Tullamore D.E.W.’s New State-of-the-Art Distillery: The first new “from the ground up” distillery in Ireland in over 100 years

Tullamore D.E.W.'s New State-of-the-Art Distillery


Back in 1954, the distillery for Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whiskey shuttered its doors in midland Ireland’s town of Tullamore. Production didn’t cease, but rather shifted to the famed Midleton Distillery, home of many other Irish…

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Cool Hunting

The Home Depot says that up to 56 million credit cards may be at risk from hacker attack

It’s been a few weeks since home goods retailer The Home Depot confirmed that it was the victim of a hacker attack that potentially put customer credit card information at risk, and now the company is admitting just how big that breach was. According to a new press release issued today, approximately 56 million credit cards may have been compromised, even more than the 40 million that were accessed in the attack on Target last year.

The Home Depot’s investigation shows that the attack took place between April and September of this year and that it was the result of some “custom” malware that The Home Depot’s security partners say had never been used before. The company also noted that shoppers on its website were safe — the malware in…

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The Verge – All Posts

Branding designed to make it easy to find home-made products

Read more about Branding designed to make it easy to find home-made products at CreativeBloq.com


Could this be the beginning of a branding overhaul for well-known stores?







Creative Bloq

10 inspiring photographers to follow on Instagram

Read more about 10 inspiring photographers to follow on Instagram at CreativeBloq.com


If you’re looking for visual inspiration then Instagram is an obvious place to head. With more than five million photos being uploaded every hour, there’s no shortage of images to choose from. But that enormous variety also presents its own problem. How do you sort through the billions of average images to find the gems in the rough? Well, one you thing can do is to follow the right Instagram users. Here we’ve selected a few great accounts to follow to get you started…







Creative Bloq

18 Blatant Product Placements In Movies & TV You Probably Missed

There is advertising everywhere. Commercials on TV, billboards across the highway, page long newspaper ads, the dreaded pop-ups of the Internet. Everywhere you turn you just can’t get away from the stuff. Whatever medium you can think of, chances are it’s covered with Verizon ads selling you its high-speed Internet service (Can I have my money now?).

Not even the world of escapism is safe from corporate advertising. Advertisers are quick to use a new medium to push their wares and this is no exception when it comes to TV and movies. In fact, in the process of writing this article, I have become more aware of how rife they are with product placement. Some inconspicuous, many blatant. In this list, we have for you just 18 examples of obvious and shameless product placement in movies and TV.

Little Nicky

Adam Sandler loves to integrate product placement into his movies. In Little Nicky, we see the titular character being introduced to Popeye’s Chicken for the first time by his friend/talking bulldog, Mr. Beefy, where Nicky declares it as “f***ing awesome!”. A one off shout out is maybe acceptable but it became worst when later on in the movie it becomes an integral tool to defeat a demon horde, with said demon’s also declaring it as “the shiznit”, putting Popeye’s Chicken in the same pedestal of good as butterflies and fluffy things.

The Wizard

Probably the number one contender for biggest media attention seeker in the 80′s has to be Nintendo. When it comes to promoting their products, there’s no line the Big N wouldn’t cross. Their crowning achievement has to be The Wizard, a 90 minute commercial for Nintendo masquerading as a movie. It goes beyond simple product placement, with plot and narrative taking a back seat to the parade of games on show, including the yet unreleased at the time Super Mario Bros. 3. Take a look at this scene that is obviously a commercial for The Power Glove. Oh yeah, it’s bad.

Foodfight!

Think Toy Story or Wreck-It Ralph, but with food mascots instead. However, unlike the two, the mascots are horribly underused, with all of them appearing as simple background characters with no dialogue and little involvement in the plot. Just take a look at the poster below, where the mascots for real life brands, which do nothing in the movie, are prominently displayed while the main characters are in the background. It all feels like a cheap tack on just to promote the product. In the end though, the movie was so horrible that the brand executives probably wished they never got involved in the first place.

Foodfight!

