When we’re baking a cake, we don’t wait until our culinary creation is complete before sampling our wares. The best way to ensure the finished product is worthy of the Great British Bake Off (well, we can only dream) is to sample the product during the baking process. Or create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
- What is a Minimum Viable Product?
- The origins of MVP in lean startup management
- Examples of brands that started as MVPs
- Planning your Minimum Viable Product
- Need an MVP ASAP?
It’s the only way to be sure if any tweaks are needed to the recipe, and get invaluable feedback from friends and family about the cake mix or creamy filling that help us know if our cake is likely to prove popular with others and take home the ‘Star Baker’ crown (as we said, we like to dream).
The same ‘taste test’ principles apply when you’re bringing a new product (or software solution) to market, particularly as an estimated 80% of new products fail.1 Luckily, there is a way of testing a product before you get anywhere near your launch date. Let us introduce the Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
What is a Minimum Viable Product?
Quite simply, a minimum viable product is an early version of a product with just enough features to allow it to be released to market. It’s by no means the finished product, but a useable version that lets early customers try out, test, and validate the product idea.
Although the ‘M’ stands for minimum, releasing an MVP brings maximum benefits.
- It helps you get immediate user feedback
- It helps validate your product concept
- It helps verify the market demand
And the end result of all of the above is that it allows you to identify issues and make improvements to future versions of your product with minimal development costs.
An MVP is a more sophisticated version of a prototype. Check out high-fidelity vs low-fidelity prototypes for more details about the different kinds of prototype.
The origins of MVP in lean startup management
Eric Ries, author of ‘The Lean Startup’, introduced the concept of MVPs in the 2000s. He described them as “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”.2
Your MVP doesn’t have to be all-singing, all-dancing with lots of features. Ries recommends taking your first idea for an MVP, then cutting it in half, and then cutting it in half two more times.
Early user feedback on your MVP’s features (and what features are missing) will help inform what the next version of your product should look like. Ries calls this the “learning feedback loop”.
Examples of brands that started as MVPs
Some of the biggest brands in the world that are now part of everyday life started off as MVPs. Let’s take a look…
Today, there are 2.9 million hosts across the world on Airbnb3 and the company is worth $38 billion.4 Yet when founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia launched their idea as airbreadandbreakast.com in 2008, their MVP didn’t have multiple properties at multiple price points in multiple locations. It simply targeted people going to a sold-out tech conference in San Francisco to see if there was a market for renting rooms in residential homes when visiting a new area. It worked. Three people agreed to pay $80 a night to stay in Gebbia’s apartment5.
Twitter began life as an internal messaging service for podcast platform, Odeo, which allowed employees to share updates via SMS. The release of the MVP revealed two key things. The idea was a success and uptake was huge…but so was the cost of sending multiple SMS. That invaluable feedback led the Twitter team to swap SMS for more cost-efficient tweets. Today, Twitter has 145 million daily active users6 and a net worth (as at January 2021) of $43 billion.7
With 36% of the global streaming market, Spotify is the biggest music streaming platform in the world.8 Their development roadmap back in 2009 followed a ‘Think it. Build it. Ship it. Tweak it’ process. “Obsessing over small details can sometimes make all the difference,” said Spotify founder Daniel Ek. “That’s what I believe is the biggest misunderstanding about the minimum viable product concept. That is the V in the MVP.”9 Early users of the MVP (which had one feature – it could stream music) loved it, their feedback helped shape future growth, and today Spotify has 286 monthly active users and is worth $26.9 billion.10
Planning your Minimum Viable Product
According to research, the number one reason that start-ups fail is that there is no market need.11 So, here are some key things to consider when bringing your minimum viable product to market.
Identify the business needs
Ask yourself: Why should this product exist? What gap in the market does it fill? What customer pain points does it solve? Answering these questions will help shape your product roadmap, long-term goals, and your MVP. It will also help you identify what success looks like for your brand, so you have key metrics to aim for and measure.
Find the opportunities
Once you’ve identified your market niche and customer problems, the next question is how you’re going to solve them. The best way to do this is to identify your users and plot their user journey. Doing so will allow you to effectively create a product roadmap of actions that the user will have to complete to get from point A (problem) to point B (solution). Then, note the pain points and benefits (value to the user) of completing each action on your list.
Choose which features to build first
The next step in the process is to use the information you’ve gathered so far to prioritise the actions so you know which to include in your MVP. That’s not to say you won’t eventually include them all, it just helps you decide what to focus on first. The other actions and features can be added in future versions of your product. Prioritising features using this method increases the likelihood that your MVP will have more of an instant impact with early users.
Need an MVP ASAP?
Sure, there is a cost involved with taking the time to roll out a Minimum Viable Product, but it is undeniably money well spent. When you compare it to the cost of spending years on research and development to build a product you think customers will want, only to find they don’t, you could argue MVPs are priceless.
We’d love to discuss making your idea a reality, so feel free to get in touch to discuss your MVP or custom software project. We usually recommend a UX Design Workshop to clients looking to develop an MVP, as a low cost way of gathering project requirements.