Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

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What is Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a new product that has just enough features to attract early adopters. The goal of releasing an MVP is to acquire customer feedback that can be used to guide the product’s future development.

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What is Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

Key Takeaways

  • Minimum viable products start out with just enough features to meet early customer needs.
  • MVPs are used to get customer feedback as early as possible in the development process.
  • The customer feedback is used to guide the next steps in the development process.
  • MVPs are closely aligned with the principles of lean production.
  • Some of the most well-known e-commerce websites started out as MVPs.

MVP Purpose

The purpose of an MVP design strategy is to get qualitative and quantitative feedback that can be used to guide future product development. By understanding user needs, as well as product pain points and user preferences, product developers can make informed decisions about which features to add, modify, or remove in subsequent development cycles.

How are MVPs Developed?

Minimum viable products are developed iteratively. The process involves building and releasing a basic version of the product, gathering and analyzing customer feedback, and making incremental improvements based on the feedback.

The cycle continues until the product either meets the needs and expectations of the target market, or there is not enough interest in the product to justify continued development.

How MVP Works

Minimum viable products have a customer-focused Build-Measure-Learn life cycle. This approach to product development has its roots in lean production. The life cycle prioritizes continuous learning, continuous improvement, and data-driven decision- making.

Here’s how it works:

Build
The first step is to build a product that has just enough features for early customers to use.

Measure
Once the MVP is released, its viability can be measured by collecting quantitative and qualitative data on the number of customers using the product, what features they like or dislike, and any problems they encounter.

Learn
The collected data is then analyzed and used to validate (or invalidate) assumptions about the product’s usefulness and make informed decisions about future product development.

How MVP Works

Five Steps to Build an MVP

The following steps eliminate waste and support a fail fast philosophy. The goal is to test hypotheses about how (and if) customers will use the product, what features they find most useful, and whether the actual product users match the expected customer persona.

Five Steps to Build an MVP

  1. The product development team comes up with an idea for a new product.
  2. Team members agree upon what criteria will determine if the product is marketable.
  3. Developers create a bare-bones version of the new product and release it to a small market segment.
  4. The product team gathers and analyzes customer feedback to understand what market segment used the product, what customers like, and how the product could be improved.
  5. Based on the feedback, developers continue to improve the product incrementally or stop production.

Examples of Minimum Viable Product

Individuals who want to build and test an MVP can use a low code/no code website builder to quickly create a functional website and use it to validate their idea.

Once the website is launched, it can be promoted to a small target market to gather feedback and assess interest in the new product.

Website builders often have analytics tools that allow their owners to track website traffic, user behavior, and conversion rates. This data can provide valuable insights into customer preferences and validate the viability of an idea for a new product.

MVPs that started out as websites include:

Airbnb
Began as a simple website that shared information about hotel alternatives in San Francisco, including the founders’ own apartment.

Dropbox
Initially used a landing page with an explainer video to gauge interest in cloud-based file-sharing service.

Buffer
Started with a two-page website to test interest in a social media scheduling tool.
Groupon
Launched as a simple WordPress site to evaluate interest in discount deals before building their platform.
Zappos
Started out as a landing page that showcased shoes from a brick-and-mortar  retailer to validate the idea that people would buy shoes online.

MVP Pros and Cons

While MVPs offer several advantages in terms of user-driven development, they also come with challenges related to data interpretation. If you want to use an MVP approach to product development, balancing the pros and cons will be important.

Pros

  • Reduced development costs initially
  • Faster time to market
  • Data-driven feature prioritization
  • Early roadblock identification
  • Continuous improvement

Cons

  • Limited usability
  • Customer feedback can be misinterpreted
  • Premature scaling
  • It can be easy to underestimate the work required to iterate an MVP

The Bottom Line

Minimum viable product’s meaning is best understood in the context of lean production, a manufacturing concept that has been adopted by Agile software developers.

By initially focusing on core functionalities, product development teams can gather valuable feedback from early adopters. The feedback can be used to avoid investing resources in products or product features that do not resonate with the target market.

FAQs

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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.