An MVP or Minimum Viable Product is a version of your end-product that contains the features deemed absolutely critical to the existence of your product. For a website - the MVP may simply be the homepage. MVPs are designed to provide users a functional product that they can interact with and provide feedback for.
Why develop an MVP?
MVPs are at the core of your strategy and experimentation. They allow you to test your hypothesis that you have a product that users want, and allow you to pivot and re-imagine your product based on real feedback from potential users. As practitioners of human-centered design, we're not in the business of telling people what they want - we want them to show us.
Where does the term MVP come from?
Eric Reis coined the term in his 2009 book - "The Lean Startup"
Eric stressed throughout his book that learning is one of the most crucial components of new product development, and that it needs to be your priority to incorporate feedback at every possible juncture of the development process. This process should inspire continuous innovation – a key to success for all startups.
You keep saying MVP - I don't think you know what it means
MVP has become one of the most ubiquitous words in startups – it represents the single most important concept for success and scalability. As a result, many organizations fail to understand and execute a real MVP – instead of over or under delivering features and failing to create a feedback system that actually allows them to continuously learn and improve. Just because you call it an MVP doesn’t mean it satisfies any of the core criteria in a meaningful way.
Organizations fail to harness the benefits of an MVP because they miss out on one of the two most important aspects – often emphasizing the other. An MVP must be both Minimum AND Viable – you can deliver very little to users but so long as but if it functions as intended you can make an assessment of its usability. If you simply fail to deliver any significant features, there is no real meaningful feedback you can receive. Being over focused on viability, on the other hand, can easily lead you down a path where you deliver more than necessary and hurt your ability to assess where users issues genuinely lie.
“The lesson of the MVP is that any additional work beyond what was required to start learning is waste, no matter how important it might have seemed at the time."
What does a real MVP do?
If your MVP accomplishes these 4 things, you're well on your way to success. If it doesn't, reconsider your strategy. These are absolutely essential to the success of an MVP.
1. Focus on a singular idea
An MVP must be focused above all else – try to address too many ideas at once and you overdeliver. Your product should solve a singular problem before it branches out. If the problem you’re solving isn’t immediately obvious – you need to refocus your strategy.
2. Validate your idea
An MVP allows you to test the marketability of your product. Without something tangible to deliver, you can never assume that you will be successful. You need a real product with real potential users to test the validity of your business idea.
3. Opens the door for testing
Your MVP needs to deliver functionality that can be tested. The entire point of developing an MVP is getting feedback that you can iterate on.
4. Helps you stick to a timeline & budget
By breaking your product down to its most important components, you can more efficiently work on development. If you’re delivering value sooner in your product development journey, you can begin to get funding and customers. This can keep your budget reasonable and requires less initial investment for a higher quality end-product.
We put together a list of resources from a presentation that fivestar* gave on MVPs - you can access all of them here.
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About the Author: Cameron Avrigean
Cameron Avrigean is a Marketing Coordinator at fivestar*. Cameron is an analytics fanatic with a penchant for copywriting and social media. He works with the marketing team to create engaging content, and is looking for the next big thing. Cameron holds a B.S. in Business Management from Point Park University.