The Island

Director Michael Bay is notorious for a lot of product placements in his movies, probably in the same tier with Adam Sandler. In his movie, The Island, there are around 30 product placements, prominently among them are the XBox logo during the game scene and a Calvin Klein ad that leading actress Scarlett Johansson just happens to be in at the time.

Michael Bay’s Transformers

If shilling for products in one movie isn’t enough, why not do it to an entire series? Granted, the whole concept of Transformers is to sell toys but Michael Bay managed to shoehorn in a few more products to showcase within the series. And when I mean ‘a few’, I mean more than 50 of them. The obvious is using GM cars for all the Autobots. Then we have a transforming XBox 360, a Mountain Dew vending machine, a Nokia cellphone and that’s just the first movie! Watch the series for them and you may even turn it into a drinking game. (Warning: we are not responsible for the alcohol poisoning resulting from watching a Michael Bay movie)

Mac And Me

Think E.T. but with a heavy dose of McDonald’s advertising. In fact, just like The Wizard, the whole movie felt like a giant, hour long commercial for the restaurant. Just take a look at the name, Mac and Me, where Mac is obviously referring to the Big Mac. Then there’s the five minute dance scene taking place in a McDonald’s birthday party complete with Ronald McDonald. Rotten Tomato called it “…a thinly-veiled feature length commercial for McDonald’s and Coca-Cola” while film critic Leonard Maltin described it as “more like a TV commercial than a movie”. Check out the dance scene below.

You’ve Got Mail

‘You’ve Got Mail’ is the popular (and trademarked) slogan for AOL back when it was the Internet for most Americans. So why don’t we feature that prominently as the title of a movie staring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? The movie of the same name is based on a 40 year old play but instead of snail mail, we have email, with the AOL jingle playing every time ‘you’ve got mail’.

Code Geass

Apparently, empires may rise and fall in alternate timelines but Pizza Hut is eternal. When not blowing stuff up with their mechs and weird eye powers to overthrow the British Empire, the cast frequently eat Pizza Hut pizza, with the logo prominently displayed for all to see. Also, one of the main character’s prized possession is a plush of Cheese-kun, the mascot of Pizza Hut in Japan. Pizza Hut paid a lot of money to be featured in the anime and now fans can’t think of toppling the established order without thinking what topping to have with their order.

Code Geass Cheese Kun

I, Robot

I, Robot takes place a few decades into the future but in one 15 second scene, Will Smith’s character will start wearing a pair of “Converse All-Stars Vintage 2004″, an obvious attempt to sell the sneakers. He even calls it “a thing of beauty” and another character comments that they are “nice shoes”.

Days Of Our Lives

Did you know the reason they are called soap operas is because they were funded by soap manufacturers? While the name has stuck around, soap operas today parade more than just soap. Take a look at the very long running ‘Days Of Our Lives’, which sometimes doesn’t even bother to seemlessly incorporate their product placement into the story. This Gawker article features some of the more hilarious ones. Below is an example and personal favorite, as you can’t tell if it’s from the show or an actual commercial.

Evolution

Evolution puts Heads & Shoulders shampoo front and center with the main cast using it as the MacGuffin to defeat the creatures that threaten them. They even manage to squeeze in a bit where some of the characters talk about the virtues of using Heads & Shoulders, on how it can keep your hair shiny and flake free. It’s played for laughs at the end where the main characters actually appear in a Heads & Shoulders commercial.

E.T.

Everyone loves E.T. (unless you had an Atari 2600). And if E.T. liked something, chances are you’ll probably like it too. In the movie, one of the more prominent food items that E.T. enjoys is Reese’s Pieces. While director Steven Spielberg wasn’t paid to use the product, the movie was a boon for Hershey’s as their profits went up by 65%. Funny enough, Spielberg originally wanted to use M&M’s but Mars declined, thinking the movie will not do well.

The Internship

While Google technically didn’t make any money from the movie that is arguably a 2 hour commercial about Google, it did lend its support in the production, with even a cameo appearance by Sergey Brin himself. The result is that the audience probably felt that they should have been paid to watch the commercial. Sure, Google may have gotten some perks with their brand name being so predominantly displayed. However, the movie, by most accounts, stunk.

