Iterating on my MVP for a year, got to know my users, ready for open beta, but web app is clunky. Does it pay to trash and start over?

I’m a non-developer founder who outsourced the MVP. Throughout the past year I’ve added features, and removed unwanted ones. I’ve been through many freelancers and the code is almost completely undocumented. Everything is all over the place, and the web app is buggy. I can barely figure out how to use it, and the admin panel is extremely confusing. I can’t focus on customers because I keep trying to further the product.

From a developer perspective, does it pay to trash everything and start new? Or use the existing platform and clean it up? The app is going to be completely redesigned soon, and I have no idea what’s best for the future. I need a reliable platform that will allow me to focus on business.

Has anyone had any experience with this? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

  • It doesn’t sound like much of an MVP if you’ve been focusing on product features rather than on clients.

    If I were you, I’d clean the product up, leaving it a real minimum functionality, and I’d start working on getting clients to try it, and getting their feedback before doing any redesigns or anything at all. Learn from your clients, see if they find value in what you do, and then hire a good developer, get a technical co-founder, or get a good programming agency that does exactly what you need, and not a clunky thing full of needless features.

    • OP here. Thanks for the feedback. I have had clients go through and give their feedback, which has been positive. That’s why I removed unneeded features, and added some things that would make the service a lot easier. The “feature set” itself isn’t huge, it’s actually slim.. but the site itself is bloated from the many revisions made.

      Do you think it pays to clean up all the bugs bugs and revamp everything, or start fresh?

  • If you started fresh do you have a clear idea what the core features would be to really get the traction? If you do then go ahead an pair down the features and start a new version. There’s a well known book called the Mythical Man Month where the author advocates throwing away your version 1 since its mainly used to get to product market fit – and in your case since its all messed up, I’d advocate it.

    • I’ve done this, but I’m the developer. I junked a python prototype that was build using contract resource who decided to use his own proprietary framework. It had bugs; I wasn’t about to fix his code nor use something no one has heard of and not publicly available. It pains me that consulting companies charge so much for buggy results. Sure my code is ugly inside but it’s always thoroughly tested and bug free. UX is the most important thing. I advise you to get yourself a technical co-founder. Saves you a lot of cash and get’s you a lot more product out the door.

      • Its easy to say “get a technical co-founder”, just like its easy for VC’s to harp “its the team”. In reality its a lot harder to get competent technical developers to join an unproven startup.

        My usual advice is to find a technical friend or someone you can trust and get them to vet a good contractor/consultant (possibly offshore). I’ve hired various offshore programmers in the past and I’ve always thoroughly vetted them with small but meaningful projects before hiring them and it has for the most part worked for me.

  • Two things.

    If the market is big enough and early enough that your ‘product’ can serve as a concept demo, then clean it up and use it that way for early investors.
    Understand and act on the inherent limitations of the whole ‘MVP’ concept. In the 20-something led startup world the MVP has become synonymous with the term ‘shit sandwich’.

    Iterative development is not an excuse to waste a customers time on debugging your product nor is it a rationalization for treating customers or early users like guinea pigs in a lab experiment. It’s a con that has been validated by VCs and incubators as some kind of junk science for their own reasons, i.e. identify early markets to ‘bank on’ and placing multiple bets on those markets knowing full well most startups will fail.

    The basic answer is to stop being a pack follower and begin filtering the BS from so-called thought leaders and revert back to proven best practices in product management.

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