Minimum Viable Product

By gswardman May 4, 2022

In everyday life, we interact with all kinds of products, some poorly designed while others so well-designed that they become an extension of our lives – think smartphones. Have you ever wondered how these products came to be?

What is the significance of Minimum Viable Products in the product design process, especially for young or upcoming companies? This guide delves deep into the topic of Minimum Viable Products.

Key topics in the guide include the definition of an MVP, its significance in the product lifecycle, why, key attributes, how companies go about creating MVPs, some examples of MVPs, and a lot more.  If you are looking for in-depth knowledge about minimum viable products, especially from an entrepreneurial or investor’s perspective, then you’ve come to the right place.

What Is Minimum Viable Product?

What Is Minimum Viable Product

A Minimum Viable Product -MVP- is a product with enough functionality, characteristics, and features to be released to market before it is fully developed. The MVP concept was introduced by Eric Ries, the world-renown author, entrepreneur, and blogger behind the lean startup methodology.

In his book, Eric puts the minimum viable at the center of a product development life cycle that stresses gathering feedback and continuously refining a product to perfection. A Minimum Viable Product concept allows entrepreneurs to ship products that are more likely to succeed in the market.

Eric Ries defines an MVP

Eric Ries defines an MVP as “the version of a new product that lets a team get the most amount of validated customer learning with the least amount of work.” Keywords from this definition are “version” and “least amount work.” Version means a product that is still evolving, and the least amount of work indicates that the MVP is an early-stage product.

A Minimum Viable Product is not the beta version of a product. MVPs are usually quite functional or usable; they can be bought or given to real customers who use them as regular products. A Minimum Viable Product is an actual product with enough attractive features or functionality to be purchased.

In a nutshell, an MVP can be described as follows:

  • A new product with enough features and functionality to be used by real customers
  • A product whose development is not complete but released so that entrepreneurs can check its viability and learn more about customers’ needs
  • A product used to validate or affirm an entrepreneur’s assumptions about their ideal customers
  • Products used to develop and validate personas in the design phase
  • Early products that are usable and attractive enough to be bought by real customers
  • The early-stage product in Eric Ries’s lean startup methodology which uses the build-measure-learn feedback loop for product design.

Any startup can use Minimum Viable Products to validate their ideas and improve products. MVPs can be used in other methodologies – such as agile- with a few tweaks to the product development process at the initial stages.

What are the benefits of a Minimum Viable Product?

There are many benefits outlined in Eric Ries’s book – The Lean Startup- on using Minimum Viable Products in the product design and development process. Of course, the main benefit is that a better, more refined product that delivers maximum value to the customer comes out at the end. Here are some of the notable and proven advantages associated with Minimum Viable Products:

MVPs Favor Customer-Centered/Human-Centered Design Principles

One of the core principles in modern product design is human-centered design or customer-centered design. Human-centered design principles encourage product designers to create products that offer maximum value to the customer.

The whole idea behind MVPs is to ensure the product design and development process is human-centered. The “build-measure-learn” feedback loop ensures that a product is used in the real world and feedback is used by the designer for future versions.

Customers get to feel a product at different stages and their feedback or how they use it will define its future iterations. Product designers and developers get a lot of insights from the customers who buy an MVP and use it to make the product better or add new features.

An excellent example of how MVPs support human-centered design is how software products are released with a few essential features as MVPs. As the customers use these software products in real life, they will suggest new features that can be added in future versions. Many companies have been using MVPs to develop and refine good products without even knowing it.

MVPs Enable Quick Product Releases

One of the challenges startups or entrepreneurs have to deal with when working on ideas or developing new products is knowing when a product is ready for launch. Most startups or entrepreneurs spend so much time developing their dream products that they become frustrated midway. Using the lean startup methodology and MVP eliminates delays between building and launching products.

To better understand the importance of MVPs in avoiding delays, think of a startup working on a brilliant app idea. Naturally, most startup founders are passionate about their ideas. They would spend too much time accommodating them by adding features and other things. Such an approach may work in some cases, but it is too risky.

