What do companies such as Wrike, Zoom, and Twitter have in common? They all started out as an MVP: a minimum viable product. 

With more competition on the market every day, developers and businesses need ways to increase their chances of success when working to launch a new product. Putting time, money, and other valuable resources into a product only to have it flop is costly, but this can be avoided with a minimum viable product.  

Continue reading to find out: 

  • A clear definition of a minimum viable product
  • The purpose of an MVP 
  • The benefits and downsides to MVPs
  • Must-know tips and best practices for using MVPs

What is a minimum viable product? 

A minimum viable product is “a product that has enough features to satisfy early customers and to provide feedback for future product development and enhancements.” That product could be something like a landing page, website, or an app. The MVP is essentially a skimmed down version of your final product with its key features working. 

With a minimum viable product, you’re creating a product that your customers and target audience can engage with while you observe the ways they behave and interact with it. The goal is to achieve this with the least amount of time and effort. This lets you collect valuable data and find areas of improvement before putting too much time into a complete product.

For example, the founders of Dropbox had a hypothesis that file uploading and synchronization was a common problem amongst most computer-using people. They just struggled to explain their product to investors. So the CEO of Dropbox made a video demonstrating the product. In this case, the MVP is the video itself, which drove hundreds of thousands of users to the Dropbox site. As TechCrunch explains, “The MVP validated Drew’s leap-of-faith assumption that customers wanted the product he was developing not because they said so in a focus group or because of a hopeful analogy to another business, but because they actually signed up.” 

Uber is another famous example of a company that successfully used a minimum viable product. Uber’s 2010 beta version called UberCab began as a bare-bones mobile platform used solely by the company’s founders and their social circles in and around San Francisco. As they slowly introduced new features to their small user base, the company was able to use their findings to fine-tune and make necessary improvements, resulting in the $68 billion global business they are today. 

As you can see, an MVP is an extremely valuable component to the development and success of any product. In the next section, we’ll outline exactly how an MVP can benefit your business, as well as some potential downsides. 

Benefits and downsides of a minimum viable product

Just like any component of development and production, there are pros and cons to MVPs. 

Benefits 

Tests demand for product 

A minimum viable product is a straightforward way of validating the demand for your product idea. While market research should be completed at this point in the development process, the MVP can show a successful transition from idea to product. 

On the other hand, if the MVP proves unpopular or not useful — showing a lack of demand — this early “failure” should be regarded as a benefit. While some resources have been spent on creating and launching the MVP, the investment is low when compared to what would have been spent completing and perfecting a fully developed product.

Reduces costs

While a mature, fully-complete product is the result of countless years of development and iterations — costing the business significant time, money, and other resources — minimum viable products allow you to launch a product without a full financial commitment. You can launch a product with core functionalities available to grow your user base and attract investors. 

In testing and refining your original idea, you can also put more resources towards features that are valuable to users, while retracting the allocation of funds towards product components that were less popular. Maybe you thought the addition of user-to-user instant messaging would be a big hit within your app, but data collected after your MVP rollout shows that users actually prefer a message board type of communication. Now you can focus on perfecting that area of the product instead of the instant messaging feature. 

Creates a deeper understanding of customers 

Without an MVP, you lose out on considerable information and data surrounding your target customers. Receiving user feedback from your MVP helps you understand your customers and how they interact with the product before the launch of a completed iteration. 

Not only are you able to get a more dynamic understanding of your end-users, but you’re able to do so in the most efficient manner possible. At their core, MVPs allow a business to minimize development costs while gathering the maximum amount of information. 

Potential Issues 

Too many features 

If you’ve ever been to an all-you-can-eat-buffet, you know the struggle of too many options. In order to get the most out of the MVP, it’s important that only the minimum number of features are included in the product. 

Trying to include too many features in the MVP can cause the company to lose focus on the key purpose of their product. An overloaded MVP is also distracting for the users — and can dilute your data.

No viable product 

On the other hand, if a company focuses too much on the “minimum” part of MVP, the launched product might be lacking in viability. If your team rushes to launch a product before it’s ready or trims down the features too much, the users will not be able to interact with the product in its intended form. 

A proper MVP cannot be half-built — or full of bugs — and must allow users to complete their tasks as expected. 

Best practices for your minimum viable product

Define user experiences 

In order to keep your minimum viable product focused, it’s important to map out the end-user’s journey. Take the time to identify the ways in which you feel the customer will be using your product and consider any actions the customer would need to take within your product to meet their goals. 

In addition to mapping out the way someone would successfully use the product, look at ways your users could experience obstacles or issues. What could go wrong, or cause them frustration as they use the product? This kind of information can be just as valuable as successful interactions. 

Have a key goal 

Saving time and money is only a core benefit of an MVP if you have a clear goal in mind. Make sure you and your team know exactly what your product is meant to do, how it will help your end-users, and who your target customer and audience actually is.

It’s also important to keep business goals in mind here. What are the company’s core objectives moving forward? For example, are you looking to grow in a certain industry, attract new users, or boost customer awareness? Figuring out a goal, or goals, will limit distractions and wasted resources on product features that don’t align with these objectives. 

Stay flexible

While staying focused on your end goal is important, it’s also necessary to remain flexible and open to changes that might occur due to your data. 

After launching your MVP, you’ll most likely notice end-users using this version of your product in ways you hadn’t expected. These types of surprises are beneficial, as they reflect the way your product will actually be used. 

Don’t get caught up trying to fit your product into what you think it should be. Instead, treat your user data as a positive, collaborative effort that will only help your final product and allow you to scale in the future. Make sure you have a process in place to identify these areas of opportunity, and adjust your product as needed. 

Get it build and get it out there

If you’re looking to successfully launch a new product with minimal time and financial resources, a minimum viable product is a solid solution. By allowing you to test out the key features of your product, MVPs let you understand the current market, learn about your target customer, and build valuable assets that will enable your business to stand out amongst the competition. 

What’s next?

  1. Want to learn about a workflow that can benefit from an MVP? Check out our breakdown of the software development backlog workflow.
  2. See how Unito is shaping the flow of work.
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