Minimum Viable Product

What is the definition of a MVP?

When creating a new product or feature, and especially if you are a startup (not Apple) you want to do as little as possible in the first stage to get to the next stage.

The first iteration is your MVP or Minimum Viable Product.

Why do as little as possible?

First of all it’s expensive and time consuming to do more than what is needed.

You might be mistaken in your assumptions and spend time on creating something that is just plain wrong.

Also, if you add too many bells and whistles to the product it’s much harder to know what is working, what is not working, and why things work or not work.

Start as small as you dare to.

What is a MVP or Minimum Viable Product?

As I define it, it is the absolute minimum thing you can deliver to a specific group of users or customers that gives them some kind of value, and gives you the confidence to improve it further.

“The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

Eric Ries – The Lean Startup

Some examples of MVPs

Depending on what you want to accomplish and your resources:

  • A physical meetup of the target group. If you can’t gather 10 people in real life how are you going to gather thousands online?
  • A landing page explaining your product with a sigup form or even a simple payment function to reserve your order. Tesla got a million pre orders for the Cybertruck this way.
  • Selling a single product on a market place online. Will someone buy this if you put it for sale? This is how AirBnB started.
  • Door to door selling. Will you get someone to buy when approaching them in real life?
  • A Figma, or Marvel prototype that feels like an app but with a very limited flow that you can test with users.
  • A niche group on Facebook, Reddit or some other more general site.
  • An ad on TikTok, Google or Facebook to see how many people interact with it.
  • A pitch deck that you can use to test with potential customers or investors.
  • A button in your interface that measures if people interacts with it and then explains you haven’t built the feature yet. Could also ask for feedback directly.
  • A social media account with content to test if people interact and follow your account.
  • A React Native or Flutter mobile app with the basic functionality to get your first users.
  • A single feature web app that tests your core offering.
  • A Kickstarter to get your first paying customers.
  • A functional hardware prototype that does the job but might be ugly and impossible to manufacture in scale.
  • A tweet pitching your idea.
  • A blog post explaining the idea in more detail.
  • A handmade gizmo that you throw away after proving your point.

How to decide on what kind of MVP to do

Ask yourself who are your target group and what is needed to prove your hypothesis about your product or feature.

The big questions is: What really matters?

Is it the design and branding?

Is it the technology?

Is it the business model?

Is it the user experience?

Try to zoom in on something and test it.

Some examples of what is in most cases bad MVPs

Usually involving lots of ambition but missing the target:

  • A fully fledged mobile app with lot’s of different features. Built to scale and with a very robust backend.
  • Anything involving more than 4 people or more than 3 months full time building and creating stuff. Don’t overdo it!
  • Products that need design polish to succeed with their target group but focus on tech. Or the opposite, products that need to be highly technical but focus on superficial design.

But… sometimes you also need to build quite complex MVPs. Read about The pitfall of low-effort MVPs in innovation

When do you know your MVP is working?

It’s in most cases a bit difficult to interpret if your MVP is working or not. You usually get some kind of positive signal. If you don’t get that, you know it’s NOT working. Back to the drawing board!

But if you see some signs it is working it’s important to paus for a second and think about what is working and why.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it genuine interest or is it artificially created somehow?
  • Will it still work if you charge for it or apply the business model you had in mind? Somehow you need to make money.
  • Are you targeting the group of people who will actually use this or is it enthusiastic early adopters that gives you positive feedback but won’t be around when you scale it up?
  • Exactly what is it that makes it work? Talk to the users and look at analytics.
  • How can you continue building on top of the positive signals to strengthen what you have without ruining it?

Some tests that can be good to do:

  • Ask your users how they would react if you removed their access to the MVP. If no one cares you have a problem.
  • Ask your users to recommend your MVP and see if someone does.
  • Ask your users to pay for your MVP and see if they do.
  • See if you can remove something from the MVP and still make it work to really see what the core of the experience is.
  • Experiment with what you highlight or have as a key selling message to see how it makes a difference to the MVP usage.

And as a end note remember that the less time you spend on an MVP the more versions can you test and learn from.

So keep to a minimum not MAXIMAL viable product.

Creating more MVPs gives you more chances to succeed.

If you are a little bit ashamed of what you release, you know you haven’t overdone it.

Read more about my method to challenge or build on top of an existing business where an MVP is an important step.