How to Define an MVP Feature Set

How to Define an MVP Feature Set Using the Pareto Principle

When selecting which features to include in your Lean Startup-based product’s first release, it’s important to make sure that each feature’s impact is measurable against your business goals. This article defines a process to produces and define a list of features with the highest impact on your goals and the least impact on your budget.

What is an MVP?

In the Lean Startup world, MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. Conceptually, this represents that the product is constructed with only the most required features to get into production and start soliciting customer feedback.

Why build an MVP?

The key word is feedback. You could spend your entire budget on a huge product based on a grand, yet untested vision only to find out that a large percentage of the features you thought were so necessary go completely unused. Approaching the release as an MVP allows you to make many small bets instead of one large one; the MVP is your first small bet which you will then follow with subsequent iterations – each of which is based on measurements and feedback.

What is a KPI?

The first step is to define your Key Performance Indicators – or KPI’s; these are the metrics used to measure your product’s ongoing success rates. Money in the bank is always a good sign, but initially the metrics may lean more towards indicators of adoption and use.

Some sample metrics may include:

  • The number of new user signups over the last 30 days
  • Number of repeat logins over the last 30 days
  • Average session time over the last 30 days
  • Number of minutes spent using a particular area of the product in the last 30 days
  • The number of shares on social media over the last 30 days

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, states that, within a given system, you will typically find that 80% of the results are a direct consequence of 20% of the efforts.

For example:

  • 80% of your production comes from only 20% of your staff
  • 80% of your products usage is across only 20% of its features
  • 80% of your profit comes from only 20% of your customers
  • 80% of a city’s traffic is on only 20% of its roads

The bottom line is that focusing on only the top 20% of a prioritized list allows you to mitigate the law of diminishing returns.

How do you define an MVP feature set?

To get started, create a spreadsheet with the following columns:

  • Feature (Feature is the name of the specific software feature.)
  • Cost (Cost is the total estimated cost to implement that feature.)
  • KPI (KPI is the name of the primary Key Performance Indicator affected by this feature.)
  • KP Factor (KP Factor is a discretionary value between 1 and 100 indicating how much this feature is perceived to contribute towards its primary Key Performance Indicator.)
  • Value (Value is a formula =(KP Factor/Cost)*100)

The entire process hinges on the output of the Value formula. What the formula tries to do is come up with a number that shows how much bang-for-the-buck a feature delivers based on its cost and ability to drive KPI.

Determining the KP Factor takes some interpretation. For example, let’s say you have a feature called “Social network sharing” and one of your KPI’s is the number of social network shares: this could presumably have a KP Factor of 100. A feature like “User account creation/login” affecting the “new signups” KPI may be 100 also, while something like “Dropbox integration” may not perceivably affect a KPI at all.

To build the feature set, go to your spreadsheet and list all the desired features for your product, their estimated cost, KPI and estimated KP Factor (the Value should calculate automatically). When your spreadsheet is complete, sort by the Value column. Eliminate any line items close to the top that are outside of the initial budget; then eliminate all but the top 20% of the features. What is left is a good representation of your MVP feature set.

Although this technique may not be perfect due to the discretionary nature of the KP Factor and the impact of budgetary constraints, it should prove to be a useful tool in helping to define a Minimum Viable Product that is capable of driving your business towards its primary goals.

Why your business needs Google+ and how to get started

Many people still think Google+ is the underdog of social networks – the one network that isn’t quite worth investing the time and effort to create and maintain a presence on. However, recent reports have Google+ slated to have tremendous growth in the coming year. How? Google has been actively growing the network beyond the existing volume of Google service users (gmail, google drive, etc), Google+ recently integrated with YouTube – providing more potential users, and another great reason to give the social network greater consideration. Beyond the service improvements, the existing advantages of Google+ go far beyond mere social networking; being active in the social network can also lead to improvements in your website’s search engine ranking.

