As the world of start-ups evolves and the development industry evolve, the term ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP) has taken on several different meanings. Frank Robinson, who coined the term, and Eric Ries, who popularized it, originally intended it to mean “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” The key phrase is ‘validated learning.’
Over time, different people have applied the term in various ways, with the emphasis shifting from learning to other goals, such as marketability or profitability. Some define it simply as the first version of a product, others as a stripped-down version of a product. Some developers disregard the idea of an MVP altogether, opting instead to build ‘a full-scale but simple product.’ However, we should not dismiss the idea that marketability and profitability are the explicit goals of ‘validated learning’ in an MVP. Every developer wants to spend the minimum amount of money and time, to produce a product their customers want to use.
Eric Ries defined an MVP 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.”
In other words, people looking to develop an app should ask themselves the following question: what is the minimum effort (development cost and time) I need to expend to make a functional product, while learning from my customers how to improve the product, and market it to them?
When developing a new product, you want to do the minimum amount of work to make it usable. Once you have launched a product with the minimum features needed to make it usable, you can start an iterative process of adding new features based on customer feedback. As new features are added, customers can use the product and provide feedback for further refinements. This cyclical process allows you to focus resources on delivering what your customers want, through direct evidence and feedback.
With Big Design Up Front (BDUF), a product is completed and perfected up-front, before its implementation is started. The problem with this approach is that it is not easily adaptable to changes in scope or can pivot in response to market changes. No part of the product is fully functional until near the end of the linear process, so the design cannot be as easily tested and validated. With BDUF, there’s a bigger chance that you will spend a year – or multiple years – developing product features your customers don’t engage with.
An MVP allows you to give your customers a product they can engage with early, so they can let you know what features need improving, and which features they are missing, before spending time and resources on features you don’t know are needed. At Atimi, we partner with Fortune 500 companies on multi-year product development projects that go on to win technology awards. The complexity regarding everything from the architecture to displaying financial data visually compellingly on a small screen means that vast amounts of decisions are made each release. Having an MVP to go back to while building each release can keep everyone focused on the next step they need to take in a potentially large-scale project.
Saving time is another benefit of an MVP. The sooner the development team understands the end users’ response to a product or feature, the less time will be wasted on continuing down the wrong path.
If project teams don’t fully understand what an MVP is, they can make several critical errors. Some make the mistake of thinking that an MVP is the smallest amount of functionality they can deliver. It isn’t about how little effort needs to be put into the first iteration of a product; it is about the minimum amount of value a product must possess before it becomes useful to end users. Often, however, a product is over-engineered and packed with features that may not really be needed. This is an understandable by-product of enthusiastically following a vision of what a product should be, instead of a guided processes of giving customers what they want to pay for.
When developing your MVP, it’s important to consider your MLP and MMP:
The minimum amount it takes before a product can generate revenue. An MMP tests the product’s appeal to the market.
The minimum possible functionality that will get customers to love the app, not just use it.
When you get your MVP right, your brand can more easily develop an MMP and an MLP, but the real value of an MVP is to give you a feedback loop to develop MMPs and MLPs.
Product development will always be a resource-intensive process. The goal of an MVP is to reduce the cost and time to market while focusing developers’ efforts on things that will improve both MMP and MLP. When you partner with a custom app developer, their goal should be making you successful with the most efficient approach to app development. Having an MVP puts you on the right course.
At Atimi, we follow a human-centered design approach to make sure that our client’s clients remain at the forefront of product development. By following our well-defined processes, we can help our clients create premium products that entertain, educate, and engage their customers.