Thoughts on bootstrapping

October 20, 2018

In this post, I am going to run through the UX, product development process and the lessons learnt through to develop my personal project VEED.

I loved making videos for my youtube channel but I was annoyed with video editing!

The process took ages, required me to use a powerful laptop and the software was far too complex and expensive. Every project starts with an idea, an ich and this was mine.

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Understanding the problem you are solving.

The most common mistake made in the early stages of product development (I have been guilty of this many times) is making assumptions without validating your thinking. Fleshing out your product design might feel productive at the time, but you are only building your own self-belief in the idea. What you should do is speak to your potential users and as them if they need the product.

There is a big difference between ideas and problems. Ideas are great but without an underlying problem, it's going to be hard to get any users for your product as there is not a pain point that you are solving for them.

Your first step should be trying to understand the problem you are trying to solve. For us, the problem we wanted to solve was to reduce the barriers to entry in video editing. We wanted to democratise video editing and make it accessible to all.

The best way to understands the problem you are trying to solve is to speak to your potential users and get a better understanding of their workflow. We initially spoke to many different companies in different industries to understand their video production needs. This gave us a good understanding oh how to position the product, what features it might have and the product they were already using and paying for.

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Researching the demand for your product

Now you understand the problem it is a good time to research how much demand there is for it. There are many ways to do this, what you are looking for is evidence that there is a need for your product. For us, we validated the demand for our product because there was already, competitors, search traffic, Post on Job boards and Forms all asking for it. We just needed to do it better than our competition and from a slightly different angle.

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One of the best tools I like to use "Ubersuggest" Keyword tool. From a simple search, I can see that the search term "Video editor" gets "673,000" searched and "Online video editor" gets "33,100" every month. This told us that hundreds of thousands of people are looking for online video editing products.

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We decided to focus on short-form video editing as this format of content was exposing on social. We thought that legacy video editing product where made form producing TV shows and films, not shot 10-second social videos.

Building the MVP

You MVP should be awful! Absolutely terrible, you should be embarrassed by it. If not, you launched way too late. I understand this style of thinking goes against everything you might have learnt in education and or in a corporate job.

Your goal here is not to identify and build one thing that solves your user's problems just enough that they will use it. Now get your product in front of your potential users and ask them what they think, would they use it, whats it missing. There is a good chance that you MVP does not meet your user's needs, but luckily you build this MVP overnight or better without a line of code. Take your user feedback and quickly adapt your MVP to meet your user's demands. Reince and replete.

At VEED we build about 6 MVP's they all did slightly different things and them where all SHIT. We did this to get early user feedback and understand if we were moving in the right directions.

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Acquiring users

Every startup will have a different users acquisition channel. Companies like Buzzfeed rely on social media to acquire its users while dating apps use real-world activations.

One of the best ways to find your acquisition channel is to use the website "similarweb" You can use it to find how your competition is acquiring users. For us, the best user action channel is search (and our competition too). But by no means should copy your competitors. You should keep exploring and finding a new reliable channel to acquire users.

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We tried a load of different things out, another great source of traffic for us it making free tools. For example, we have a royalty-free vertical video site called VYOO that that being thousands of users to our site every month. The site is based on our main domain meaning all the backlinks we get for that product also helps out main site.

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Data-driven UI and UX decisions

As Search was an important acquisition channel for us, we needed to think about how this would impact the structure and design of our website.

We made a page for every tool our video editor had also identified 3 different types of video our users might want to make. We then used analytics to verify out thinking. This gave us great insight into what our users wanted from our product.

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We used the tool Hotjar to identify what our users were interested in and found points of friction in our product. You can see from the screenshot above that our users were more interested in Social Media Video Editor than anything else.

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Speaking to users

Speaking to users is one of the most important things you can do and also one of the hardest. Paul Gream from Y-Combinator famously says “Make something people want”. The best way to build something that people want is to ask them what they want.

I had 15 x 30-minute video calls with a range of video creators to learn how they were using our product and what features where missing. These feedback sessions were so valuable, we learnt so much about UX, UI and features missing. From this, we developed out our product roadmap that is currently working on implementing.

If you run customer development calls, you should use them to get an understanding of who your users are, what makes them tick and more about the problem you are trying to solve for them. As a rule, you should speak 10% of the time, they should speak 90% of the time. The 10/90 rule is great as it limits your ability to ask leading questions and puts the user in charge of where the conversation goes.

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After conducting 15 of these user feedback sessions, you should have a pretty good idea about who your users are, their cat's name, what they do and the pain points they have. You most likely also have loads of new insights about the problem you are solving and how to do it.

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UI and UX are often thought of as a closed box, a product development process that is isolated from development, marketing, users assertion and long-term business goals. I would disagree. User experience is at the core of everything your product stands and should consistently evolve with your product all the time.

Update 24/2/19

VEED has now grown to 15,000 monthly users and its growing 40% month over month.

Thanks for reading

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