I know…I know you are screaming inside your head right now, “please not another social network to manage!”, and I completely understand. I, too, feel that it is difficult to integrate another social media network into your marketing strategy when you are already utilizing so many others. However, I truly do believe that Google+ is worth the time and effort – after all, improving website search engine ranking is priceless.

Here are just some of the ways you can prepare your business or personal website to take advantage of Google+

Share your content on Google+

This may seem like the most obvious thing, but it’s the simplest way to get started in any social network. Connecting and sharing via many alternative social networks doesn’t mean that you should forsake Google+. If you do, you will be missing out on a tremendous opportunity to optimize your content for Google’s search engine and to improve your overall page ranking. For example, if you share your website’s content on Google+, Google has been show to index that content at a higher priority.

When posting your content to Google+, it’s also important to consider the content’s keywords. Specifically, Google+ makes the first sentence of Google+ posts a part of what is called the title tag. The title tag is a piece of code in the structure of a website that has a much higher weight when it comes to search engine ranking. Keep this in mind when posting content to ensure you are using the keywords important to you – this is just one simple way to take advantage of Google search engine optimization when utilizing Google+.

Connect your website to Google+

I get it – you’re like thinking, “Wait, what? If I’m already sharing to Google+ how do I connect to it – and what does that even mean?” 

Well, if you connect your website to your Google+ page, your search information is improved in Google’s search results. Search results will show profile pictures and Google+ business page information where appropriate. Adding this information to search results has huge benefits: it improves your business or individual credibility and personalizes your search results, making them stand out from the crowd of others who are not taking advantage of Google+. Essentially, it’s an automatic step up on the non-Google+ using competition.

The connecting process involves adding some code to your website and linking to your website from Google+. Keep in mind that, for Google to actually add your information to search results, you need to reach a certain ranking.

Listening with Google+

If your content is on Google+, you can monitor who is saying what about you and/or your business. Beyond keeping a general ear out, you can also easily set up alerts to notify you when anyone is saying anything about you and/or your business.

As a business owner, you know that it is critical for you to be aware of any feedback, positive or negative. In fact, addressing negative feedback can often lead to positive results. Negative feedback unfortunately is often more recognized and showing that you are aware – and that you care about your customers – really can make a difference.

Controlling the content you create on Google+

Google+ allows you to create content quite easily and also allows you to edit it afterwards. While Twitter, Facebook, and the like offer limited content editing, Google+ allows you to edit just about everything; this makes it easy to go back and update existing content with additional information when needed.

Google+ is another tool

The key component of any marketing on the Web is to connect and to provide the content that will help you to earn new connections and maintain an interesting dialogue with your existing connections. Google+ offers all the tools needed to accomplish these goals, and if your inclination is to stay away from Google+, a little research will make you understand quickly that you can leverage the tool effectively to, not only connect with your audience, but to increase your search ranking, and exposure.

If you haven’t yet made Google+ a part of your social media marketing strategy, it is time to seriously consider doing so. Google+ will can help you to build credibility, position yourself as a subject matter expert, and strengthen your professional reputation.

DropTask A Visual Todo List for iOS App Review

droptaskLike many software developers, I typically have a myriad of tasks and to-do’s on my list each day – and, from time to time, I find it difficult to manage all of those tasks. Couple that with having kids and a home to take care of and things can get pretty overwhelming… As a result, I’m always looking for some kind of tool to help me manage my day-to-day activities.
I’ve tried several of the “To-Do” list applications out there, but generally find myself just using either iOS Reminders or Google Docs to maintain my list instead of the app. However, I did recently try an app that caught my interest and has stood out from the rest: DropTask.

DropTask is an iOS application that is accompanied by a rich-Web application to give you easier, more time-optimized control over what day-to-day activities you need to complete. You can either build projects and tasks from within the iOS application or through the Web interface – a nice feature because it gives you the flexibility to organize conveniently from whichever device is most accessible to you. I can’t tell you how convenient it is be able to start my Monday morning off setting up projects and tasks from my desktop – but then being able to later modify those tasks or add new ones from the mobile app.

