What is a minimum viable product?

Illustration of a bicycle, upgraded to a scooter, upgraded to a car, representing the development of a minimum viable product
Published
May 25, 2021
Category

Partners

You might have heard the phrase “minimum viable product” at your last agile meeting. But what exactly is an MVP? This post explains the concept and why it’s so very important for developing a digital-first, digital-fast company.

Your new product concept

When you devise an idea for a new product, it might be based on one of these factors:

  • Customer needs

  • User experience

  • Business goals

  • Commercial opportunities

  • Mad midnight musings of a senior stakeholder (this one happens far too often!)

Before you do anything, it’s worth considering your audience and questioning who and how this new product idea will help.

For example, let’s say your ultimate goal is to make money from a new product. You may think the goal is to unlock a commercial opportunity but, actually, that’s the by-product of your real goal: providing value to your customers and end-users.

If you create products that customers and users can’t get enough of, they’ll keep coming back, paying for your services and telling their friends about you. Just like that, you’ve unlocked your commercial opportunity by focusing on what customers want.

Read how a knowledge base can help you keep your customers happy

The strategy

Great products don’t come about by chance. Planning, skill and patience are required to turn an idea into a successful product.

Some organizations turn to a third-party partner to help them devise their entire digital strategy, while others may already know what they want to do but are unsure about how to do it. Whether you develop in-house or externally, it’s important to start by doing your research. You need to understand your customers’ needs, your competitors’ offerings and the market landscape.

Is now a good time to launch something new? Who is it aimed at? How will it benefit them? Do you have the right resources and knowledge to make it happen?

If you build it, they will come

How do you know if the product you’re planning to build will be valuable for your customers? You give it to them, as quickly as possible.

This is the concept of the minimum viable product. The MVP is a simple version of your product. This working version needs to capture the value of the end product you have in mind, but doesn’t include  accessory features.

Once you have an MVP, get it in front of customers as soon as you can. Then capture their feedback so that you can enhance it based on their needs. 

For example, let’s say you’ve decided to create a tool for home interiors that helps users visualize their projects and plans. Users can drag and drop any image off the internet onto your product without having to save the file to a folder on their laptop or phone. This is useful because the tool can be used from any device (no storage needed), it’s quick (no saving required) and it’s flexible (any image can be used).

What matters for the MVP

A user must be able to drag and drop an image from an internet search onto the product. 

What doesn’t matter for the MVP

The exact design of the product (you can figure this out later), additional features like customised mood boards, multiple projects, user profiles, editing features and download options.

Imagine how long it would take to launch this complete product! By comparison, you could have a workable version of the simple MVP ready in just over a month.

Time matters

A familiar counter argument focuses on perfection. If a product takes a long time to build, it will be perfect when launched — right? In fact, this used to be the standard development practice in almost all organizations for a long time. But that’s not the case. Realistically, the impact of spending a long time finessing products before launch is usually negative.

Sometimes, within the time it takes to get the product to market, customers’ needs have changed. Often, the end product doesn’t work as expected or was rife with glitches and bugs. Unexpected user scenarios crop up and derail the carefully planned (and heavily documented) workflows set out.

The impact for many companies is lost time, wasted money and a sub-par or redundant product. This is why agile delivery, and in particular MVP development, is now so popular.

The Digital Detox approach to minimum viable product

Just because it’s an MVP, doesn’t mean it should be dull! The trick is to focus on the value of your product, not the features. At Digital Detox, we achieve this by ensuring that everything we create is desirable, feasible and viable for our clients.

Desirable: it’s wanted and needed by customers

Feasible: it’s technically and organizationally possible

Viable: it makes financial sense for the business (ours and our clients’)

These pillars guide us to ensure that the MVP delivers on the value of the product, without needing all the bells and whistles that can be added later. If users test an early version of the product (the MVP) and give us feedback on what they like/don’t like and how it could be improved, this is hugely valuable in shaping how we refine the product moving forward.

Sometimes the MVP is a simple, interactive wireframe. Other times, it’s a more design-led working prototype — it depends on what the customer wants, the time frame, audience and, yes, the budget too.

Whatever format we use for the MVP, the end result is always a useful, valuable and effective model that people can test and interact with, then give feedback and suggestions on how it can be improved.

If you’re looking for someone to plug a skills gap in your existing team, or you need a full-service design and development partner, we can help!

Get in touch to chat about your next project, or read more about how agencies can help brands deliver cutting-edge digital experiences.

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