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A minimum viable product (MVP) is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product's initial users.
This concept has been popularized by Eric Ries, a consultant and writer on startups.
A minimum viable product (MVP) is the most pared down version of a product that can still be released. Product demos, crowdfunding projects and landing pages are all common examples of MVPs.
In some cases, the MVP can be a piecemeal of other existing tools to test its viability before it is developed as a proprietary tool or software.
Or it can “look” functional on the outside while it is manually operated by humans (“Flintstone” or “Wizard of Oz” MVP).
The developing team of an MVP will not waste any time on anything beyond the bare minimum, and build every other feature over time as they assess the customers’ wishes and preferences as they start using the product.
The product may change even dramatically or even get abandoned as feedback from users may significantly diverge from the original project. However, the developing teams will not waste any resources (efforts, time, money, advertising) on a product that no one really wants, needs, or likes.
The catch to this development technique is that it assumes that early adopters can see the vision or promise of the final product and provide the valuable feedback needed to guide developers forward.
The whole focus is learning during the product development by collecting information from customers that is validated already.
Observing users as they utilize the product is much more reliable than trying to validate marketing hypotheses with questionnaires or forecasts. A common pitfall is to release a bare-bone product that is so much below the users’ expectations that is not viable at all.
Also, some teams eventually fail to materialize customers’ suggestions into actual, functional changes that improve the product.
In general, the MVP technique is particularly viable for technically-oriented products used by technical users who are often keen on providing practical insights on how to improve or update the product.
The concept of MVP has, in fact, been widely adopted by many verticals in the informatics industry. For example, many video games today spend many months (sometimes years) as early access products, and are slowly developed as the community grows.
Some popular franchises, such as Farmville, fully leveraged the concept of MVP by implementing new gameplay features over time while progressively improving overall user experience.
Other important use cases of the MVP approach in the informatics world include key startups that eventually rose to success, such as Facebook, Airbnb, Dropbox and Twitter.