Cool technology, boring product
When I joined Angry Lapdog as their first employee and designer, the company had begun building their product around a core technology it was developing in-house. Baked into the product, was a strong business story for leveraging their IP, but missing, was a convincing and focussed value proposition for the consumer.
How do you determine what's valuable?
After promptly identifying and communicating the weakness in the product's foundation, I began leading the team through a series of exercises to generate and identify a value proposition suitable for the product and company.
We began by developing a set of personas representing people we wished to target. With those in hand, we generated and synthesized many potential value propositions through a handful of brainstorming sessions.
After narrowing down the list of propositions to a select viable few, we needed a way to confidently choose the best one. Given that we were a validation-driven startup, adhering to LEAN principles, we devised a low-cost test that would enable us to measure the attractiveness of each value proposition to the consumer. I designed a series of "launching soon" pages, each one distinctively messaging a unique value proposition. Using a SEM campaign, we drove visitors to the various landing pages, watching how many showed interest for each value proposition presented.
When the tool fails, make it better
The test generated data, but we were having trouble getting statistically significant winner in our variant set. Did we need a much larger sample size? Was the messaging of one or all the variants ineffective? We decided it was time for another approach.
I theorized with the team, if we could create variants that not only messaged each value proposition, but actually enabled people to "experience" its benefit, we could significantly strengthen the feedback signal from the test participant. This would help reduce our margin of error, while potentially increasing the statistical significance of the resulting data.
The team bought in. I proceeded to design three unique experiences. Each one had just enough interaction, feedback, and UI polish for the end user to "believe" and "feel" the value which we were attempting to deliver. I also engineered a simple prototyping framework with which we could rapidly deploy and remotely simulate each experience to the unbeknownst test participant. This approach enabled us to design experiences freely and quickly, with minimal engineering investment, so that we could focus our energies on shaping and identifying the right value proposition for the consumer.
It worked! This time around, our resulting data from the new test painted a much clearer picture. Besides having more confidence in our understanding of the consumer's response, we also gained insight into the feasibility of executing against certain value propositions, which for an early stage startup, is easily as important as offering the right product. And to boot, we had a working prototype of our chosen product direction which we based future iterations on.
About Angry Lapdog Angry Lapdog was an early-stage startup founded in 2007 by the former COO of So-net M3 Japan and former VP of Value Commerce. The startup's aim was to build a Pay Per Use of Feature (PPUoF) business model by helping people discover and learn interesting functionality on the web, while enabling partners to pay for guaranteed use of functionality on their own sites. The company built out a core product and scaled to 5 full time people, but failed to secure a Series A round of funding. Angry Lapdog shut down in April of 2010, and was based in Seattle, WA.