A Little Confused? Minimum Viable Products in Simple Terms

What’s a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

So, what exactly is an MVP? You can find a lot of definitions for MVPs on the Internet. For starters, one article said that even experts are confused as to what an MVP is. Well, personally I’d like to use Wikipedia’s definition since I find it the most agreeable and less confusing. Basically, a minimum viable product is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers. These early customers can then provide you feedback that will help to develop and improve your product. It’s like having people try your homemade cookies and say “Hey, I like these! But they’re too plain. Why not put chocolate chips in them?”

To make it even simpler, it’s a basic product that people may or may not find valuable, but you can turn it into something people would really want to have because they need it.

Any Business at Any Stage Can Launch One

Now as mentioned earlier, MVPs are often used in startups; but, is it exclusively for them? The answer is no. Saying that MVPs are only applicable for startups is a misconception.

So how exactly can you use MVP in established products? An article by Muthu Arumugham titled Why MVPs can be used in mature products explains it well.

Simply stated, the company mentioned in the article says that they operate in a startup mindset even when they’ve been in the industry for a long time. That allows them to use MVPs, although the application would be a bit different for startups. Even with the name they’ve made for themselves, it’s still important to hear what customers have to say.

Great for Validating Ideas

You’re a business owner and you have an app in mind, but then you think to yourself “will it sell?” With the huge number of competitors in almost every market, it’s inevitable for you to ask that type of question. Putting a full product into the market immediately is risky and not everyone can afford that risk. So how is MVP going to help you mitigate that risk?

By definition, MVPs aren’t exactly the product you’re going to release to the market immediately. It’s a scaled down version of the very first iteration of your app. It provides enough to satisfy customers’ needs and has the features to ‘wow’ customers. In short, MVPs are versions of your app early adopters can test out and provide feedback. Once you have feedback from the test, you can gauge the validity of your idea and whether you should continue moving forward, pivot in a different direction, or drop the idea all together. If it does take off, you can develop it even further before launching it to the market.

Perfect for Feedback Loops

As mentioned on theleanstartup.com, the build-measure-learn feedback loop is a major component of the Lean Startup method. But what is it? The build-measure-learn feedback loop is a technique which was pioneered by The Lean Startup author Eric Ries that helps you to realize where you might have gone wrong on early stages of your application. It’s a structure used for establishing and improving the effectiveness of new products, services, and ideas quickly and inexpensively.

As for the process, it involves a cycle of creating and testing hypotheses by building MVPs, measuring their reaction (feedback), and then learning from the process. You improve what you offer based on the information you’ve collected. Sooner or later, you will be able to deliver what the customers want with the help of this technique.

This has been proven to be effective by many. If you want to be more specific of the steps, these are the following:

  • Plan – define the idea; develop a hypothesis
  • Build – create an MVP or add new features to your existing app to test your hypothesis
  • Measure – hypothesis vs. actual results; how did it do?
  • Learn – create evidence-based decisions in developing your product further

The MVP Process

A product doesn’t simply pop out of nowhere. It starts with an idea. Many startups spend a lot of time and resources perfecting a product, but in the end, it fails. Why? Because they didn’t validate their idea. They didn’t have an MVP which people could test and give their honest opinions on.

When creating an MVP, be sure you do the following:

  • Keep it simple – Keep it small. When there’s a big, complex problem, you don’t fix it all at once. Try to break that problem piece by piece and offer solutions to the pieces first.
  • Keep iterating. Use the same methods in taking care of the related minor problems. You’d be surprised just much easier it will get on taking on the bigger problem.
  • Keep Communicating. Always share your vision in solving the big problem. It helps when people know what you aim on doing.

A minimum viable product can be a bit confusing and difficult to understand. When asked what is an MVP, our CEO, Robert Brooks, defines it as a quick, inexpensive, and an easy way to validate ideas. To me, it’s a very effective way of knowing whether your product or service can put your business up or pull it down. Therefore before launching a full product or service to the market, try to see if it’s going to click to with consumers. Do they really need it or is there already a lot of the same of types of things available already? Think it through!

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