By: Robin Schaffer | 30th March 2016
A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a comprehensive term which describes a process, product and strategy. The idea has been floating from 1990, but it became popular around 2008 with models such as Lean Startup highlighting it as a key process. In his blog, Eric Ries presents MVP as an important step in a iterative product cycle which touches on three stages: build – measure – learn. Simply put, after an MVP is developed, the customers provide feedback which can be used to improve the product. This strategy is especially useful for startups, reducing the time and money spent on perfecting their product, but it isn’t as simple as it sounds. Developing an MVP isn’t just throwing products into the market and hoping one sticks.
At its core, it is a development strategy in which a product is designed with only essential features, usually with early adopters in mind, to gain feedback. The initial product should still create value, but it should do so with the smallest set of features which would compel early adopters to pay for it. The ensuing feedback can then be used to fine-tune the product’s features and is helpful not only in determining what kind of product the customers do want, but also what they don’t want.
One of the biggest difficulties in this process is defining what ‘minimum’ means for your product or idea. For some, it is a simplified version of a product, but for others, MVP’s do not have to be products at all. The ultimate goal is learning, and one can learn if an item should be made through a variety of techniques. Landing pages, focus groups, ad campaigns, digital or paper prototypes, and even an explainer video are all ways to show potential customers your idea to receive feedback – without forcing them to pay for a product that doesn’t fulfil their need. In this sense, the MVP is the minimum that you must do to ensure you develop something that people will want to buy.
MVP’s aren’t limited to any one industry and have been useful in areas ranging from books to cloud storage software. In fact, one of the most famous examples have been Dropbox, a leader in file sharing. It began as an explainer video on Hacker News, resulting in thousands of helpful comments which signaled to the developers that there was a real need that this product could meet.
Clearly, the term Minimum Viable Product has moved past physical products. It now extends to value and experience. An MVP is an important step to ensure, in the most effective way, that there is a need that your product can fill while determining which features should be included and excluded. Equally important, it can indicate if an idea is not viable, saving time and money. It is about asking the right questions first, listening to the feedback, and making the necessary adjustments before embarking on the manufacturing process.
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