By NiNi Vo
What is a Minimum Viable Product?
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product that contains minimal features with the ability to attract early-adopter customers; while also validating the idea in the beginning of the product development process. They are commonly used in the software industry, due to their ability to effectively gather user feedback from the customers in a short period of time. This allows the team to make necessary improvements to (and iterations of) the product.
A process commonly practiced in product development is agile, where a team breaks up the numerous stages in building a product while continuously collaborating with its users in every step of the way. Therefore, since the agile methodology is derived from both validating and iterating products based on the input of users, the MVP is a major component in agile development.
What is the Purpose of a Minimum Viable Product?
An entrepreneur named Eric Ries first introduced the concept of the minimum viable product as a result of his Lean Startup methodology. In his mind, he described the purpose of an MVP as the version of a product that allows a team to collect the most amount of validated learning about customers with the least amount of effort put forth into the process. This saves a company the hassle that would potentially be encountered later on by tackling the hardships earlier in the product development process.
There are a couple of reasons for why companies develop an MVP. Companies may decide to develop and release a minimum viable product because they want to:
- Deliver the product to the market quickly
- Test the idea with real users before fully committing to the full development
- Learn what resonates with the company’s target market and what doesn’t
Another benefit besides receiving validation for a product idea without actually having to build the entire product is that an MVP can reduce the dedicated time and resources put into building a product that wouldn’t succeed in the long run.
How do you Define Your Minimum Viable Product?
So after understanding a minimum viable product, your company should decide how it will be developed and know when the MVP is ready to be launched into the market. These are a few strategic steps your company should consider taking.
Check that your MVP aligns with your business objectives.
The first step before developing your MVP and deciding which features to build is to make sure the product cohesively aligns with your team’s and/or your company’s strategic goals.
Ask yourself, what are those goals? Are you working towards earning revenue in the upcoming six months? Do you have limited access to resources? These are some questions to consider that will help decide if now is the right time for your company to start developing a new MVP.
Also, the company needs to define what purpose the minimum viable product will serve the target market. Some questions to ask are, will it attract new customers in the adjacent market? Will it keep up with existing products already in the market? If your company can confidently answer these questions, then your MVP plan might be strategically viable.
However, if your company’s current priority is to focus on your core markets, then perhaps you might need to go back to the drawing board and focus instead on designing an MVP that can offer new functionality for your existing customers.
Begin identifying specific problems you want to solve and improvements you want to achieve for your user persona.
Now that you’re confident your MVP plans align with your business objectives, you can start compiling a list of specific solutions you want your product to offer users. These potential solutions that you might come up with and through the form of user stories, epics, or features. A reminder that these do not fully represent the product’s overall vision—only subsets of that vision. Keep in mind that the MVP can only have limited functionality so that it allows space for iteration and improvement.
This means you will need to be strategic in deciding which limited functionality you want to include in your MVP. Factors to consider before making these decisions include:
- Intensive user research
- Competitive market analysis
- Speed of iteration on certain types of functionality upon receiving user feedback
- The costs to implement the various user stories or epics
Convert your MVP functionality into a plan of action for development.
After weighing the strategic elements mentioned and finalizing on the limited functionality you want your MVP to include, it’s now time to convert this into a firm action plan for the following stages of product development.
As mentioned before, an MVP is abbreviated for a minimum viable product. It’s important to note that the V in MVP means that the product must be viable. That means it must give your customers the ability to complete an entire task while simultaneously providing a high-quality user experience.
What an MVP can’t have is a user interface that contains unfinished and poorly built tools and features. It needs to be a functionally working product that your company should be able to sell to the market.
What are Examples of the Minimum Viable Product?
Now after reading what, how, and why you need a minimum viable product, you’re probably wondering about real-life applications of them. So let’s review a couple of brands that successfully launched MVPs in their early days.
Having started out with no money to build a business, the founders of Airbnb transformed their own apartment to validate their idea of a market that offers short-term, peer-to-peer rental housing online. In doing so, they created an MVP that featured a minimalist website, to publish photos and details about their property, which quickly drew attention from paying customers. Now, anyone can put up their property for quick rentals.
The location-based social network started off with a one-feature MVP, offering only limited functionality. They validated their idea with an eager and growing user base. The Foursquare development team added recommendations, city guides, and other features to help successfully grow their company.
Where Masslight steps in
It’s clear that having a minimum viable product is key to building a successful business in the long-term. Investors far and wide will immediately want an MVP before they invest in your company. To alleviate potential challenges you may face, MassLight offers a solution.