Man Of Steel

Because nothing says Truth, Justice and The American Way more than product placement. In fact, it made $ 160 million even before it’s release. It did this by featuring a hundred different products in the movie. Some of them are subtle. Others, not so much.

Hawaii Five-0

They literally put a 50 second plug for Subway in the middle of an episode. It wasn’t even subtle, it really was a commercial that is playing out in the show. If you were to cut it out and place it in a normal timeslot for commercials, you would probably think that it was an actual commercial. Just take a look at the video below.

Back To The Future II

Whether back to the future or here in the past, product placement will always be with us and stay the same. While the first Back To The Future movie was fairly subtle in its product placement, the second one takes it up a notch, marketing the brands more directly to the camera. Let’s see, we have Pepsi out of a pneumatic tube, self laced Nikes, a Mattel hoverboard (still waiting on that one), Pizza Hut, etc.

James Bond

As a superspy, James Bond deserves the best and he gets the best, which is defined as who pays the most money for the next movie. Product placement has been in the James Bond movie since Dr. No and many people who grew up with the 50 year old franchise can probably name some of 007′s favorite brands. Aston Martin, his Walther PPK, Rolex and Omega watches, you name it. So it’s no surprise that the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, managed to rake in 1/3 of its budget ($ 45 million) from Heineken alone. Here’s a video and article that shows the history of product placement in 007′s long career.

James Bond Heineken

Jack And Jill

This movie takes Adam Sandler’s pandering to product placement to its logical conclusion, with the man himself playing an advertising executive. The center of the story is Sandler’s character trying to get Al Pacino to shoot a commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts. Spoiler alert: he succeeded and there’s actually a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial at the end, though it was played for laughs. However, throughout the movie you can still see several brands featured in the movie, par for the course in a Sandler movie. To end this list, here is Pacino rapping and break dancing in said commercial. God help you all.









hongkiat.com

Studio Ghibli brought into the real world with lifelike sculptures

Read more about Studio Ghibli brought into the real world with lifelike sculptures at CreativeBloq.com


Some of the sculptures are apparently over 12 ft high







Creative Bloq

12 CSS Effects Libraries For Developers

Looking for some CSS3 effects libraries? If your answer is yes then look no further, here we have come up with an exciting collection of 12 ultimate CSS3 effects libraries that can truly spice up your designs. The latest CSS3 properties come with new possibilities to create animation and interactive web designs.

In this showcase, you can find 12 excellent CSS3 effect libraries that you can use to make your web designs look even more eye catching and attractive. These CSS3 effect libraries let you create interactive designs without the need of Flash, Silverlight or After Effects. Have a look and feel free to share your opinions with us via comment section below.

Animate.css

A cross-browser library of CSS animations. As easy to use as an easy thing.

DynCSS

Simple, dynamic CSS rules to give life to your sites.

Effeckt.css

A Performant Transitions and Animations Library.

Animatable

One property, two values, endless possiblities.

Hover

Bouncejs

Bounce.js lets you create tasty CSS3 powered animations in no time.

Magic Animations

Kitecss

Kite is a flexible layout helper CSS library.

Buttons

A CSS button library built using Sass and Compass.

Css Loaders

Odometer

Odometer is a Javascript and CSS library for smoothly transitioning numbers.

Csshake


SmashingApps.com

How to Provoke Users’ Emotions and Actions with Your Website?

Emotion drives the users. Emotions make people share the content, make decisions quicker and pay money more confidently. It is not a rocket science to make a website emotional, and so gain huge benefits of it – sales, conversions, regular customers, donations, and finally traffic.

How to Provoke Users’ Emotions and Actions with Your Website?

We are going to highlight the meaning of emotional design, how to realize it in practice and which emotions can be actually evoked through a website.

