Understanding the MVP concept

3 min read

Dozens of entrepreneurs lose their time and money every day, refusing to launch a project until it is packed with different features and overall “better than the competitor’s one”. It’s okay to want your project to be outstanding, especially when you pay some serious money for that. But the path of project development is thorny – this process requires a bunch of testing. That’s where MVPs come in handy.

What is MVP?

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a beta version of an application with a limited amount of features, just enough to satisfy early customers. The goal of a minimum viable product is to ensure that the product enters the market early and to get the first audience and their feedback.

This term was first coined and defined in 2001 by Frank Robinson, CEO at SyncDev Inc. It has immediately gone viral and therefore was referenced in Steve Blank’s and Eric Riece’s works. 

The concept of MVP exists so that its creators could analyze the value of the product from top to bottom. It requires:

  • Minimum effort
  • Minimum time
  • Minimum investment.

In essence, MVP is a learning experiment that gives confidence in the viability of a business idea. In prospect, you should have a product that’s ready to enter the market and already has customers.

Pros

Overall, the main goals of MVPs are lowering the risks, upgrading the concept of a project and, of course, reducing development costs. However, there’s even more to it. 

  • Focus on primary features. Some product owners tend to cram their projects with various (read: not so important) features. The reason for that is them being overly anxious about the competitiveness of their project. As we’ve already mentioned above, everybody wants to have a unique, one-of-a-kind product with various attributes. But the MVP approach is all about user experience. It requires a real focus on the most important and robust features in order to satisfy early adopters. In this case, the less is more.
  • Finding early customers. Even with all the means of advertising being available, word of mouth is still a powerful marketing tool. MVPs help to attract first customers and get their honest feedback. Moreover, they can spread the word about a project and potentially bring even more customers in. However, this only works when your product is actually customer-oriented. 
  • Quicker release. This benefit sums up everything mentioned above. Focusing on core functionality, finding early adopters, getting their feedback eventually leads to a faster launch of a quality product, which is 100% user-friendly and able to serve customer’s needs. All that saves a bunch of time and money on developing useless features or fixing bugs. 

Your time, costs and resources are precious. Don’t spend them unreasonably. 

Cons

Although all that may sound perfect, there’s still a downside of the MVP concept. At the first stages of development, particular questions may occur: which features are core? How many features is too much? How to find early customers? etc. 

  • Challenge. The primary con of developing an MVP is facing the challenge. Knowing what to prioritize in a project or understanding the pains and needs of a potential customer is great in the long run, but obtaining this information takes time and testing. 
  • Violation of intellectual property rights. Sometimes when the idea of a project is both innovative and easy to implement, MVP can do worse. People may actually steal your concept and recreate it their own way. So, if protecting the intellectual property is something you really care about, MVPs are probably not for you. 

The next point is not a disadvantage per se but explains why additional resources are needed with an MVP. The team behind the project should be really focused on scalability. They should always be ready to maintain a project by adding or removing some features, editing design, fixing bugs etc. It requires time and dedication to the project, so choosing the right technical stack may also be a challenge. 

img mvp development

Misconceptions

MVP is a sample product, a test version with a minimum set of quality functions. It might be a simple demonstration meant to test the hypothesis, but it is still a product! It is not a bad-UX simplified product. It should be made as a product that can be used, that solves users needs and they are willing to pay for it.

Focusing on “minimal” instead of “viable” in the minimum viable product is a mistake. If you provide customers with a low-quality MVP, you’ll lose. 

Due to the misconception associated with the MVP term, Melissa Perri (Escaping the Build Trap) suggests using the term ‘solution experimentation’. “These experiments are designed to help companies learn faster. Here we are experimenting to learn, not building to earn. We are not creating stable, robust, and scalable products. Often, we don’t know what the best solution would be even when we begin experimenting.” That is the point of doing this work. 

Summing up

In order to gain market share, your product doesn’t have to be impressive with its functionality: it can perform only 1-2 tasks, but better than the competitors. And to come to this, you need to research the market and analyze them:

  •  Test all the products on the market that you can reach
  • Read all available reviews about them
  • Look for pain points and what people are excited about to do better and adopt what is already working well.

The best is the enemy of the good, remember this when you want to create something new.

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