With a seamless Google integration, your options for team collaboration and assignments become convenient and fluid. You can log into the app using your primary Google account to add people from your Gmail contacts directly to the application; this feature enables you to easily manage and assign tasks to other individuals, bolstering collaboration efforts. The app also offers integrations with your Google Calendar and Google Drive, so attaching documents and sending your daily activities to your calendar become part of this rich user experience.

Integration tools aside, the thing that most made DropTask stand out from the rest is the excellently designed Graphical User Interface. Within a project, you can create Groups which are represented by circles. You can then easily drag a new task in and out of these circles with a lovely Drag and Drop interface. As you click on each task, you are provided with a task navigator that allows you to manipulate data relative to the tasks such as:

  1. Due Dates
  2. Assign Resources
  3. Set Priorities
  4. Upload files directly from your Dropbox, Google Drive, or your Desktop
  5. Create subtasks
  6. Add Comments
  7. Add Tags
  8. Set Task Priority


By using this feature to easily manipulate tasks and groups of tasks, I found that I could quickly set up my to-do list for the entire week – and it only took me a matter of minutes.

Once I had created my set of tasks for the week, I then opened the app on my phone to find that everything immediately synchronizes to the iOS application; this on-the-fly synchronization meant that I could access and use my To-Do list wherever and whenever I needed it.

As far as negatives go, the only thing I would mention is that the iPhone and iPad apps require separate purchases and the fact that I couldn’t use them universally across all my devices was a bit troublesome. Also, I really believe that the application should allow you to schedule start and end times for each of the tasks, sending push notifications when the task is about to start; having to manually manage the state of the tasks was a bit cumbersome and, because there is no reminder or prompt, I found it a bit too easy to forget to mark a task as In Progress or Completed.

All in all, I find this to be an excellent Time Management Application that really has proven to be quite helpful with managing all of the items that I have to do in any given day. I found it easy to use and the uniquely designed user interface made for efficient management of my daily tasks. I would definitely recommend DropTask for any users who find themselves relying on Reminders, Google Calendar, and Spreadsheets to manage their day-to-day activities.

Responsive Web Design simplified and 3 reasons why your site should support it

Responsive Web Design: You may have heard the term in passing, or have come across it while looking into updating your website – but what is it, exactly?

Responsive Web Design, often abbreviated RWB, is a method of designing and coding Web content in a way that allows it to automatically configure its layout to provide the best experience possible based on the type of device it is being viewed on.

Think of your website like a unique restaurant that requires its patrons to use keys to enter; in order to enter the restaurant, you must have a functioning key – but if you don’t have the right key, you can’t gain access. By limiting the number of keys that work, the restaurant has limited its potential customers and revenue.

By slightly changing its design scenario to use a lock that responds to all keys, the restaurant can keep its unique novelty approach, while also opening its services to all potential clientele; they use whatever key they have accessible to them.

Responsive Web Design is like the master lock that makes all keys work – it “unlocks” a website to all mobile devices. In short, it is a way of designing a website so that visitors can easily read it, regardless of the device they are using to access the internet.

How do we Make a Site Responsive?

We won’t go into too much detail; however, the basic premise begins with us making the layout of the pages conform to a fluid grid – this grid bases the size of each content container on a percentage of the view size. By using a fluid grid, the site then adapts to allow the content to flow around each other based on the width of the browser – rather than on a static grid size. Think of this grid as a belt that can adapt to various screens.

Another core technology we use involves Cascading Stylesheets (the latest of this technology is often called CSS3), which allow the browser to load different layouts, or even completely different designs, based on the type of media the page is currently being rendered on. We can even specify a print stylesheet to alter your website for those printing a Web page. This means that the sizes, positions, and colors of elements on a Web page – and, more importantly, their visibility can be changed based on criteria we decide.

