The Features We Don’t Need — Elsewhere

When you’re working an MVP, you need to have a strong hypothesis about what it is you are testing. Every single feature you build should be in support of that hypothesis. If it doesn’t immediately support that bottom line, get rid of it.

In building Elsewhere we wanted to make a meme tool where users could create high quality video memes worthy of r/HighQualityGifs even if they didn’t have the requisite time/skills to do so themselves. The idea was simple — we build great videos which act as a base and users can change the text on those videos to make their own original/unique memes.

With the main features in place — the product works beautifully. Here it is in action. Below is a video our team made.

Here’s a user version of that same video

Another for good measure 🙂

What People Keep Missing

Elsewhere recently surpassed 150k downloads with a strong community across a number of channels. There’s a list of 29k people just waiting for us to release an Android version. Growing a community from scratch is never easy. But having it center around meme makers has made the ride a blast. Of course, we listen to what people have to tell us — but there’s one critique that tickles us more than most. Some users want to upload their own videos — and put text over their own user-generated content to make memes.

We hear them, but this feature request actually goes against the very nature of what Elsewhere is. Elsewhere is not an app to help make your videos funny. We make funny videos and you can make them your own and get the credit. That’s a big difference.

With that in mind let’s take a step back and talk about MVPs again.

What’s a good MVP?

A great example of an MPV according to Harris Novick, Lead Development Strategist at Alpha Group, is Google Cardboard.

via GIPHY

Obviously a company like Google could have made a beautiful casing. But they didn’t because that wouldn’t have helped to test their hypothesis. They KNOW they can build a beautiful casing, with a green glowing light that would gently throb on and off when it was charging (no edges, of course). That’s not a challenge — and if/when they want to take a VR set to mass market, they’ll do this. But doing that chrome casing early on wouldn’t have answered the main hypothesis of Google Cardboard; can cool VR experiences be made by developers to work using the phone as the main display vehicle. To answer that question you only needed a cardboard housing. If it could work with cardboard, then it would make sense to come back and fill in the low hanging fruit around how the hardware should look.

‘These violent delights have violent ends’

A general truism of technology is that features which used to surprise and delight eventually become expectations.

The best example of this is the phone touchscreen. When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in 2007 with a touchscreen it was as if he beamed from the future to bring us alien technology. Only a few years later, any phone that didn’t have a touch screen feels horribly antiquated. It might as well be from the 80’s.

What People Keep Missing

So back to the critique that Elsewhere gets around not letting users upload their own videos.

There are a few reasons why we haven’t done this — and hopefully those reasons are a bit clearer now.

For starters — there are tons of apps for editing video on your phone. Countless of them. We could add that feature to Elsewhere, sure. But what would it get us?

Complexity ≠ Value

Adding features for the sake of adding them isn’t a good idea. Especially if it’ll make the main feature you want to highlight harder to find. Ultimately, this dilutes your product.

Try opening a can of tuna with this.

It makes sense that there are lots of video editing apps already in the world. A good hypothesis is “people want to be able to edit their original videos.” Lots of apps have stepped up to that plate. It’s rather crowded. And ultimately — those videos are great for the individual, but rarely are high quality meme material.

Our hypothesis wasn’t to see if we could take a user’s original video to turn those into memes. Elsewhere is not the app to caption your cat’s thought bubbles. To be perfectly honest — we don’t want that lameness on our conscience.

We want to make high quality meme videos that the user can easily spin out and add their own unique meaning to it. We know the video itself will be highly polished and produced, because that’s how we made it. It’s a video we KNOW you’ll be proud to show. And if your friends think you did all the fancy editing, even better.

Another reason why there are so many video editing apps is because it’s an expected feature. Uploading and editing an original video was a feature that delighted in the early days of Web 2.0. but today that does nothing to distinguish your app from any of the others on the market. And again— it would do nothing to validate our hypothesis.

We wanted to prove that Elsewhere could do the work of being funny but you could get the credit. We make great videos. You take the applause. For Elsewhere, not letting users upload their own videos is a feature, not a bug.