What is a Minimum Viable Product?
Originally published here
With an abbreviation familiar to football and basketball fans, “Most valuable player”, the other MVP in this blog post is a very valuable asset for startups to build their product from ground up.
Every product is built on the vision of solving a problem faced by people. Startups dig into the potential problems people face and create products that solve the problems or simplify the existing solutions. So should entrepreneurs simply build products from the ground up in weeks and launch them hoping people will like what they have built? Or should they keep on iterating on every single idea they have and release a new version every week?
Generally product releases can be broken down to two extremes.
The Perfect Product
Working on a particular product for a long time to make it completely flawless in every aspect aesthetically as well as technically. Such a level of perfection is necessary in the case of sending someone to outer space, but not in a startup environment. A startup spends 2 years coming up with a killer idea, a great team and builds the most advanced product there ever was. The product they created was a masterpiece in terms of design and technology, but when they launched they found out nobody actually wants to use this product. They get don’t get much tangible feedback from their user base, which hinders their ability to take decisions and eventually fails to answer the fundamental question, “Where did we go wrong?”
The early and often release
Getting every potential idea for the product out there every week with an agile framework may also not be a great idea to check which of your arrows hits the mark. Often releases have an advantage over the ‘perfect product’; they help you fail quickly and understand what works and what doesn’t. But releasing early and often does not let you implement your learnings in a systematic manner. Instead of being a progressive incremental track from the invention of the wheel to building the first cycle, it ends up maybe in making a very questionable unicycle.
Releasing a new product does not guarantee its success but learning from our mistakes and iterating on them can help us make better products. A Minimal Viable Product (MVP) is something in between the “Perfect Product” and the “early and often release”.
The crux of an MVP is a hypothesis which the team has for the product. The team spends the lowest amount of resources and time to come up with a version of the product which will enable them to receive feedback and see for themselves whether their idea is valid. They learn from the feedback received and re-iterate the product incorporating the new findings and test again. The point is to learn something new and to validate the team’s thoughts against the consumer’s thoughts. Getting to the perfect product is not an easy task and is not usually possible in the first iteration. Following the build, measure, learn loop to improve the product in steps can help in learning more and making better products.
So, what exactly is an MVP?
It can be anything, A simple set of printouts of a single paragraph on a piece of paper with different formatting styles to test which one is better readable. A first draft of a blog post sent to friends to check errors or a simple landing page describing the the product to see how many people actually sign up.
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