The site you are on now is responsive; you can test it out by resizing the browser from full screen to very small. As you resize your browser, the website will adapt – you will likely see a couple of different “jumps” in which the screen adjusts its layout to the perceived target medium.

During the “jumps,” certain aspects of the page may disappear as the content area shrinks and you will most likely see how, as the rows in the grid system start to shorten, the blocks of content flow around one another; they make the content longer to account for the lack of width.

These are just a few of the things we do to adapt a website design to make it responsive. Often the changes go deeper – more to come on that as we explain why your site should support this technology.

A Deeper Look Into What Makes a Site Responsive

In our above analogy, the restaurant owners essentially made their restaurant unaccessible to you; by making their restaurant flexible, they expanded accessibility for all; this flexibility and adaptability is the heart of Responsive Web Design. Accessibility entails quite a bit more than simply ensuring your content is readable, though – let’s take a deeper look.

1. Not just mobile friendly; universally device friendly

The internet isn’t just about designing for a computer screen or even just for mobile anymore (the hot must-have of yesterday); today’s world finds a multitude of different types of devices (iPads, Android tablets, e-readers, xbox, etc.) with different screen sizes, Web browsers, and hardware visiting your website.

Remember a website is the window into your business – and to best set yourself up for success, you need to make sure that your customers have a good view no matter what device they are using to visit your site. The solution to being device friendly is a Responsive Web Design that adapts based on the browser, screen size, and even based on the hardware itself.

2. If you are a business selling goods or services, a Responsive Design opens your company to a large market.

Not only are people using a mobile device to visit websites, but many are buying from the same device. A recent Google study found that 67% of customers were more likely to buy if the website they visited was mobile friendly.

Mobile friendly doesn’t just mean that the content scales to the screen size, but that the right content is easily accessible to the user. This navigability and smart coding is where Responsive Web Design comes in…

With standard design, Web designers used to design an entirely different website for mobile devices – but, thankfully, gone are the days of requiring a separate site for mobile – and having to potentially deal with duplicate content and strange back end configurations. Now, with RWD, your website can maintain the same content adapting it across desktop, tablet, mobile, and other form factors – without duplication or formatting issues. It’s a huge time and money saver – not to mention sanity saver.

3. Improved performance.

Web and mobile users are fickle; if loading the site via cellular service, there is a likelihood that the site will take some time to load – and the longer it takes to load, the less likely that visitor is to actually make it to your site (they’ll go back and look elsewhere).

Your website may have image sliders that showcase your products or some other visual effect that requires large amounts of content to be downloaded and then loaded into the browser. This all takes time, and can often use a good chunk of a device’s hardware.

Responsive Web Design improves the image load time, minimizing the load time for your full site, improving your site’s performance as a whole and enhancing your visitor’s experience.

Mail Pilot for Mac Review

MailPilot is a new email client that was initially released on iOS following a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. Although the app launched with high hopes and promises, the iOS version has, unfortunately, been plagued with numerous bugs and quirks that have yet to be fixed as of this writing. To MailPilot’s benefit, the app developer does seem to be actively working towards bringing the iOS app into stability, as I have seen a steady set of releases since its launch.

Looking past the iOS version, MailPilot recently released a Mac version – and, being ever on the hunt for the best email client, I jumped at the opportunity to try it out.

Spoiler alert: Mail Pilot is just a fast, and clean email client. Review done.

In all seriousness, Mail Pilot, like its iOS counterpart, is a subtle shift in how one handles email. It goes the way of other mail clients, like Mailbox and Boxer, in that you organize when you answer. The client works almost like a reminder for email and it does so quickly; besides the now defunct Sparrow Mail, I haven’t encountered any mail client for Mac that works as quickly. The initial launch of the app on your device and initial indexing does take the typical required period of time, but after that it’s smooth sailing.


