What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

This article will be going into detail regarding what is the minimum viable product and a few examples of this kind. Is an MVP a fancy way of saying prototype? Or is it a proof of concept?

What is an MVP/Prototype?

An MVP is a development technique in which there is a product discovery or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product's initial users.

A core principle of the MVP concept is that you provide an individual product (which may be as simple as a landing page or a service that seems to be automated but is completely manual behind the scenes) that you can sell to consumers and observe their actual actions with it. Observing what consumers really do with a product is much more reliable than telling people what they think of it.

minimum viable product

An MVP is a concept from Lean Startup that stresses the impact of learning in new product development.

One potential thing to be noticed is when an MVP is used correctly, a team will drastically alter a product that they sell to their customers or leave the product altogether depending on consumer reviews. MVP allows teams to do as little work as possible to get meaningful feedback (Eric Ries refers to this as validated learning), which lets them stop focusing on a product that no one wants.

Characteristics of Minimum Viable Products

An MVP's development team would not waste time on anything above the bare minimum, instead assessing the customers' needs and expectations when they use the product and building every single feature over time. These are some of the common characteristics that MVP products will incorporate:

  • It has enough value that people are willing to use it or buy it initially.
  • It demonstrates enough future benefit to retain early adopters.
  • It provides a feedback loop to guide future development.

In general, the MVP approach works well for technological goods that are used by technical consumers who are eager to have realistic suggestions for how to develop or upgrade the product.

When customer input diverges greatly from the initial project, the product can alter significantly or even be abandoned. This is important to understand because the development teams, on the other hand, would not spend any capital (efforts, time, money, or advertising) on a product that no one wants, needs, or likes.

The image above illustrates the misconception that an MVP is only a product with limited functionality. As you can see, the pyramid on the right shows that, although a Minimum Viable Product has limited functionality, it must be “completed” by also addressing reliability, usability and customer satisfaction.

The video below explains the entire concept of minimum viable product diagrammatically.

What is not a Minimum Viable Product

The fundamental difference between a product and a minimum viable product is that you cannot sell an MVP at scale. Therefore, things that are not Minimum Viable Products would be the following:

  • A low-quality product.
  • The first phase of a project.
  • A product with limited functionality (by limited we mean not addressing all the key benefits from our value proposition)
  • A Landing Page or an email campaign
  • A wireframe, a model or a prototype

You can use wireframes, mock-ups or interactive prototypes to test an MVP, to test other parts of the commercial model or additional features, but these tests will not allow you to validate the traction, so we cannot consider them valid MVPs.

Examples of Minimum Viable Products

All concepts and theories aside, putting this concept into the real-life application is the real test. How are these principles being practised in the real world? Let’s dig into some examples of minimum viable products that evolved into valuable product-driven businesses. Here are some examples summarised from CleverTap.

Instagram

Kevin Systrom developed and raised funding for his mobile app Burbn. The idea was to enable people to check in and share their experiences at various locations with friends.

The app was not an instant success and in fact, many people found it confusing to use. The Burbn team decided to pivot and focus on a single feature: photo-sharing. We all know how this story turns out — Instagram was born. This storey demonstrates how simple it is to add sophistication to your product before it is really needed, as well as how real-world use can shatter all preconceived notions about your value proposition.

Airbnb

The founders of Airbnb were short on rent money and had an idea to make accommodations for an oversold conference with all hotels booked in their city. Their idea was to host guests in their apartment on air beds.

This truly bare-bones minimum viable product was enough to signal that their solution aligned with a common problem. Airbnb’s short-term rental MVP worked well enough for customers to pay for it and provide valuable insights into future features.

Conclusion

Teams use the term MVP, but don’t fully understand its intended use or meaning. Often this lack of understanding manifests in believing that an MVP is the smallest amount of functionality they can deliver, without the additional criteria of being sufficient to learn about the business viability of the product.

The main advantage of an MVP is that it allows you to learn about your consumers' interest in your product without having to thoroughly build it. The earlier you can determine if your product can appeal to consumers, the less time and money you'll waste on a product that won't sell.

References

Infographics are courtesy of CleverTap

Minimum Viable Product

Characteristics of Minimum Viable Products

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Written by Meerat Qureshi

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