April 30, 2021
In every industry there are trends of the season, and there’s no denying that the last few years the minimum viable product (MVP) has been a buzzword and a go-to tool for businesses implementing various projects.
The term was brought into mainstream view by Eric Ries through his book, The Lean Startup. Ries describes a MVP as a version of a product that allows teams to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about the user base for the least amount of effort or resources, be it time or funding.
While the idea may have begun as a revelatory way for companies to achieve learnings fast, what we have seen more often than not is poorly executed, halfhearted versions of an idea released to a target market. This results in wasted money, wasted time and a loss of customer confidence.
At its heart, the original concept of the MVP still has great benefits to offer teams. If we are able to understand how our idea or ideas will be received by a customer without the need to ship a full app or completed project, then we are all the stronger for it. So here we will explore why MVPs fail and how we can adopt a better approach.
MVPs fail because teams don’t do adequate research on their market or customer, they don’t plan and prioritise, they overspend on unnecessary components and underspend in important areas, and they ship a product that is not up to the expectations of users today.
A few years ago, when digital services were still in their nascent stages, it was easier to wow potential customers. Today, users are accustomed to high quality, functional experiences for all products - and competition is far greater. As a result, it’s imperative to not only ship a functional experience but to truly understand and value the customer. User trust is fragile and once broken is hard to reclaim.
When it comes to deciding what your MVP will be, it pays to think outside the box. Consider that if your final product is a ferrari, your MVP isn’t a tyre, it’s a skateboard. This analogy drives home the point that your MVP should be a complete iteration of an idea that offers the same solution as the full product, albeit in a simpler format.
Always remember that your number one goal is to speak directly to your customer, and to gain learnings as fast and efficiently as possible, while also nurturing user trust. Just as your MVP could be a simplified version of your app - the skateboard to the ferrari - it could take a more experimental approach, such as sign-up pages or a video. Take Dropbox, for instance. Founder Drew Houston’s humorous, informative and simple video on how to use the new platform drove thousands to the waiting list for the beta site.
One way to reframe how you think of MVPs is to change the term entirely. Many business owners, decision makers and developers have coined various spinoffs from the original. One popular term is MLP or minimum lovable product.
A MLP is an initial offering that users love from the start. The focus is on how to make users fall for the product from the start, while still building or shipping a minimum version of an idea. In this approach developers constantly refer back to the question, what will delight users? The focus is on what customers care about, the problems they have and how to make their lives better. Various tools can be used to define this, such as story mapping or the prioritisation matrix, which allows you to identify the pain points of the user and gains that a user can achieve.
The MLP brings all of our attention back to the customer, which in turn increases our chance of success. The MVP can lead to teams creating a product that is inadequate and poorly suited to a demographic. The MLP inspires teams to test assumptions through customer research and understanding, and then bake this into the product, service or concept. It may seem like a greater investment up front, but it’s worth it.
The beauty of MVPs, or MLPs, is that they allow teams to ship ideas directly to customers for direct feedback. From here you’re able to build out the original concept and develop your idea into its final and full iteration.
At Sush Labs we work with companies from every industry to deliver digital experiences that serve users and achieve business goals. After years of experience we’ve developed our own distinct approach that draws on proven methods to ensure at every step we are efficient, thorough and agile.
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