Now, let’s go over some of the functionality… One of my favorite Mail Pilot features is the straightforward approach to individual emails – four keyboard shortcuts get you a long way. (spacebar: deletes, S: sets aside an email, R: schedules for a later date, L: add to a list)

This easy-to-use feature allows me to stream through my email quickly and efficiently. I can think about my email as a task or a communication that needs to be accomplished so that I can then determine when in my schedule to address the issue.

For example, when I receive a work email over a non-working weekend, I can tell Mail Pilot to prompt me on Monday to address the email or, if it’s a non-essential email, like something I want to read later that day, I can set it aside, and review my “asides” at my own convenience (excellent for those subscription emails or news website alerts).

Lists are nothing fancy at the moment, but they are essentially folders (or labels) that I can use to organize my email. The only issue with them is you can actually remove email from them when you complete (archive) an email – so lists are more of a temporary device and should be thought of more as “to-do” folders than an actual filing system.

Of note, lists do remove the emails from your account view, but not from the inbox view. I’ve used them for projects that we are working on and have found this feature helpful in organizing and prioritizing – I simply use the lists to store any emails containing information I want easily accessible and then, once the project is over, I move them all to complete and delete the list.

Biggest issues

The search is perhaps Mail Pilot’s biggest fault; rarely have I been able to find the email I need with the search function. It’s sluggish at best and often takes a significant length of time versus searching on gmail itself. Overall, it’s a bit of a quirky search that doesn’t always work as expected – but recently, I have noticed an improvement.

I tested the app all through the beta and search has improved immensely over the course of Mail Pilot’s development; however it’s definitely not as fast or responsive as I’d like. I’m hoping they will work on improving the search functionality in the coming months.

My other major issue with it is the lack of options. For example, I really want to change the default highlight color (red). I understand that red is the color of their app icon, but it’s definitely not a soothing or aesthetically pleasing color to be faced with when you are diving into tackling your daily email. Just allow us to tweak that color already! And some more preferences (default fonts, font sizes, etc.) in general would be welcome improvements.

The verdict

Overall, Mail Pilot has some promise and handy features, but the app has a ways to go until it truly takes off. Like I said, it’s a quick, clean email client – but as it currently stands, that’s about it.

How I Came to Love Iteration During Product Development

You have developed the perfect product development plan. You have drawn the numbers, looked at every possible flaw, examined the audience. Yet, things go awry; your perfect plan goes unnoticed by the intended audience or, worse yet, there is a glitch in the actual product itself.

It happens to the even the best at some point – and it will happen to you. Count on it.

Help! The Sky is Falling!

Even some of the biggest, most well-known companies have their share of flops and internal or customer-led resistance – and without them, they may not have risen to the top or maintained their tenure – for in every moment of reluctance and in every flop, there is a lesson to be learned.

For example, consider Apple’s iPod – a device common place today. But in 2001, this technology which boasted the abilty to store 1,000 songs digitally – a feat unheard of at the time – was met with some resistance.

Or how about the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a game changer for the commercial airline industry? Once promising huge savings in fuel and maintenance costs, this dreamboat became a bit of a nightmare for the company after huge delays and a series of unfortunate mishaps.

Of course it feels different when it happens to you – and when you first feel it happening, it may seem like the pending apocalypse of your success. However, dealing with challenges in your product’s development is often a matter of poise and perspective.

What would the consumer music industry be today had Apple not pushed past the initial criticism in 2001? There are countless stories out there of product development flops and champions… take it upon yourself to learn from others’ experiences and mistakes to glean hard-won lessons without paying the price, but also to put your own situation into perspective and gain a boost in confidence. Though many of those companies may have had to adjust Version 1.0 of their product, they did push through to successfully get their product to the marketplace.

Product Development is an Iterative Process

If, despite your product’s shortcomings, the market wants to invest their hard earned dollars into your innovative product, you are on the right track. The lesson is that you have to push past the initial sting of negative feedback to get to the end zone, for you will get there if and only IF you are willing to move the ball down the field every day as you adjust your game plan. Sometimes it is a First and 10, sometimes it is a 1/2 yard run, sometimes your plane catches on fire…but move the ball because at the end lies a touchdown.

