What’s an MVP? A minimum viable product, often abbreviated to ‘MVP’, is a common term in agile working environments. This month, we’ll explore what an MVP is and why it’s such an important part of your product development process.
Your product concept
When you devise an idea for a new product, it might be based on one of these factors:
- Customers’ needs
- User experience
- Business goals
- Commercial opportunities
- Mad midnight musings of a senior stakeholder (this one happens far too often!)
Before you do anything, it’s worth considering your audience and questioning who and how this new product idea will help.
For example, let’s say your ultimate goal is to make money from a new product. You may think the goal is to unlock a commercial opportunity, but actually, that’s the by-product of your real goal; providing value to your customers/end users.
If you create products that customers and users can’t get enough of, they’ll keep coming back to you, pay for your services and tell their friends about you too. Just like that, you’ve unlocked your commercial opportunity, by focusing on what customers want.
Great products don’t come about by chance. It requires planning, skill and patience to take an idea and turn it into a successful product.
Some organisations turn to a third party partner to help them devise their entire digital strategy, whilst others may already know what they want to do, but be unsure about how to do it. Whether you develop in-house or externally, it’s really important to start by doing your research - understand your customers’ needs, your competitors’ offerings and the market landscape.
Is now a good time to launch something new? Who is it aimed at? How will it benefit them? Do you have the right resources and knowledge to make it happen?
If you build it, they will come
How do you know if the product you’re planning to build will be valuable for your customers? You give it to them, as quickly as possible.
This is the concept of the MVP. Build a low-fidelity version of your product, get it in front of customers as soon as you can, then capture their feedback so you can enhance it based on their needs. By low-fidelity, we mean a simple working version that captures the value of the end product you have in mind. It contains only the core features you need to make the product work.
Sometimes we prefer to refer to the MVP as the MLP - minimum lovable product. This better represents the focus on value and is a reminder that an MVP may be simple, but it still needs to be usable!
For example, let’s say you’ve decided to create a new visualiser tool for home interiors. Your USP is that the user can drag and drop any image off the internet onto their visualiser without having to save the file to a folder on their laptop or phone. This is useful because it means the tool can be used from any device (no storage needed), it’s quick (no saving required) and it’s flexible (any image can be used).
What matters for the MVP: A user must be able to drag and drop an image from an internet search onto a visualiser app.
What doesn’t matter for the MVP: The exact design of the app (you can figure this out later), additional features like customised mood boards, multiple projects, user profiles, editing features and download options.
If you were to wait until you’d completed all the additional elements for your product before you launched it, imagine how long that would take! Maybe months…maybe years.
By comparison, if you focus on the simple requirement for the MVP, you could have a workable version ready in just over a month.
So what if your app takes a long time to build, at least it will be perfect when you launch it, right? This is often the argument senior stakeholders, or fans of Waterfall product development methods, might make.
In fact, this used to be the standard development practice in almost all organisations for a long time. Realistically, the impact of spending a long time finessing products before launch was usually negative.
Sometimes, within the time it took to get the product to market, customers’ needs had changed. Often, the end product didn’t work as expected or was rife with glitches and bugs. Unexpected user scenarios would crop up and derail the carefully planned (and heavily documented) workflows set out by a BA or Product Manager.
The impact for many companies was lost time, wasted money and a sub-par or redundant product. This is why agile delivery, and in particular MVP development, is now so popular.
The Digital Detox approach to MVP
Just because it’s an MVP, doesn’t mean it should be dull! The trick is to focus on the VALUE of your product, not the FEATURES.
At Digital Detox, we achieve this by ensuring that everything we create is desirable, feasible and viable for our clients.
DESIRABLE: it’s wanted and needed by customers
FEASIBLE: it’s technically and organisationally possible
VIABLE: it makes financial sense for the business (ours and our clients’)
These pillars guide us to ensure that the MVP delivers on the value of the product, without needing all the bells and whistles that can be added later. If users test an early version of the product (the MVP) and give us feedback on what they like/don’t like and how it could be improved, this is hugely valuable in shaping how we refine the product moving forward.
Sometimes the MVP is a simple, interactive wireframe. Other times, it’s a more design-led working prototype - it depends on what the customer wants, the time frame, audience and, yes, the budget too.
Whatever format we use for the MVP, the end result is always a useful, valuable and effective model that people can test and interact with, then give feedback and suggestions on how it can be improved.
About Digital Detox
We are a humanity-led digital product agency, specialising in design, full stack development, startup tech partnerships and digital transformation.
If you’re looking for someone to plug a skills gap in your existing team, or you need a full service design and development partner, we can help!