The Incremental Design, 10 Surprising MVPs and Their Current Versions

I remember the day when we launched the first version of UXPin – The UX Design Platform at the end of 2011.

Exhausted after hours of final tests, fixes and improvements, I thought I’d pass out at my desk. The sleep, though, didn’t come that night. My veins were full of adrenaline and my mind full of thoughts about success that, so I thought, was just around the corner. Looking back, neither the success was immediate nor the excitement about the first product version appropriate. In truth, we needed months of constant iterating on the product to really nail it and get to the solid traction. The path has been long, and the original UXPin is nothing short of embarrassing — but at least we shipped! I can’t help wondering why I was so excited two years ago. Below, I’ve shared my insights.

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Launching a product is usually far from rational. Emotional attachment to our own work biases our judgment and creates surreal conviction that with the first push of code to the servers we can really change the world. In reality, a launch is just the beginning, the point when people know you merely exist, not that you add value to their lives — that takes time.

Admitting to this truth could easily destroy founders’ morale. In our defense, we tend to develop a peculiar kind of tunnel vision: a definitive set of assumptions about users’ needs and product requirements to address them leading to a simple goal of “launching the damn thing”. Nothing else matters.

That approach, although suboptimal, leads to — purposefully or accidentally — building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and starting the cycle of incremental improvements from getting real user feedback. Simply put, version one of the product is highly limited. And the limitations are naturally set by lack of knowledge about users and as much as they are set by time and resource limitations in building a more advanced product that will come in versions two, three, four, and beyond. It takes time and iterations to learn.

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Take a look at examples of 10 wildly successful products below. They made a tremendous progress since their launch and became a living proof that the Lean Startup mantra “launch, learn, iterate” is a powerfully effective way of building a successful product.

1. Mac OS 1984 vs. Now

Mac OS was a revolution right from the start. After 30 years, the design looks surprisingly consistent with the newest version of Mac OS X. This consistency suggests how mature the design process must have been at Apple back in 1984. Setting standards for 30 years? That’s extremely impressive. Still, the arrival of Spotlight, Dock and hundreds of other features makes Mac OS what it is today – probably the best operating system on the market. The number of design iterations that Apple team went through is certainly close to ‘countless’.

mac os at launch design

Mac OS 1.0, 1984

macos design today

Mac OS 10.9.2, 2014

2. Ebay 1997 vs. Now

From a simple listing of products available on auctions to the biggest community-based marketplaces on Earth. From a greyish nightmare to the beautiful current version of eBay. The eBay team has undeniably learned many lessons about their customers over the past 17 years.

eBay, Homepage, 1997

eBay, Homepage, 1997

ebay design today

eBay, Homepage, 2014

 3. Netflix 1997 vs. Now

With millions of subscribers, production of great tv series such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Netflix is far from the DVD delivery business that they used to be. Their design went a similar way. Instead of a leaflet-like design with weird icons, Netflix’s new design is a highly graphical beauty that’s strictly focused on the experience of watching great movies on the spot with a seamless streaming experience. Of course over the years people got familiar with this kind of experience, which let Netflix use it as the main mental-model they refer to. One thing is obvious, though, their iterative approach reached the level of a beautiful and extremely useful design.

Netflix design at launch

 

Netflix, Homepage, 1997

Netflix design today

Netflix, Homepage, 2014

 4. Google 1997 vs. Now

Google’s approach to design doesn’t get old. Simplicity, speed and focus above anything else. Still though you can easily notice that last 17 years brought purity of the form that makes Google probably the most recognizable website on Earth.

Google design at launch

Google, Homepage, 1997

 Google design today

Google, Homepage, 2014

 5. Apple Keynote 2003 vs Now

For years Apple Keynote was rather iteratively adjusted before it was revolutionized. Last year’s changes pushed this product to another level of usefulness, showing even after 10 years a digital product can be revitalized through thoughtful design.

Keynote design at launch

Apple Keynote 1.0, 2003

Keynote design now

Apple Keynote 6.1, 2014

 6. Facebook 2004 vs. Now

The first version of Facebook (originally known as The Facebook) looked extremely geeky, boring and unpolished. Yet it won students hearts and soon after – almost the entire planet. Changes that were introduced on the way turned a relatively simple social network into a robust platform that we’re addicted to today.

Facebook design at launch

Facebook, Homepage, 2004

 Facebook design today

Facebook, Homepage, 2014

 7. Youtube 2005 vs. Now

Take a look at Youtube back in 2005 and today. Do it again. And again. They’ve come a long way, and their ultimate success wasn’t that obvious right at the beginning.

Youtube design at launch

Youtube, Homepage, 2005

Youtube design today

Youtube, Homepage, 2014

8. Twitter 2006 vs. Now

It’s hard to recognize today’s Twitter in the Twttr from 2006. Through a series of iterations Twitter changed everything. Branding, product, design… nothing remained untouched. Seems like the MVP of Twitter has been used mainly as a mentioned learning platform.

twitter design at launch

Twitter, Homepage, 2006

 Twitter design now

Twitter, Homepage, 2014

9. Asana 2011 vs. Now

Asana was launched after two years of development in a stealth mode. The time has not been wasted. The basic structure of the interface has remained intact since the start and the following iterations were focused on adjusting the details of the experience to early adopters. As a result today’s Asana is an extremely consistent product. Well done.

asana design at launch

Asana, Dashboard, 2011

Asana design today

Asana, Dashboard, 2014

 10. UXPin 2011 vs. Now

Our MVP, the cause of my “launch fever,” looks embarrassing today but it served us well. Without this first design, made in a couple of weeks during off-hours, we wouldn’t have learned exactly what our users expect from us. UXPin used in companies like Microsoft, NBC and RedBull couldn’t exist without this ugly beginning. We share this story with thousands of other companies out there. Remember: great products are not built overnight.

UXPin design at launch

UXPin, Dashboard, 2011

UXPin design at launch

UXPin, Dashboard, 2011

UXPin Design Today

UXPin, Dashboard, 2014

Marcin Treder is a design enthusiast who literally lives for creating best user experience possible. After years working as UX Designer and UX Manager he focused on his own startup UXPin - The UX Design App, that provides tools for UX Designers all over the world and was recently voted the best startup in Central and Eastern Europe. You can follow him on Google+.

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