Blog / Shaking up early product development, part 2: The Minimum Viable Product

May 4, 2016

An MVP is a Minimum Viable Product. This is the smallest possible thing that delivers value and you can learn from. Your MVP can usually be thought of as your initial product; the first thing you try to sell to your customer. But your MVP can help you develop your product or service further. Think of your MVP as your key tool to learn from: your continuous learning loop. You have this great idea for a product/service and you believe in it. The MVP enables you to test it quickly, get feedback, learn from this and then think again.

Taking an MVP approach

Taking this MVP approach is the quickest way through the Lean Startup route of ‘build, measure, learn’: building something, gaining user feedback, processing this feedback and thinking again.

Types of MVP

Here are just a few of the MVP strategies you can try:

Interviews

MVP 1

Test your assumptions by going out and interviewing your user. Ask them a range of open questions to find out about them and learn about them. You might discover that what you thought was a problem wasn’t a problem for a user or the thing you thought would solve their problem, actually doesn’t. It might uncover something else that is more important to your user.

Fake doors

MVP 2

Fake doors are web pages, adverts or another communication that express: “Here is a great product! Here is a brilliant website! Click here to solve all your problems!” . When a respondent clicks they go through to a message saying ‘Thank you for your interest, please give us your email address and we’ll let you know when the product is released’. It’s a good way to gauge interest for your product and test demand in the real market.

Sketches

MVP 3

Use sketching to as a first point of getting your assumptions onto paper, so you can get them in front of your user. It doesn’t have to look fancy; it just has to be something you can test quickly.

Crowdfunding
Sites such as Kickstarter offer a way of testing your product position by describing your vision and the early product and asking for funding to build it. If people believe in it too, they might invest their money to back it. It’s a good way to gauge whether concept captures people’s imagination.

Concierge
Sometimes referred to as “The Wizard of Oz” – the concierge refers to the person behind the curtain, pulling the levers. This is a way of proving your business model before spending any money on automating a process. Your users think they’re using a product that has been built but you are the person behind this “product”, testing if they’ll really use it.

Paper prototypes

MVP 6

This is one of the simplest and cost-effective ways of putting something in front of users without having to spend much time building. Use paper sketches to allow users to ‘click’ and explore the interface before any code is written. Encourage them to ‘use’ features and describe what it is they would like to do. You then begin to build up a picture of which features people want and which features to dispose of, before spending any further time on exploring them, let alone building them.

Where to start?

A good place to start is by asking yourself:

“What’s the simplest, cheapest, quickest way I can get my idea into the hands of my users that will enable me to learn something and understand what to do next?”

Answer this and you’ll be in a good position to grab the most effective MVP strategy for your idea to test on your users.