Using a Minimum Viable Product, a startup working on a new product can launch it as soon as they have incorporated the core ideas that define the product. This approach also compels startups to ensure they have a working product quickly. As most experienced entrepreneurs would tell you, the faster you can have your product out there, the better for you.

Reducing the time from building to launching a product as a startup has several advantages. For instance, you will have an easier time attracting talent and investors. More importantly, your transition from startup to established business will be faster.

MVPs help Validate Product Ideas

You may think you have the most brilliant idea and dream of making millions as soon as you turn it into an actual product. However, as many usually find out, not all ideas are viable as products that people can use in real life. The MVP approach is an excellent way to know if your ideas are worth pursuing or worthless, which will save you a lot of time and money in the short and long term.

Imagine a startup working on a new product idea for several months or years, hired staff, bought office space, and even attracted some early investors by pitching the idea. They go through the entire product design and development process until they have a final product. However, as soon as they launch, no one is interested in buying it.

The scenario above may sound like a nightmare for you as an entrepreneur, but it is prevalent. You’ve probably come across a product on Kickstarter and wondered who would use it or why it was made in the first place. If all startups or product designers used the MVP approach, we wouldn’t have such spectacular failures on launch.

The most important thing to keep in mind as an entrepreneur is that not all ideas are worth pursuing. That product idea you think is brilliant and potentially disruptive could be useless in the real world. Of course, the only way to validate your ideas is to actualize them, and this is why MVPs are important. Remember, the role of an entrepreneur or startup is to build products that people will want and will pay for as soon as they see them.

MVPs Help Reduce Startup Costs

Instead of spending all your startup capital developing products, you can start earning from your ideas and use the money to improve your products. A Minimum Viable Product is an actual product that offers value to a customer. This means you can have sales even before you have a complete product in the market. You also don’t have to have too much of your startup capital committed to developing a product that may have poor sales.

What Does a Minimum Viable Product do?

A Minimum Viable Product allows you to deliver something to your target customers before reaching the end of your product development cycle. An MVP also enables customers to test your product and give feedback for the next release. For startups with few early customers, this kind of interaction is crucial.

Here are some of the things MVPs do in brief:

  • Allow early product releases
  • Make product improvement easier
  • Allow customers to offer feedback and a say about future versions
  • Allow you to develop accurate customer personas
  • Allow you to understand your product

Key Attributes of a Minimum Viable Product

Key Attributes of a Minimum Viable Product

Minimum Viable Products are distinct from other products by how they are designed and brought to market. Key attributes of a Minimum Viable Product include:

  • It has essential features allowing early adopters to use it
  • It has minimal errors or bugs
  • It is safe to use and has all the approvals
  • It has future potential
  • It allows customers to use it in different ways and provide feedback

What is a Minimum Viable Product Example Used For?

An MVP example can be used in the product design process to help the designers to understand the attributes or features they need to add to a product for it to be an MVP. Examples could be products that have been fully developed but stripped down to their basic form. For instance, a fully developed electrical electric bike with non-essential gadgets stripped.

Examples of MVPs

There are several examples of MVPs out there that you can use as inspiration for your projects. Some were developed by big companies to test the market and gather customer feedback for future versions, while others were from startups. Some notable examples of  MVPs include:

Mastodon– Mastodon is a new social network built with decentralized technology or the blockchain. Mastodon has all the essential features in its current form, but it is live and usable.

Zynga Poker- Zinger poker was once a basic game made for Facebook. It had basic poker features but later became one of the most popular games from Zynga. The company relied on customer feedback on Facebook to improve Zinger Poker.

Zappos– The Zappos founder initially took photos of shoes he wanted to sell on his website in regular retail stores. He then purchased and resold the shoes to buyers. His MVP was the Zappos online store.

What Comes After Building an MVP?

After building a successful MVP, you should get feedback from early adopters. Use this feedback to learn and improve your product until it is fully developed.

SaaS products are prime candidates for the Lean Startup approach where MVPs are used. You can develop SaaS MVPs quickly by adding a few essential features to test the market. Hire a SaaS developer today to create a viable startup using MVPs.