – this publicly tweets their Follow, emails them on the day of the Event and shows them on the Event listing page as Following.
  • Users can login with Twitter only. Thinking – Twitter is passions, Facebook is friends. Quicker to tap into highly-connected fanatical ecosystems. Twitter is higher velocity.
  • That’s it.

AND HERE IT IS

Note: Start from Slide 3 and use your keyboard to navigate upcoming Events (right) and previous Events + Uploads (left).