A recurring theme in software development is speed.

Whether at the scale of feature development or at the scale of the entire product, "getting it done" as quickly as possible consistently ranks as a goal.

While personally I believe in focusing on the long-term, realistically this approach isn't always an option. While I would encourage folks looking to build a product to consider their long-term strategy, a quick turnaround doesn't have to be a total mess.

Enter the MVP

At this point, it's likely that you've heard the term "MVP" or minimum viable product. If you haven't, the acronym describes a process for creating a product quickly, with the intent being to minimize losses and test hypotheses on what customers want with as little risk as possible.

Simplicity is at its core. Where most product visions include tons-and-tons of features, fancy user interfaces, or support for multiple platforms, the MVP cuts all of this away. Instead, it puts an emphasis on:

  1. Reducing the number of features your first version includes.
  2. Keeping the implementation of features simple or lean.
  3. Avoiding overcommitment to a specific idea or path.

This can be painful. If you have a product idea, it's likely that you identify as a creative type. You have lots of ideas that you want to explore and limiting yourself feels unnatural.

The Rule of 3

When it comes to shipping fast, the rule of 3 can be immensely helpful in deciding what to focus on. While you may start with 10 different ideas for what you want to build, cutting that list down to 3 will inevitably make you go faster.

Choosing which 3 to focus on depends on your product. What you want to ask is "who am I building this for?" and then consider their 3 biggest pain points. Really think! What are some of the reasons that led you to build this product in the first place? If you're building it for yourself, what stuff irks you the most and you'd like to see fixed?

It's key to understand: just because you're saying "no" now doesn't mean you can't say "yes" later.

Getting yourself down to 3 features and only committing to those 3 will ensure that you avoid a lot of indecision. Once you're committed to your 3, focus only on those, putting everything else onto a "maybe" list for later.

Heavy UX, Light UI

When I built my first product, I was incredibly naive. At the time, I had just moved to Chicago and was getting caught up in the startup craze. Doing freelance work, I needed a tool to help me manage client projects—specifically, contracts, invoices, and timelines—without losing my mind.

While I lacked the experience to build a functioning product (I knew how to do HTML, CSS, and some JavaScript), I decided to give the client-tool idea a go. While the idea itself was pretty simple, I made one grave mistake: I built a custom user interface.

A few months before shipping my first version, I'll never forget a conversation I had with another startup founder who pointed out why I was struggling to finish: "why don't you just use Bootstrap?"

And he was right. While long-term a custom UI would have been a worthwhile choice, early on and with my lack of experience, it was an incredibly poor choice. So poor, that after 4 months of development I finally shipped; but I was completely exhausted.

If you're trying to ship fast, you have to keep your UI simple. Any custom UI, any widgets, literally anything that falls under the "production value" column—custom UIs, fancy animations, flashy widgets—should be put on hold until after you've shipped.

Instead, early on, you should put an emphasis on the user experience, or the "how it works" part of the equation. This increases your chances of shipping something that people want while simultaneously limiting your investment and allowing you to move faster.

Use What You Know

Learning new things is great. Without continued learning and practice, your skills atrophy and your ability to deliver value diminishes greatly. When it comes to shipping a product fast, though, where you can get into trouble is in constantly introducing new stuff.

Especially in the JavaScript world where Clever Beagle is focused, change is the only constant. New frameworks, new tools, and new methods are introduced regularly. This can create a sense of overwhelm in developers. Questions like "how do I keep up?!" are not terribly uncommon.

When it comes to shipping your product, this is where you can have a massive advantage: just use what you know. Even if it's unpopular, even if it's not the shiny new thing. Because you're familiar with it, you'll waste zero time trying to figure it out.

Does using what you already know mean you'll be a failure? Of course not! The reality is that your customers don't care what you're using as long as you're delivering on the promise(s) you made to them.

If your goal is to truly move fast, it perfectly stands to reason that using what you know will get you there as quickly as possible.

Speed Comes From Simplicity

If speed is your goal, simplicity is your friend. Trying to build a lot of features or make things fancy out of the gate is a recipe for slowness. And that's okay! If there's anything to take away it's that going slow is perfectly fine (I personally prefer this approach). You don't have to rush—it's a choice.

If you do want to move quickly, though, force yourself—and if applicable, your team—to keep things as simple as possible.