Types of Emotions and How to Evoke Each

Emotions are negative and positive. There are root emotions and tons of derived ones. The emotions you can provoke with your website are:

  • trust
  • happiness
  • empathy
  • hope
  • surprise
  • anger
  • fear
  • guilt
  • jealousy

People feel trust, when they know you are professional, responsible and reliable. There are some approaches to demonstrate this with a website: portfolio; persuasive resume text, experience; design colored in a right way and with needed tones; testimonials with real people pictures; social proof; your photo or/and personal contact details; contacts page with all phones, addresses, emails. Trust is the most powerful emotion that drives users. They will never hire you or buy anything from you if they don’t trust you.

Happiness is an easy-to-evoke emotion. Put pictures with smiling people to your website, and users will smile back in front of their monitors. Smile is contagious and many readers prove this. When a person smiles, someone who sees his begin smiling too, because the mirror neurons stimulates a sensation associated with smiling in our mind. This is something beyond human control, as well as have you ever thought why you yawn after someone else does, even if you are full of energy? You can make people smile and feel happy on different website kinds. For example, travel websites, charity projects, automotive industry websites or any other site where you can add a picture of your satisfied customers.

Website with Homepage Positive Image
Website with Homepage Positive Image. Source.

Empathy is the most common emotion on charity websites. Here many touching pictures and stories can’t leave visitors indifferent to other people’s grief. Moreover, this emotion is directly connected with actions, so when making your site sensitive, you need to think twice about the call to action design and position.

Hope is probably the strongest human emotion ever. Hope gives power to live on, to struggle with diseases and overcome problems. So you can impregnate charity and medical websites with this feeling.

Surprise is a sudden emotion, and it can be both good and bad. You can give users a good surprise feeling with a tremendous discount on the products, alluring drawing, new products or services they dreamt about, etc. There are many ways to take users unawares and then persuade them to take quick actions.

Anger is definitely what your visitors should not feel. This emotion can be evoked by many factors:

  • Website navigation. If a user doesn’t understand the principle of your site navigation, he will be irritated and so feel anger.
  • Irksome popups. Many website owners do their best to increase sales and conversions – it is fine but don’t try too hard! When a user can’t read even a small piece of text because popups stand on the way, it will lead not to sales increase, but decrease.
  • Something is not working. Sure thing something may stop working properly on a site, but you should keep your eye on everything and don’t let any bugs to spoil user experience. Check your contact/sign in/registration forms, Google map, social sharing buttons as often as you can. These features are important to users, and they have to be intuitive and just perfect.

You do not have to scare users, even if you just want to joke. Fear and surprise come close for many people, so keep the verge safely. Users may feel fear if your website suddenly changes passwords for their accounts; if you adopt terrified effects on your design.

You may think users can’t feel guilty about anything on your website. Wrong you are. What do you say users if the site is unavailable? I saw many pages with words, like ‘sorry’, ‘oops’, ‘we will fix it soon’, ‘try again’, but there are also messages like ‘you have mistyped’, ‘you have done something wrong’, etc. In this case, website owners blame users, even if they do it accidentally. This is the first case. Anyway, you can try to use guilt feeling to boost your conversions or profits. Going back again to charity websites (it seems they are the most emotion-provoking), animal charity can try to make people guilty about buying fur coats and so persuade them to atone guilts by donating and helping animals. This is just one example, turn on your imagine and you will have tons of ideas!

Jealousy is an insidious emotion, because people can’t control it. Users can become jealous on a lottery website, for example. You show them how the previous winner leaves in his dream house in a dream place with a supercar, and they want it too. They envy and want to try his life. Now think what, they will buy a lottery ticket, too. This is how you can convert users into customers by means of any emotion, even negative.

Actions You Expect From Users and How to Get Them

Buy, donate, register, subscribe, try, read – these are common calls to action used on websites. It doesn’t make a big deal which type of CTA you have, because the design is equal for them all if you want users to act but not hesitate. Firstly, CTA button has to be big. Size matters a lot, because mini buttons will be invisible among all other website content. Talking about the content, you need to ensure much white space around the CTA button, so it is definitely visible. The color of CTA has to be contrasting to the primary colors used on the design.

Website with a Large Pink CTA Button
Website with a Large Pink CTA Button. Source.

