When Lean Meets Green – The Sustainable Product Development Manifesto (Part 2)

Successful Launch Of Ecograder Thanks To Lean Startup Principles

We recently shared with the Lean Impact community how the team at Mightybytes used Lean Startup principles to launch EcoGrader, a free online tool which grades websites on their environmental sustainability and impact.

In part 1 of our discussion with Julian Rockwood (Interactive Project Manager at Mightybytes), we learned how to build lean and sustainable web products. Today, we will take a deeper dive into EcoGrader’s launch to better understand exactly how the EcoGrader project applied Lean Startup principles to launch its tool.

So, let’s continue with Julian’s AWESOME Lean Startup tale…

A Further Look Into How We Used Lean Startup Principles For The Development of EcoGrader

During the 11-week development cycle, there were some invaluable Lean Startup tools that we used to build and test our EcoGrader product. Here were the most valuable lean tools our team utilized:

Landing Pages – We used a LaunchRock page to promote EcoGrader while it was still in development, to collect email addresses prior to the launch date, as well as to validate interest in our idea. Our hypothesis was that web designers, business owners, and marketers were both unaware that websites are not sustainable and, that if finding this out, would want to better understand the environmental impact of their website. Our LaunchRock landing page helped us validate this hypothesis.

A/B Testing – We used Optimizely to test certain copy and page features in order to validate the highest converting funnel path, as well as make user-centered decisions about form fields.

Minimum Viable Product – Our team had a very hard deadline to hit because we wanted to launch the product on Earth Day, so we really focused on building the least amount of software possible that served the product’s core purpose. To keep the product as simple as possible, we agreed our MVP would only grade your website on the following (in version 1.0):

  • Pagespeed / performance optimization
  • Design and user experience optimization
  • Findability and search engine optimization
  • Use of ‘green’ ingredients such as green web hosting

Several of these tests leveraged external systems’ API’s in order to stay lean on the amount of building and development required. We also used the Twitter bootstrap framework to quickly scaffold and build out the front end of EcoGrader.

User Surveys – We developed a user survey to help learn how beta users felt about EcoGrader and to evaluate some of our hypotheses. We also wanted to understand how users perceived their score, to help plan our communications around the launch. We used this data to later adjust the scoring criteria (reducing the weight of one factor, increasing that of another) and to also adjust the score coloring to alter perceptions.

Of all the lean tools we used to build and test EcoGrader, Google Analytics was the only tool that wasn’t very valuable to our cause.  Given the small size of our initial audience, we could not make any assumptions about user behaviors from web analytics data alone – without over-assuming a behavior type. When the quantitative data available to you is small, it’s often customer interviews and survey results that provide the best insights into usability and product effectiveness.


The EcoGrader’s Lean Startup Development Cycle

As previously mentioned, our team at Mightybytes was on a quick deadline to launch the MVP of EcoGrader. Some serious lean project planning was needed and we ended up learning a great deal about our product and our customers during this time.

Here is the quick and dirty breakdown of our 11-week development cycle for the rollout of EcoGrader:


  • Crafted a lean canvas based on an idea that came out of B Corporation Champions Retreat
  • Spoke to customer archetypes in the industry about the idea to see if it had merit
  • Validated there was interest in the product
  • Wrote a positioning statement to craft the right perceptions about what we wanted EcoGrader to be internally and externally
  • Identified a product name and domain name for the product
  • Picked a market window for release around Earth Day
  • Read The Lean Startup, UX for Lean Startups, Lean Analytics and other relevant resources.

Weeks 4-8: BUILD 

  • Prioritized MVP requirements with “Must Could Should Would” prioritization methods (MoSCoW)
  • Crafted a hypothetical algorithm for EcoGrader based upon five tests to be used in MVP
  • Drafted copy for EcoGrader to serve with the test results that explained the concepts of sustainable web design and how a specific website performed on a test
  • Established an email address “[email protected]” and reserved social media accounts
  • Created a marketing plan and the first of two press releases
  • Identified target beta testers to validate product viability
  • Built MVP with continuous deployment and used SVN for distributed version control amongst team members

Weeks 8-11:  MEASURE & LEARN 

  • Beta tested EcoGrader with target users for validated learning
  • Surveyed beta testers, validating our hypothesis on score perception, green-hosting reservations, and invalidating our hypothesis on the suggested algorithm
  • Changed algorithm based upon beta tests
  • Changed color coding based upon beta feedback
  • Wrote FAQs based upon beta tester questions and issues
  • Adjusted the test results copy for EcoGrader based upon beta tests feedback

Post Launch/Ongoing: ADJUST 

  • Piping user feedback and data back into the design and development process
  • Testing for additional website sustainability metrics in product
  • Clarifying some unclear terminology based on user feedback
  • Use Optimizely to tweak and improve conversion funnel
  • Monitor analytics and adjust product based on data

You Turn: Has your nonprofit or social enterprise used Lean Startup practices to launch a project or product/service? Please share with us in the Comments section!

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