Steven R. Covey famously coined, “BEGIN with the END in Mind.” Though this is true throughout many facets of our lives, I can’t think of a more perfect way to summarize product development. It isn’t about the failures along the way and it isn’t about the countless hours invested – while these are all important pieces along the way and you shouldn’t forget them, don’t tie your ego to an anchor that can pull you down with the ship. Make a plan to appreciate the real world feedback and to adjust the course as needed – negative feedback is just as important as positive feedback. This is your road to success.

The quickest way to failure in product development is to fear criticism and to let it cripple you. Though that product may be your “baby,” almost all ideas have room for improvement and enhancement. Feedback – positive or negative – is essential to making each product the best it can be. Don’t take it personally – use it as an opportunity: iteration is a beautiful thing.

Understanding from the beginning what your end goal is, but recognize that the route to reaching that goal is paved with uncertainty and calculated risk. As Mr. Covey said, “begin with the end in mind.”

Fail, but Fail Fast

At some point, if you stick with product development long enough, you’re bound to have a flop.

Understand the narrative of the product that you are creating.  If the narrative is not being met by the product, you may have to recognize that your product is not the solution – in which case, fail, but fail fast.

Not every product can be a home run – some times, a bad idea is just that; a bad idea. So how do you know if this is the case? For starters, go to the market and let people vote with their dollars: this is the only true measurement of your success or failure.

Understand the metrics of success but also understand and acknowledge that, despite the potential blow to your ego, you may not be a winner this round.  But there is always tomorrow…

You are far from alone in this one flop. I leave you with examples of from the dustbin of innovation history (hint: Furby made the list), compliments of CNET.

Embrace the iterative process, believe in yourself, and remember that it’s all about perspective.

How to Avoid a Domain Name Suspension

One of the most critical steps to launching a new site or email client is securing the domain – a process that is managed and overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Named and Numbers (ICANN). Although in the past, securing a domain name was a fairly straightforward process, beginning this month, there are some pretty big changes coming to the way domain names are purchased and managed, courtesy of ICANN.

Please continue reading to learn how to avoid a domain name suspension!

ICANN, the organization that oversees generic domain names (i.e. .com, .net, .info), is implementing a registrant verification system that all domain name registrars will have to support starting this year. Basically, the updates will require clients to undergo a verification process when completing a new registration or when making changes to the WHOIS contact information on an existing domain(s).

To complete verification, the registrant will need to verify the email address that they use to register generic top-level domains. Failure to verify the email address associated with your domain within 15 days will result in that domain being suspended; this means if you don’t verify within the 15-day window, your website will not launch.

How it all Works

So what exactly does all this mean? Let me break it down for you.

For new domain registrations, it means that shortly after you register a domain, you’ll receive an email with a link that you’ll need to click in order to verify that the email address you provided is valid and that it belongs to you. You must click on the link to verify the email address within 15 days of verification link receipt.

For domains that you already own, there are a couple of things that could prompt you to verify (or re-verify) your email address:

If a reminder or renewal email sent to the email address listed in your domain registration bounces, you’ll need to re-verify that email or update it to a current, functioning email address

If you change either the first/last name or email address on one of your domain registrations, you’ll need to verify the new information.

It’s a bit complicated, but you won’t always trigger the verification process when you register a new domain or make a change; it all depends on the specific circumstances surrounding your domain registration.

For example, if you already own a domain that has a verified email address and you register a new domain with the exact same first/last name and email address, that new domain is considered verified. Similarly, if you change contact information on a domain to information that exactly matches another verified domain, you won’t need to verify the change.

Keeping it Simple

In truth, this change, though important, doesn’t need to spell trouble. First, make things easy for yourself by proactively ensuring that the email address on your domain registrations is valid and able to receive email. We recommend that you contact us over the next couple of weeks to double-check that you have the right information on all of your domains and to ask any questions that you may have.