Still, text is even more important than design: one good thing is to indicate the time on this button. For example, the discount is available for 10 days: type this on your CTA. Humor is another trick for effective CTA: if you manage to make users laugh, they will more likely push the button. (One simple thing is to make your CTA of a funny shape. This is both catchy and adds humor.)

Social proof won’t be bad to make CTA more powerful. People care about opinion of others. Real-time counter is something similar to social proof, because it also persuades people to join the majority of users.

And the last thing: don’t neglect the CTA position: it is very important to include CTA on each page and on the most prominent page sections, usually it is above the fold, or at the bottom where users will look for contacts.

The Working Methods to Encourage Users Feel and Act

We tried to explain what emotions people feel on certain websites, and we gave you some recommendations on how to create these emotions and also how to make website more interactive with right a CTA design. Here are a few more ways to provoke users’ emotions and actions:

Color

We would not ramble on color meanings and which color you should pick for your design, because there is much sad about this on the web and many researches have been done. What you should know is that color palette is a vital component of a website design in general and of its emotional aspect. Colors have to be picked according to the website aim, its topic, content, etc. Yes, each color has its own meaning, but when a few of them are combined in a unique scheme they become something more. Colors evoke good and bad emotions, colors can bring users to actions or not, this all depends on how you use them in accordance with other design elements. Remember, color supports the tone of your design.

Typography

Typography is influential enough to add personality to a website, make it attractive and memorable. Website looks more prominent, when there is a good fonts’ hierarchy, and of course white space is necessary. A website has personality when the fonts are chosen professionally: there is one hero font and others to tone it. If someone strives to create memories within a website, he can rely on associations. The fonts that are associated with something are potent, these should be sophisticated fonts to evoke engagement and interaction.

Text

We have mentioned how to use fonts before, but the prior task is to write the text you are going to type. Text can make wonders and evoke a few emotions at once. The user can feel smarter, cooler, and richer just by reading a well-written message.

You can use any expressions, your life experience, memories, virtual gestures, and of course tone to make people feel. And don’t forget the latest trend in content marketing – storytelling. It will help you a lot to create an emotional website with a good copy.

Image

Photographs describe real life, real people and nature, true emotions. Images are your reliable friends in building a website with personality. Pick and place images strategically: close-up images, if appropriate for your design, can evoke emotions better that father ones, though it depends on the color of the picture too. Black and white photography is definitely better to use for getting stronger emotions from users. Then, the image should be placed on a visible position, where no one can ignore it.

Emotional Website Design with A Full-Screen Image
Emotional Website Design with A Full-Screen Image. Source.

Sound

Music fires up emotions in our brains. Songs can transform us back to past, or make us dream about future. Music forces us to run away from everything we can rationalize, so we turn off our brain and turn on our soul – this is how it works. Music background is not so much frequent feature on modern sites, because audio files make website heavier and slow it down. Though, if you pick a light-weight track to follow users as they browse your site, and make the whole website quick, it may work.

 

We would highly appreciate your comments, as usual, below the article. You may suggest us more ways to create emotions on a website and make CTA work better, as well as you may share good examples of how to evoke feelings and actions through a website.

Visit us at InstantShift.com

PSD to HTML


InstantShift

Test Drive: 2015 Ford Mustang: The all-new Pony does the brand proud, inside and out

Test Drive: 2015 Ford Mustang


In late 2013, a first look at the 2015 Ford Mustang with its design team impressed us, and since then we’ve been anxiously waiting to get behind the wheel. Finally, yesterday was the day—and it…

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Cool Hunting

Building Minimum Viable Products at Spotify

Many companies face the paradox of wanting to build a delightful product without knowing if people actually want the product until it’s released.

Spotify’s vision was to give people the right music at the right time while incentivizing artists by paying them based on number of shares their music received. A tall order, no doubt, when you consider how hard it is to build out such a platform, let alone make it profitable. Yet Spotify defied the odds and grew from zero to over 1 million paying subscribers in the US — a market foreign to Spotify’s native Swedish team and one already teeming with competitors.

