Minimum viable product (MVP) is a maximally misunderstood term. MVP doesn’t have to be the smallest version of the product that can be commercially launched. MVP is not at all about product features. A software MVP does not even need to contain any lines of code.
According to Eric Ries, who popularised the term MVP in his book (2011) and website The Lean Startup, MVP is “That version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”
With user research, You can learn so much about your users and customers when the product is still a high-level concept.
Turn assumptions into validated facts
The primary reason to do a MVP is to learn from your customers. By giving the customers access to a small and incomplete part of the product as early as possible in the product development process, your customers will tell you what you need to add to the MVP in order to turn it into an actual product. What the customers actually need is almost always completely different from what product managers think the customers want. Learning from the customers will therefore radically change the scope, direction and features of the product.
”The capability to try, test and fail is the most important thing. If something does not work, fail fast.”Rajeev Suri
ex-CEO of Nokia
The first user tests are the most important tool in the risk and reward process of product development. These early tests evaluate the feasibility of your ideas. The agile concept calls this process “fail fast”, with an emphasis on failing early and failing often.
Andrew Kelly, senior testing and quality coach at Codemate, encourages teams to think of this process as “learn fast” instead. If you can cut unwanted features from a product without losing customer value even before a prototype version is built, a tremendous amount of development time, money and resources have been saved. Channeling your resources to solve only the most important pain points as fast as possible allows publishing the product much earlier, which in turn accelerates user data gathering.
The next steps become apparent based on real user feedback and your sales team has something compelling to sell very early. The single worst marketing decision you can make is to start with a product nobody wants or needs.
Sometimes less is truly more
In my previous blog post, I discussed how many product managers or entrepreneurs begin with an idea they strongly believe people want. Then they spend months, sometimes years, perfecting the feature list of that product without actually showing the product concept to the target users. The interactions with users can be accidentally biased by asking “would you like this?” or “would you pay for this” whereas the user wants to please the interviewer and vague intentions seldom convert into real-life actions.
More choices and features result in higher satisfaction is a myth. As a general rule, people only value a long list of features before they actually start using any given product. After they have started using a product, the simpler solution always wins. The MVP approach and continuous user research are the main drivers in keeping any software solution simple and streamlined enough to be actually useful, valuable and satisfying.
“If I could go back to the beginning of our software development project, I would invest in user research. Understanding the customers’ top 5 pain points and reasons to buy need to be clear enough before investing a lot of time and money in building the actual product. Understanding this, we adjusted our approach along the way with Codemate.”
Implementing a continuous user research process is the cornerstone towards building great user experience (UX) for your product. But the work does not stop there; user research is only the first step towards the end goal. To learn what else is needed in order to create great user experiences that convert into business value, have a look at Codemate’s design offering or contact us.