Blog Archive: Understanding the Minimum Viable Product - Vine vs Loopcam
Note: After posting this (Feb ‘13) I felt a little bad about running down Loopcam’s product.
I know first hand how hard it is to get a consumer / social app right, and on many levels failed with my own attempts via Snapr (although haha we do have a v4.0 coming soon that looks really nice).
Vine remains a great product, and I reposted this because I think it’s worth highlighting.
The idea of a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ is a big thing in the startup world.
Its often understood as being a necessary form factor only because startups have limited resources and must prioritise.
This is true, but there are other things that are just as crucial about an MVP:
Limiting the amount of features you present to your users makes your product easier to understand. If people have a clear understanding of what your product does (and why they should use it) they find it easier to use, they talk to other people about it, and your product spreads organically.
Editing a product is like editing a movie. Everything you have in there that is less awesome than the awesomest bits lowers the quality of the overall impression. If 60% of a film you watched was poorly thought out you would find it very boring.
This brings me to the comparison between Vine and Loopcam. They are different apps in that one is for short video sequences, and one is for short gif’s - but in my opinion both have the potential to be ‘the solution’ for sharing/watching moving pictures from mobile.
Video on mobile has never really worked for several reasons:
- Most clips are unwatchable - too long, bad sound, slow to play, shaky unremarkable footage, etc
- Editing videos on a phone to improve their watchability is cumbersome. Processing filters & uploading is slow.
Vine & Loopcam solve all these problems by making it easy to create short bytes of moving images & upload them in a compressed format.
Both apps also bring a little extra magic in that the clips can have a playful animation like quality.
Vine is perhaps a little more grown up in that its clips contain ‘real video’ and sound. But I think we can agree that people like gifs on the internet too.
So why has one taken off so much more than the other?
Some obvious reasons - one is a San Francisco company with the PR clout of Twitter behind it, and the other is an independent (but funded) startup out of Berlin.
But these things can only count for so much, they can’t ultimately make people use your product en-masse.
Vine is a much better MVP and it deserves its success.
Lets take a look at their main feed views side by side:
Arriving in Vine we see nothing but a single feed. Even if you don’t follow anyone yet it is populated with ‘Editor’s picks’ - so there is quality content from day one. There is a button to create a new clip, and there is a dropdown to switch to different views if you really want to explore.
You are presented with nothing but the essential - funny clips, and a button to create your own. Its as close to being perfect as anything I have seen - better even than Instagram.
Compare that to Loopcam. You have a feed view which is quite similar, but a few crucial differences:
- Clips don’t automatically play as you scroll to them, hence you often don’t bother to engage with the motion part. (Its like setting the default for clips to ‘don’t watch’)
- There is lots of extra noise, tabs at the top of the page for different feeds, find friends buttons, etc.
And then things get even worse as you flick through the different tabs (as people have a habit of doing..)
- Tab 2 has activity, but this is going to be blank for all first time users of the app, and may remain blank or empty / old for most users until the app gets a lot of social traction.
- Tab 4 has your library, handy, but also empty at first, and since you also have a feed of your own gifs on the home page this is something that maybe only needs to be looked up as part of the intent to share (tab 3)
- Tab 5 is the ultimate in boring, your settings.. Things you might never need to access more than once. (Edit, in the latest version of Loopcam tab 5 is ‘Explore’).
So there you have it. 40%-60% of the movie is boring. Any one I recommend the app is likely to flick through these tabs and think :( not awesome..
Things like this seem like simple mistakes in hindsight, but the truth is its very hard to hit the nail on the head, and sometimes you don’t know it until you see it.