The New MVP

Scott Michaels
May 2, 2018 · 6 min read
The New MVP

Creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has been a crucial step of the product development cycle for years, but the concept of what’s “viable” these days has evolved. Users’ expect much more from their software interactions, and digital products must now be more personalized, engaging and intelligent than ever before. This means that the definition of a minimum viable product has to change as well. We propose a new tier to the MVP criteria; one that includes smart capabilities.

The Old MVP

A minimum viable product is a product with the bare minimum features required to get a product to market. This attracts early adopters to your product so that they can provide valuable feedback to drive future development of the product. It provides a paradigm through which you can assess your budding product development process.

Traditional MVP, thanks to Luke W

While there are many variants of MVP criteria sets being used, one of the most common is:

  • Feasible: Do you have the capabilities to pull off the solution? Do you have the distribution channels to deliver the product? These two elements are required to deliver a feasible product.
  • Valuable: The product should provide value to the consumer and, through user feedback, the product should be valuable to the project. This feature-feedback loop drives all future product development.
  • Usable: Functionality is vital to the MVP. The user must be able to effectively use the product so they can form an opinion and provide feedback about their experience.
  • Delightful: Delightful products inspire passion in their users. Combine a lean feature set with the right UX/UI and watch your user base fall in love
Traditional MVP — You want some of each layer in your release

Ok, So Why An MVP?

Initially, MVP was about getting your product to market; but, the process has changed over the years from a waterfall model to a more agile model.

This methodology is a way of communicating restraint and getting clients in line with the idea of having each layer of the MVP in place before going to market.

Without this type of discussion, the product almost invariably lacks some layer of the MVP pyramid. It may be usable, but the features are not particularly valuable. Or the product might provide high value, but the UX/UI lacks the elegance to really delight the user. Lacking any of these layers results in the product not being a genuine MVP, which impacts the product’s success and how you plan for future versions.

The idea behind MVP is to get your product out in the market as soon as possible so that users can provide feedback, and so you can pour over all your analytics. This begins a process that fuels all future iterations of your product. Each MVP layer provides benefit to the user. The user then provides feedback to the production development process, which is used to develop future releases of the product.

A good way to think of this is to remember all the points that roll up into the “V” in MVP. For products to be viable they need to:

  • Keep the users happy
  • Give them enough that they see value
  • Engage them so they don’t churn out
  • Hopefully pay, or monetize in the way you want

New MVP Criteria

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing the way we do everything. It’s also changing user expectations. In light of this, we’ve added Smart Products as a tier to our MVP diagram. Smart features that enhance the user experience are a must from now on. Users will no longer accept apps that, while functional or informational, do not learn and adapt to the way they are used.

For a blunt example, compare two budget planning apps. The Fudget app provides valuable information and is functional. But users must manually enter all their information. Mint, on the other hand, imports all of this automatically when you connect it to your bank account. This kind of intelligent enhancement of the user experience is not optional anymore. A product must do this kind of heavy lifting for users or it simply will not be viable.

This is how we at Apply see the MVP pyramid:

Smart: This element is new to Apply’s MVP stack. It includes artificial intelligence, machine learning, personalization and engagement. These elements have formerly been considered as part of the Usable and Delightful criteria. But now these specific features are so vital that they require of a category of their own.

Delightful: Meeting or exceeding a user’s expectations is one of the best ways to engage users. Since the MVP archetype ensures that your product gets to market as soon as viable, this maximizes the possibility that it will be released before any similar product.

Usable: In the current market, high user expectations have already been set. Making UI/UX a core item of your product is something you can’t afford to skip.

Feasible: Strip away any blue sky ideas of what your product could be, given unlimited resources. Take the team that you have assembled and develop the core idea. You don’t need a finished product, but you do need a proof of concept and market validation must be confirmed. The idea here is to get your product to market and begin the process of building a user base to help guide you through further development. Resist the urge to insist on building everything in-house. Consider partnering with third-party add-ons and modules that can save effort and maximize value to the user.

Functional: This is always the foundational tier. Lacking a working product is a showstopper. Verify that your distribution channels and core idea will function as planned.

MVP with smart products layer added. Again, address each layer in every release

And don’t forget that your product is a living thing! This is a principle that we use in our approach to an MVP. The release of your MVP is only a milestone in product development. The next revision is already well underway when the first release hits the market. With each release plan, remember to not only focus on one slice of the MVP tier. Every release needs to move every layer forward, no exceptions.

Viability Hinges on ‘Smart’

There are many versions of this MVP pyramid, and each have slightly different labels for each of the layers. Whichever one you use, the paramount element of the puzzle is always the V, which stands for viable. Viability means more than just being functional and bug-free. A product is viable when it encompasses all the layers in the pyramid. With users clamoring for the type of user experience that intelligent features and Smart Products provide, the day has arrived when a product missing these “smart” features is just as deficient as poor UX/UI or a lack of feasibility.

Conclusion

The demands of product development has continuously evolved and will continue to do so as technology and user expectations increase. As the complexity of the market expands, it is vital to have a trustworthy model for looking at your product in a measurable way. With the rising importance of technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning in our daily lives, these technologies will become an integral part of all successful products. Adding the Smart layer is therefore an indispensable part of the new MVP triangle. If you employ the Apply’s MVP criteria, you will be able to obtain the metrics you need to grow your product and fuel further development in the very cold and harsh world of digital products.

Apply Digital

We make and market smart digital products.

Scott Michaels

Written by

Partner at Apply Digital, Chief Strategist , Techstars Mentor, let's talk!

Apply Digital

Apply is a digital product studio with offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, and New York City. Informed by human insights and empirical data, Apply makes and markets apps, platforms, and brand experiences that are smart by nature and intuitive by design.

Scott Michaels

Written by

Partner at Apply Digital, Chief Strategist , Techstars Mentor, let's talk!

Apply Digital

Apply is a digital product studio with offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, and New York City. Informed by human insights and empirical data, Apply makes and markets apps, platforms, and brand experiences that are smart by nature and intuitive by design.

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