Minimum Viable Product (MVP for short) is a term you will hear thrown around a lot if you are looking into building a software product. It is an Agile principle, which allows companies building a new product to focus on what is necessary to deliver working software.
What is a Minimum Viable Product?
The Agile Alliance defines the MVP as “an actual product (which may be no more than a landing page, or a service with an appearance of automation, but which is fully manual behind the scenes) that you can offer to customers and observe their actual behaviour with the product or service.”
We believe the definition must include working software that you can give to “beta” users, to gather feedback. This product may not be production ready, it may not have all the features you want, and it may not be seamless, but it should be functional and it should deliver on your users’ needs.
Obviously there is more investment required to create a product as per our definition, but we believe that you can use design to validate at an earlier stage. For example, a UX simulation can be created at a lower cost than the full development price, enabling the customer to visualise the finished product.
5 reasons you need a minimum viable product
All the biggest and most popular apps you use every day, undoubtedly used an MVP approach. They didn’t start out as complex behemoths, they knew what they wanted to do and only did that. Here’s a few examples of those products…
It takes time to build and diversify, so even if you have a million ideas right now, you need to focus and build something manageable. We’ve got 6 great reasons for you to use the MVP approach to create your next software product.
Focus on what’s important
If you have spent a lot of time considering your product’s features, you’ll have heaps of ideas floating around in your head. You’ve probably seen other products you like, with features you need, all over the place. Stop. Go back to the problem you originally wanted to solve, the solution you first proposed. Build that.
When you focus your efforts, so too will your developers, and together you’ll be able to create a better solution. It’s a fact that it’s easier to focus on smaller pieces, so if you can narrow your product to what it MUST have, you have a much higher chance of success.
Create a product you know people will want to use
Develop only the features that solve the immediate problem, don’t worry about nice-to-haves, or wouldn’t-it-be-goodifs. That way, if you’ve done your research and interviewed your users, you’ll know that what you’re building will definitely be used.
You are taking a huge risk building a piece of software, so don’t make it even riskier by guessing what your users might want.
Get a product to users quicker
The only people that can validate your product are its users. By the time you start development, you should know your users pretty well, and if you are using a UX approach, they will be aware of your plans. This means that you want to get them something to use quickly, before they get bored and move on. Focussing your product means you can get it to them quicker and make sure they are engaged enough to give you valuable feedback.
Get paying customers early
Once you get your product to your users, you can charge them! Just because it’s a new product, doesn’t mean it’s a free one. Get your users onside and solve their problems, and they won’t have a problem paying you. This means you can start generating revenue and proving your product.
You’ve got a product, it’s live, your users love it and it’s earning you money. Now you are appealing to investors, they want to get a piece of your burgeoning product and help you launch it globally.
This is of course the dream, but if you focus your product you can achieve it. Using the MVP approach you can prove your idea and validate the market, which puts you a step ahead of businesses who just have an idea.
Tips for finding the right balance in an MVP
- Building minimal functionality means you can focus on quality
- Plan for adoption by millions not thousands
- Keep in mind how you plan to earn from your product
- Monitor as much user behaviour as you can and react to it
- Get to market as quickly as you can
- Keep a close eye on your competition
Things to avoid
- Adding functionality that isn’t absolutely necessary (be ruthless)
- Delaying release because you think it needs another feature (be firm)
- Waiting until you are happy with the product (be brave)
This last one is key. As the product owner, you will undoubtedly want a perfect product, and have a very specific vision about what that looks like. Reality will rarely live up to that vision, so you need to be prepared to launch into production before you are ready. If you are comfortable and happy, you have waited too long and you may have missed the boat.
“If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released it too late.”
LinkedIn Co-founder, Reid Hoffman