How Spotify Stays Lean
Source: How Spotify Stays Lean.

So how did they develop a product that fulfilled their vision without driving them into bankruptcy? They took an iterative approach combining elements from Lean Startup, Agile, and MVP methodologies.

To achieve its current 10 million paying and 24+ million total user base, Spotify set out a basic roadmap of prototyping early and cheaply, launching only when a baseline of quality was met, and then iterating based on user feedback. In this piece, I’ll explain the goals of each stage and how they all contributed to a sustainable product development cycle.

Lean & Agile at Spotify

According to Henrik Kniberg, Agile and Lean Startup consultant and author, Spotify uses a 4-stage iterative product cycle (Think It, Build It, Ship It, Tweak It) that emphasizes small teams (referred to as ‘squads’) completing small batches of work while producing a complete product. Let’s take a look at the goals of each stage:

  • Think It — Decide what product to build, then build prototypes and test viability internally.
  • Build It — Create a physical MVP ready for user testing.
  • Ship It — Gradually release the MVP to all users while collecting data and improving.
  • Tweak It — Iterate continuously based on feedback until product is shut down or revamped (returning us to Think It).

Sound familiar? It should. It’s essentially a hybrid process combining practices from Lean Startup and the Agile Methodology.

Principles of Lean

Lean Startup uses a “Build-Measure-Learn” cycle to reduce waste while achieving quality, speed, and customer alignment. At the heart of Lean Startup is the MVP, a quickly and cheaply produced quality product for learning purposes. Therefore, Lean Startup eliminates the idea that a team can build what it “knows” it will need in the future.

To that degree, each one of Spotify’s four stages are Lean since small teams are always working smartly to test assumptions. The “Think It” stage tests the merit of conceptual MVPs while the “Build It” stage releases a physical MVP only after it’s been tested for quality. The “Ship It” and “Tweak It” phases ensure long-term quality and customer alignment by releasing the MVP gradually, learning from feedback, and iterating tirelessly. Spotify does deviate slightly from Lean, however, since the “Think It” stage only tests prototypes internally — Lean emphasizes customer testing as often as possible.

Entrepreneurs Love to Learn
Source: Entrepreneurs Love to Learn.

Principles of Agile

Lean thinking is necessary in order to develop the mentality needed for Agile practices.

While Lean is used to efficiently define and build a marketable product, Agile is the means to accomplish this in software development.

Team members from all disciplines collaborate on short bursts of work (sprints lasting 1-4 weeks), and in doing so, react better to requirements changes. The Spotify strategy stresses this collaboration by preserving the same product team throughout all four stages. These sprints are especially important for keeping resources in check during the “Build It”, “Ship It”, and “Tweak It” phases when all the heavy lifting is done. All the testing and validating in each phase also keeps Spotify on the Lean path even if product requirements must be changed to reflect customer and market needs.

Agile Methodology
Source: Agile Methodology.

I. Think It

Before committing resources to a project, companies need to evaluate the viability of the idea. The “Think It” stage consists of small teams asking themselves “Why?” rather than just “How?” At Spotify, this phase is the conceptual stage of the MVP since viability is assessed and minimalist solutions like landing pages and prototypes are used to test user demand.

How Spotify Builds Products
Source: How Spotify Builds Products.

According to Christina Wodtke, former General Manager at Zynga, the importance of looking at viability through a business lens can’t be stressed enough. For many companies, it can be tempting to build the perfect viable product simply because they have the resources to do so. By prioritizing viability, Spotify ensures it won’t even waste time and money assigning an MVP team if the overall idea isn’t profitable.

If, however, management verifies an idea is viable, a small “Think It” team consisting of a developer, designer, and product manager is formed. At this point, the team works on creating a product definition document so that a usable prototype can be built. Using the document, they’ll seek to answer questions such as:

  • Who will benefit from this and how?
  • What are the key metrics that we expect this product to improve? (e.g. songs streamed, number of downloads, etc.)
  • What are the hypotheses?
  • How will we know if this product is successful?
  • Is this a “step change” (a product yielding at least a 2x improvement on the chosen metric)? If only minor metrics improvements are expected, another strong strategic reason should exist.

