When we start on a product or a product feature, we are often told “Don’t build a full product. Start with an MVP”.
So what’s an MVP?
Well, MVP is short for Minimum Viable Product. It means the minimalist version of your product (or product feature) that allows your users to perform the basic action which you intend them to perform. Let’s suppose your product is a signup form, then the MVP will be a simple container which has fields like Name, Email, Password and a Sign Up button. No colors, no design, no additional fields, no social login buttons. Just a simple form with three fields and a button.
Some product managers also call an MVP a minimum usable product. As it is used to solve a particular problem.
So now that you know what an MVP is, why do you need it?
When you have thought of a product or a feature as a solution to solve a problem, you are not sure if the customer will adopt that solution. It’s just a hypothesis. And you need to test it. Well, MVP allows you to test that hypothesis. It helps you validate or invalidate the assumptions you have made.
But then why not validate after building a full product? To build a full fledged product you need a lot of resources - like few developers, a few months of time, and other tech tools. And what if that product fails to attract customers. You have cost your company time and money. On the contrary, an MVP can be built quickly with minimum resources. And then even if the product fails, you didn’t cost the company too much.
Lastly, an MVP helps you be quick to market. This not only helps you beat your competitors, but also gain early adopters to your product. Furthermore, the customers will give you feedback which helps build the final product according to how the customers want it.
How should you build your MVP?
Let’s suppose you want to build a product which helps people transport goods by water. Your MVP shouldn’t be built in a way shown below.
It must be something that is viable enough to solve the problem, i.e transport goods from very beginning.
The same thing applies to digital products as well. You should always start with something that’s minimalist and is viable enough to solve the problem.
What should you do once you have built the MVP?
Once you have built an MVP, you should immediately take it to your customers for validation. Remember your MVP is not the solution. It’s an experiment towards the solution. And your customers will tell you if that experiment is successful or has failed.
In an agile product development cycle, we have three basic steps - Build, Test & Measure, Learn.
Building your MVP was the first step. Validating your MVP with customers was the Test and Measure step. Why did your MVP fail? Why did the customers like it? And what more do they want? Answering these questions is your learning step.
If your customers like your MVP, you need to go back to the Build phase and build the next viable version with a few more features and add-ons. Once built, again go back to the customer for testing, measuring and learning. You can also start selling this version as the basic or starter version. And incrementally go on to build the final product.
But if your customer doesn’t like your MVP? It doesn't mean that you have failed. It only means some of your assumptions were wrong. With the new knowledge, go back to the sketch board and start building the MVP again.
I hope this helps you understand the essentials of building an MVP. Always remember an MVP is an experiment to gain confidence in the direction of your product development. It should always be treated as a learning experience.
That’s all folks. Until next time.