The principle of a minimum viable product
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product that is released for use with just the basic features while minimizing the cost, amount of work, and development timeframe. But what is the point of developing a software program, app, or product in general in such a simple and stripped-down version? After all, everyone in the marketing world knows how much brands try to impress users with an incredible customer experience or added value in the form of extra features.
The approach stems from the customer-centric lean startup method developed by Eric Ries in 2012, which uses the simple principle of “Build – Measure – Learn” to leanly achieve the desired result: satisfied customers who buy and love a product.
MVP – from idea to prototype
Minimum viable products can be found in every conceivable sector and are based on the idea that you would first have to invest a lot of time, money, and effort into a thoroughly polished product despite there being no guarantee that it will ultimately be received well by customers, even if you conducted a proper needs analysis beforehand. That is where a minimum viable product comes in, which can be initially offered to give users a sense of which aspects they would want the developers to build on.
Although the term “minimum viable product” comes from the field of software development, the principle can be applied to all kinds of products and can also help you efficiently execute your business idea using a prototype and thereby avoid making bad investments.
How to create a minimum viable product step by step:
- Customer-centric needs analysis and value proposition: identify the target group and its specific needs
- Determine the minimum requirements for a usable product
- Produce a product version, mockup, or prototype
- Communicate the product to the target group
- Conduct a customer survey and gather user feedback
- Analyze the feedback
- Modify and improve the product or
- Discard the product
Your prototype initially only needs to meet one key criterion and benefit your customers or solve a problem. They will then accept even a stripped-down version and can reach out to you with further suggestions for improvement.
You should thus expect to receive criticism when implementing the lean startup method and developing an MVP, but that is also precisely what you want. Through this learning process, you will be able to optimize your product and shorten the iterative cycles up to the point of true (mass) marketability.
How to use the MVP principle the right way
The basic idea behind the MVP concept is to avoid unnecessary costs. All too often, developers and founders put a lot of work and money into a high-end, expensive product and corresponding design that then fail to find a fan base on the market.
You can avert that by presenting a stripped-down version – or maybe even just the idea itself – to a small selection of your target group and conducting a needs analysis to gain a clear overview of the demand situation. Those early adopters will quickly put you on the right track and are literally worth their weight in gold because they prevent you from making bad investments.
Twitter, Dropbox, and even Airbnb also started out small as minimum viable products.
Key points to consider with the MVP concept:
- It is better to address a clearly defined target group than a broadly diversified one, since it is difficult to meet various needs with a stripped-down, minimalistic product.
- Find the smallest usable unit: your minimum viable product should be a simple version of the core idea, but still be completely functional and usable.
- Your product must offer something that isn’t available elsewhere.
At some point, this gradual optimization must lead to an MVP becoming an MAP, or a minimum awesome product. After all, you’ll hardly find enough buyers if your product doesn’t have any sort of design appeal or other USPs.
Experience has shown that minimum viable products can only survive a certain time if there is absolutely no competition on the sales market. But only until a better alternative, i.e. a minimum awesome product, comes on the scene.
From prototype to premium product
Today’s high technological standards and constant availability of goods and services have meant that customers and users now expect more from applications, services, and product ranges. For a product to appeal in the long term, it has to exceed the normal customer experience and UX demands. Minimum awesome products meet this requirement and are what makes your development competitive.
Just because the MVP satisfies users from a purely functional perspective, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will ultimately buy the product. They need to be given a special push for that.
The competition for the favor of consumers is fierce, so the MAP has to impress.
For example, with
- an exceptional design idea
- higher quality
- better availability
- great ease of use
It isn’t easy nowadays to develop something that hasn’t been done before. However, the lean startup method can also help you improve existing products due to its customer-centric approach. An existing version of a product isn’t always the best one.
By developing an alternative MVP/MAP and analyzing the feedback in a precise and customer-centric way, you can make a product more attractive and turn it into a new market leader.
Is the MVP a sure-fire way to success?
The lean startup method and the development of an MVP are obviously no guarantee of establishing a marketable product. The most important step of any success story lies at the very start; in this case it would be a detailed target group and needs analysis. You can’t develop a profitable business idea if you don’t know what your customers’ wishes and problems are.
On the other hand, it’s important to also accept failure. Not every bright vision will turn out to be an absolute sales hit. That’s precisely where the principle of a minimum viable product can spare you big investment losses. If users don’t gain any benefit even from your basic product, then a sophisticated version with a host of extra features won’t be a sales success either. In this scenario, it’s better to abandon ship and wait for a new opportunity to create a minimum awesome product.
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