Tag Archives: Minimum viable product

Hulu Wins in the Details

hulu logo

Hulu announced a new player for its popular online video site this morning and Eugene Wei, their VP of Product walks through the new functionality in a detailed blog post about the new features in the Hulu player.  If you take a few minutes to read it you’ll notice that most of the updates don’t feel “major,” or part of a “massive relaunch” as tech companies like to say when they version up on their platform. Instead they demonstrate an obsession with getting the details right. And this is where Hulu wins.

Because unlike other technology companies that ship big platform updates with lots of ballyhoo but often with “we’ll get that in the next release” rough edges, Hulu focuses on how to make the user experience the best it can be – by starting with the details.  Proving in product, it really is the little things that make a difference.

Look at some of the changes they’ve made – half of them you can’t even see, the others you’ll barely notice individually; but when you put them all together you see that Hulu is one step further out ahead of everyone else in video in delivering the world’s best online video experience.

Changes:

  • Color and background color of captions on videos
  • Ad audio level normalization
  • Variable bit-rate streaming
  • 25% increase in player size
  • Removing player controls from  the viewing area

If you’ve worked in product or with product management the level detail in these is rare.  I imagine in many technology companies these features would lose to the “edge case” argument and never get rolled in.

But when you start with the goal of creating the best online video viewing experience in the world and mean it, you see how all of these features are vital and not “edge cases” at all.  So kudos to the Hulu team for sweating the small stuff, because where you win is in the details.

Pardon the Dust « Hulu Blog.

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The Problem with Minimum Viable Product

If you work in the online space long enough you run across the idea of “minimum viable product” (MVP).  The MVP is the minimum product design/functionality that you can launch with that will give you the learning you need about your customers with the least amount of time and resources poured into the project. It’s an important concept that stresses speed to market, agile development, and iteration on the  learnings to build toward your ideal product.

Eric Ries (who I can’t recommend reading enough) has an excellent description of the MVP:

The idea of minimum viable product is useful because you can basically say: our vision is to build a product that solves this core problem for customers and we think that for the people who are early adopters for this kind of solution, they will be the most forgiving. And they will fill in their minds the features that aren’t quite there if we give them the core, tent-pole features that point the direction of where we’re trying to go.

So, the minimum viable product is that product which has just those features (and no more) that allows you to ship a product that resonates with early adopters; some of whom will pay you money or give you feedback.

The problem with the MVP is that too often companies launch the MVP and then don’t build the roadmap to come back and take it to the next level.  The business demands leave you with a string of unfinished, unpolished products. And while they meet the basic requirements of the early adpoting users they hamstring you trying to jump the chasm to the mainstream audience.

If you don’t have a road map in place to come back and continue to iterate on your MVPs you create a series of unpolished products which stop meeting the demands of your audience as more people outside the early adopting crowd try your product or service.

As you’re running you end up with an island of misfit toys which ultimately frustrate your customers.

While the MVP is a great concept, and keeps you from waiting too long to launch (and overdesigning for a non-existent audience) it can come back to bite you if you don’t consciously build a road map to improve it after the launch.    So if you’re launching a new online service or product and you’re using the MVP approach do you have the time line, road map and resources lined up to take it to the next level once you learn what your customers really want?

More on the MVP here, here, and here.

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