As user needs become more complex, product teams spend longer and longer developing the perfect product to capture every single need and scenario, and come to market; only to find that either the need has been fulfilled, changed, gone away, or that they had misunderstood the need all together. Some product efforts fail because the team gets so caught up in developing a fully featured application, that half way there, they have run out of funds and resources without ever bringing anything new to the market.
To avoid the above issue, many development teams tend to follow a lean approach, focusing on a minimum viable product. This helps you to focus on the features that really matter, while saving you time and resources.
What is an MVP?
This is best explained by the person who coined the term itself:
The MVP is the right-sized product for your company and your customer. It is big enough to cause adoption, satisfaction, and sales, but not so big as to be bloated and risky. Technically, it is the product with maximum ROI divided by risk. The MVP is determined by revenue-weighting major features across your most relevant customers, not aggregating all requests for all features from all customers. Note that MVPs are not relevant only to the IT industry, but are a concept that can be useful in nearly every market.
The MVP process
Developing an MVP might seem easier than developing a full product, and while this may be true of the actual development cycle, the path leading to it, remains almost the same. The purpose of building an MVP is twofold:
- To verify if you have a valid business idea that can hopefully generate revenue
- To fill an immediate and urgent need of a set of more complex requirements
Additionally an MVP can help you collect data and market research that can help to build and improve the full product, grow a user base early on, and reduce time and effort spent to create a product that won't make it in the real world.
It's important to understand that an MVP is not an underbaked product launched without proper UX, or testing, or a beta version. AN MVP is a fully functional, less feature rich version of the final product. As such it goes through the same rigour and process as the final product. The benefit being that stripping it down to core functionality helps to reduce the time and resources spent to develop. Bringing it to market sooner, which in turn helps to validate the product and business idea.
As a viable product, an MVP needs to:
- Fulfil a need or be useful
- Work seamlessly without bugs or defects
- Allow users to complete an objective in a way that brings delight
UX and MVP
UX strategy is an integral part of designing a good MVP. Before understanding what your MVP will be, you need to understand your product. This understanding comes from thorough market and user research. When deciding the features to be included in an MVP, you need an understanding of what problem users are hoping to address with your solution, and how it should be presented to increase usage and adoption. An MVP is not a throwaway prototype but a viable product that will enter the market and be used by your target market. The UX of your MVP needs to be at least as good as the final product, but with the additional burden of future-proofing the MVP, as you are building with the knowledge of the other features which are in development.
Product development is a complex, risky, and expensive process. A minimum viable product addresses these issues, letting you go lean, and develop the least amount of functionality required to go to market. Given that an MVP is a functioning and usable product you don't save time by cutting corners on development process or UX design, but rather by identifying the minimum features required to solve a problem.