The goal here isn’t to outline features or technical requirements but to create a data-focused value proposition. The heart of the product definition is narrative. And the story told by product is what the first iteration of the MVP will test.

Matchist.com cofounder, Stella Fayman, aptly states the goal of an MVP is to prove that people will use your product. Landing pages and paid ads are a great low-cost way to gauge interest because you test the basic value proposition first (or narrative, in the case of Spotify) before sinking money into anything. This is precisely what Spotify does. When developing its Mobile Free Radio (one version being “Radio you can save”), Spotify ran a Google Adwords campaign to test narratives. In doing so, Spotify exemplifies applying minimalism towards an MVP.

Once the messaging is finalized through testing, the Think It team builds low-fidelity paper prototypes and high-fidelity runnable prototypes (with fake data). Internal user testing provides feedback on which prototypes best convey the narrative until the list is narrowed down to just a few contenders.

David Aycan, Design Director at the esteemed design and consultancy firm IDEO, explains that multiple prototyping avoids tunnel vision. Ideating on different user experiences puts your eggs in different baskets (preventing over-attachment) and finds the best solution through real data instead of trying to predict what users want. Testing multiple prototypes lets Spotify find the most viable MVP by focusing on breadth rather than depth.

Don't Let The Minimum Win Over Viable
Source: Don’t Let The Minimum Win Over Viable, HBR Blog.

In UXPin, we can turn wireframes into prototypes rather quickly in our web app. We take a similar iterative approach to Spotify by starting out with several lightweight, even low-fidelity, prototypes and narrowing down the options from there. However, we like to involve a small subset of friends and customers in the prototype testing (unlike Spotify which just keeps it internal) since they help us “think outside the building.” Ultimately this keeps our team centered on a good customer solution instead of just a technical marvel.

Spotify, on the other hand, will only move forward if it can match the right prototype to the narrative. Because it only involves prototyping and experimenting, the Think It stage is the essence of MVP thinking — the team fails quickly and cheaply, and keeps learning until they find the exact product to build.

II. Build It

Now that a product is decided, the team moves beyond testing concepts to creating a physical MVP that is good enough to release to external users and test assumptions.

How Spotify Builds Products
Source: How Spotify Builds Products.

The right balance of minimalism and quality must be struck with the physical MVP. Building a feature-complete product requires too much time and money, but rushing a feature-poor product out the door would embarrass Spotify and yield no useful learnings. As such, the team must create the smallest possible thing of quality that still fulfills the narrative and delights users.

As Former Apple chief evangelist Guy Kawasaki asserts in his MVP philosophy, the physical MVP doesn’t need to be perfect but it must be revolutionary. Early adopters are incredible force multipliers when it comes to early-stage products, and the only way to gain their influence is to create an MVP that embodies five important qualities — it must be:

  1. Deep — Great products have just the right level of functionality and don’t become useless after just a few weeks.
  2. Intelligent — Great products map specific solutions to pain points (and make customers aware of problems they didn’t even know they had).
  3. Complete — Great products are completely usable, even in early stages.
  4. Empowering — Great products incite users to action and encourages them to spread the news to help others.
  5. Elegant — Great products have intuitive user interfaces and work the way people think they should.

You’ll see in the above diagram that the key question Spotify’s product and management team asks is “Is the MVP good enough for real users?” By making its
MVP narrative-complete and not feature-complete, Spotify is able to inherently satisfy all five qualities for a desirable and usable MVP. Perhaps, a better term for Spotify’s MVP would be MLP (Minimum Loveable Product).

The Cupcake Model, which was first coined by Brandon Schauer, CEO of Adaptive Path, emphasizes desirability and completeness regardless of iteration. The analogy states that instead of starting with an uninteresting cake and then adding filling and icing, you start with a cupcake and iterate it into a cake. That way, you invest less resources and the MVP is desirable — people will pay for a cupcake because it’s complete with filling and icing. On the other hand, a dry cake requires more resources to create and is unlikely to be good enough for real users. By following a Cupcake Model, Spotify more importantly avoids misleading conclusions: “Well, we baked a plain cake and nobody wanted it, so the cake failed and we shouldn’t bother adding frosting or filling.”

