These days, you can’t open your browser without being bombarded with stories about how a new business managed to achieve explosive growth on a shoestring budget in seemingly no time. While all these stories of “The Lean Startup” are inspiring, how do they apply to you?
Believe it or not, many of the lessons we can learn from a lean startup model do apply to web design and development. Today, we’re going to take a look at twelve of the most important things you can learn when you go lean.
1. Prepare Yourself and Your Team
The first order of business when it comes to applying lean methodology to your web design business is to remind yourself of what it means to be lean, and how it’s going to affect your processes.
Too often, especially in design-related businesses, we spend so much time perfecting our ideas and our portfolio that we lose track of the amount of time, money, and energy we’re expending on achieving perfection. Dive right in. There will be plenty of time to perfect your projects as you move forward with them.
2. Understand Embrace MVP
Most web designers spend months taking a website from concept to fruition. If you’re thinking lean, you’re going to take your site from concept to fruition in a matter of weeks. This known as your MVP or minimum viable product.
For most developers, designing a site in this way is going to feel downright crazy. But, it’s going to provide you with plenty of opportunities to test, experiment, and retool. Developing your site in this way is going to allow you to learn a great deal about your site, your customers and the changes you need to make moving forward.
3. Throw Design Out the Window
This going to be difficult for any business to stomach, but it may be the most important thing you can learn from lean startups: forget about the fancy design. Instead, focus on rolling out your MVP as quickly as possible, and worry about the design elements later.
This will allow you to save time, and it will also allow you to implement your design ideas with the help of user feedback, which we’ll talk more about in just a moment.
4. Real User Data = Real Results
If you integrate the idea of MVP into each site you build, you’re going to garner plenty of actionable user data. Use that data to shape the changes you’re making to the site moving forward. This way, you’ll be able to address real customer concerns, practically in real time. You’ll build a better site, and it will be a site that customers love using.
5. Give Your People the Power
One of the most important lessons you can learn from lean startup culture is how to delegate to your team properly. Allow the members of your team to have some skin in the game. Treat everyone on your team as an owner of this project.
In doing so, you’ll create a culture where each member of your team is invested in the success of what you’re doing, instead of a culture where each employee feels like a cog in a machine.
6. Question the Status Quo
This goes hand in hand with our point above about giving more power and autonomy to the members of your team. Allow your team to think freely and question the processes you’ve set forth for them. You may stumble upon smarter and more efficient ways of doing things.
7. Seek Expert Help Where Needed
Applying lean startup concepts to your web design business is going to be foreign to nearly every web design business owner. Plus, it can be difficult to manage this new way of thinking against your old habits.
Instead of trying to do everything on your own, leave yourself open to expert help where you need it. There are plenty of experts who can help you launch your business based on these lean principles. Don’t be afraid to seek their help if you need it.
8. Operate as if You’re Broke
One of the guiding principles of a lean startup is operating as cheaply as possible. Fortunately, as a web design business, you don’t have to worry about many of the costs that other businesses do. Of course, there are still going to be costs associated with your business. By keeping them as low as possible, you’ll be able to reinvest some of that savings in growth.
9. Be as Frugal With Your Time as you are With Your Money
We just discussed the importance of operating as cheaply as possible. You can apply that same concept to your time as well. In this business, time is as much a currency as money is. Manage your time carefully, and work as quickly as possible. Doing so will free up time that you can reinvest when you need it most – and you’ll certainly need it when you begin implementing changes on the fly based on user feedback.
10. Always Stay on Your Toes
Virtually every developer has experienced this: You put hundreds of hours into a project only to find out that the design you’ve created doesn’t gel with the needs of your client, or your client’s customers.
One of the major advantages of a lean startup is their ability to pivot on a dime to address issues with the product. By applying this principle, you’ll be able to do the same, which will save you countless hours and money in the process.
11. Your Work Never Ends
Remember, even when you’re done, you aren’t done. Regardless of how well developed each of your projects is, treat each one as if it’s ongoing. That way, you’ll be able to implement feedback and make continuous improvements to your sites. Whether you’re working on your first iteration of a new property or evaluating a property that was build five years ago, there’s always going to be room to improve your product.
12. Know When You’re No Longer Lean
Operating lean is a means to an end. Eventually, you’re going to reach a point where you’ve implemented all of the relevant feedback you received, and you have a product that you feel confident in. When you reach this point, it’s time to shed the idea of being lean, and instead focus on scaling up, and providing the perfect version of your product to the client.