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  • Writer's pictureLayla Foord

Speeding Ahead: Learning Swiftly in Product Development

In the world of product development, being fast is crucial. Learning quickly and adjusting swiftly can turn a good idea into a fantastic product. During my journey, especially in founding Envato Studio, the importance of speedy learning became profoundly clear.

Start Small, Iterate Swiftly: The Envato Studio Beginning

At the start of Envato Studio, we believed in starting small and improving fast. Rather than diving into a complex platform, we kicked off with a simple webpage linked to PayPal. This allowed us to efficiently test our marketplace idea, since one of our constraints was that we couldn't jeopardise the core Envato revenue and we went live with the name Microlancer (later changing to Envato Studio).

During this initial test, we discovered something significant. Clients often wanted numerous revisions for a $50 logo, sometimes stretching the project for weeks. This finding led us to set important rules for our sellers, like defining the number of revisions included in the price.

The Envato Studio Team

However, we realised we added unnecessary complexity by setting up a formal workflow for revision management. Later, when the platform went live, most sellers preferred managing revisions through the chat facility. This taught us that we could have launched without the additional workflow and achieved similar efficiency.

Navigating Challenges: Dispute Resolution and Its Hurdles

As the platform grew, so did disputes, especially in the first six months when we reached over $1 million in revenue. We had a detailed resolution process in place, but analyzing the data showed it wasn't working as intended. The workflow we built to aid dispute resolution was, in fact, causing more hindrance than help, highlighting the dangers of over-complicating without testing assumptions.

This realization triggered a significant change in our approach to dispute resolution. We decided to test a bold idea: giving sellers an 'instant refund' button to simplify the resolution process. The outcome was eye-opening. Dispute numbers remained steady, confirming our hypothesis. However, the resolution process became much smoother, giving sellers more control and significantly reducing the need for extensive arbitration.

Only Build a Bean Counter When You Have Beans to Count

Our experiences at Envato Studio aligned with the principles put forth by Dan Olsen in the Lean Product Playbook. Olsen's

Count the beans yourself first

approach emphasizes building less, building quickly, and using an iterative Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop.

However, even when we think we're following these principles, we sometimes fall into our own traps and prematurely believe our own conclusions. So, it's crucial to stay open, experiment, and gather real data. Often, doing less can yield more.

The Path to Efficient Product Development

Successful product development demands a mindset of swift learning and rapid adjustment. Starting with a simple prototype, iterating speedily, and thoroughly testing ideas before investing significant resources are fundamental strategies.

By avoiding the dangers of expanding too quickly and over-complicating, and by embracing the philosophy of building less, we can save time, resources, and effort. This approach ultimately leads to a highly efficient product development process, resulting in exceptional user experiences and successful product outcomes.

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