The cake model of product planning
Source: The cake model of product planning.

III. Ship It

The purpose of the Ship It stage is to gradually roll out the product to all users while measuring and ensuring that the product fulfills its promise in the real market.

How Spotify Builds Products
Source: How Spotify Builds Products.

Spotify starts by releasing to a small percentage of all users (usually 1-5%) to collect early feedback. During this stage, the hypotheses that were internally tested during the Think It stage are now externally validated.

As you’ll see in the above illustration, the beauty of this stage is that Spotify doesn’t need to get it right on the first try. Collecting data, iterating the MVP, and then A/B testing the changes allows for continuous rounds of maximized learning at minimized cost. Releasing an MVP early and to a small user base allows Spotify to iterate until it becomes an EVP (Exceptional Viable Product) that is ready for all users.

First coined by Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz, the EVP prevents companies from prematurely releasing an MVP that just isn’t ready to excite early adopters. Spotify understands that first impressions matter a lot, so it takes a cautious approach of having a limited release of something good before making it great and unleashing their brilliance. Based on the below diagram, Spotify releases its MVP somewhere between “Good” and “Truly Impressive” and then uses customer feedback to improve it into an EVP.

7 unlikely recommendations for startups & entrepreneurs
Source: Moz, “7 unlikely recommendations for startups & entrepreneurs”.

When management and the product team agree that the product is having the intended impact on the small user group (based on the product definition), Spotify will gradually roll it out to all users, while still measuring and improving.

IV. Tweak it

At Spotify, this stage is the longest, and perhaps most important. Unless products get scrapped during the previous MVP stages, they spend most of their life in this completely iterative phase.

How Spotify Builds Products
Source: How Spotify Builds Products.

While they may have proven themselves to a certain extent in the Ship It stage, Spotify’s products are never considered feature-complete. The team continues the Ship It process of gathering customer feedback, experimenting, and A/B testing to improve the product, resulting in either major rework or just minor tweaks. But, at some point soon, they may reach a point of diminishing returns when the cost versus benefits of new features just looks less and less attractive.

As demonstrated in this article on value vs. complexity, this is an important crossroad where feature prioritization is required. While Spotify believes that no product is truly complete, it also understands the danger of feature creep. Once a product hits its “local maximum” where small tweaks won’t really improve things, Spotify’s product team and management evaluates if being at the top of the hill is sufficient, or if a higher peak is in sight. If the effort isn’t worth the time, the team will move on to other products. Otherwise, the product returns to the “Think It” stage so it can be reworked and leap to the next peak of quality. Spotify’s Tweak It stage ensures that it does not fall victim to the idea that first to market will always stay king of the hill.

Gerard J. Tellis, a professor at USC Business School, believes that product quality has become so important in recent years that network effects alone will no longer protect companies who are first-to-market. In fact, network effects actually reinforces competition for quality by driving customers to superior products. According to Tellis, the average duration for market leadership in the software industry was only about 3.8 years. When you consider that Spotify is slowly inching towards iTune’s market share as of 2014, Spotify’s evolutionary product strategy is definitely working.

More Product Stages = Less Cost, Less Risk

For many companies, one of the most dangerous mistakes is building the wrong product. They sink enormous cost into ideas that they think customers want and then speed down the path of no return.

How Spotify Builds Products
Source: How Spotify Builds Products.

As you’ve seen, Spotify’s 4-stage product cycle helps them carefully find the right product early and build it quickly and sufficiently. The length of each stage may differ, but the constant balance between minimizing resources and maximizing product quality is consistent. Ultimately, it leads to a lower cost, lower risk, higher quality product.

We hope Spotify’s strategy has helped you better understand the roles that Lean, Agile, and MVP thinking play towards streamlining your own product development. Don’t be afraid to fail fast and quickly — as long as you keep testing, your most profitable idea might just come from what you learn.

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