Developing a minimum viable product
What is a minimum viable product?
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a version of a product with basic features for users to view and experience.
Why is an MVP important?
Ideally, an MVP should save you time and resources. Instead of putting an untested product into the market (and going back to the drawing board if it fails), an MVP allows you to observe how users interact with your product. It also enables you to collect valuable feedback that will enable you to refine and develop the product in an iterative manner.
Three key characteristics of an MVP
These are the three characteristics of an MVP:
It has sufficient features and value that people are willing to use or buy it in the initial stages (or pledge to do so).
It demonstrates potential future benefits to retain early users or adopters.
It provides a way to get feedback to guide future development.
Key objectives of an MVP
The key objectives of an MVP are to:
Test a product with minimal resources and reduce wasted engineering/development hours
Speed up feedback, learning and improvement
Market the product to customers as soon as possible
Establish a base for other future products, develop expertise in the production of such products, and build branding.
Six steps to create your MVP
Here’s what you need to do to create your MVP:
Understand your target user
Identify the need(s) to be met, gaps to be plugged, assumptions you might have, and what the user wants to achieve. Create a hypothesis and define what you want to test.
Build your MVP to test your hypothesis
Focus on the main features of your product, which should meet the key needs you are trying to address. The MVP need not look great, but it must be potentially usable and useful, which means taking time to craft and create it.
Note: an MVP need not even be an actual functioning product. It could be a simple website or flyer advertising the future product to see if users would even be interested in the product. It could be a mock-up or a paper prototype to simulate what users can expect during use and to see how they interact with or feel about the product.
Test your MVP
Market your product to actual target users (not just friends and family). Listen to feedback without bias. Prepare to be ignored, rejected and criticised as these are good indicators about the acceptance of your product. Don’t only focus on what users say, observe how they use or interact with the MVP as well. Identify what users like and dislike about the MVP.
Consider putting a real price to your product
A good indication of market need is if users are prepared to pay for your product or service. If they aren’t, delve deeper to find out why – is there no demand or is the price point too high?
Improve the product with the feedback gathered
Address actual user concerns, not what you believe is good or bad. If your original hypothesis is wrong, don’t be afraid to change it. However, make sure that your product still has a unique value proposition to differentiate it from everything else in the market.
Iterate your product
After you’ve refined your product, test it once again with actual target users, or even the same users as before. You may even create various versions of your improved product to test drive different features. Keep iterating to improve the product until you are confident it is final and ready.
When is an MVP iteration considered final?
There is no single answer that will apply to all products. You should be clear about your targets and objectives during the iteration phases, and noting the observations, feedback and possible further tweaks that may need to be made to ensure that your product will be successful and ready for market release. These days, products are always being improved, and your product may never truly be 100 percent complete. Physical products release new and improved models with updated or fresh features or as specialised products for specific uses. Digital products constantly roll out new releases and updates to improve software.
What may be more important is a clear roadmap of which features to test, validate, improve and implement, so that customers will continue to see value in your product and brand. This will help you develop your brand and base of loyal customers, which will in turn help further your product development.
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