The Minimum Viable Product and Why It is Important

It doesn’t matter how solid is your business plan and market research conducted before pushing the product or service to the savagely competing market, there are always unexpected surprises. The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) gives you the chance to test the product in the real market conditions and with the everyday consumers to evaluate its performance.

The minimum viable product (MVP) is a product that includes only the necessary features and options that allow the company to release to the market. This allows the company to achieve different advantages such as evaluating the product, reducing cost, and testing the product performance as we’ll explore highlighted later. The minimum viable product can be also introduced in a form of demo video, landing page, pilot version, or preliminary release.

The question here is how to determine the features that need to add to the product before it is released to the market? Actually, this varies from one company to another based on the business plan, the budget, the product development timeline, and of course the nature of the product.

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minimum viable product

The minimum viable product

The Benefits of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

As mentioned above companies may use the minimum viable product to escape the all or nothing dilemma. These benefits include the following:

Test the product in real market conditions

Even with the internal testing for products, the real market involves different factors including competitiveness, trending technologies, and economy. The only way to experience these factors is to put the product in the market and evaluate its performance. The minimum viable product also aims to build an agile process where the product is released, tested, and improved in further development rounds.

Focusing on the key features in the product

During the project development, the team may use the focus on the target consumer needs, this may need up with a complex product that loses its core value. Adding unnecessary features to the products is one of the common issues that contribute reaching this production mess. The minimum viable product allows the team to focus on the core value of the product and the features that the consumer only needs. This helps the developing team to understand what is needed and what is not. So, instead of wasting resources in a feature that no one would use, it is crucial to focus on the key features that contribute to the product success in the market.

minimum viable product
Illustration for the minimum viable product by Henrik Kniberg (source: Hackernoon).

Reduce the product cost and time

By focusing on the main features of the product during the production, this saves the company cost, time, and effort needed to launch the product. So, instead of spending a long time developing a product that may or may not achieve success in the market, the team speeds the process by pushing a minimized version of the product to the market. if the product achieved success, the return of investment will be rewarding and help the company to invest in developing the product with steady hands. If there are issues in the product, then company then has the decision to try to improve the product or kill it without any further loss in time and cost.

Speed the team learning curve

One of the most important lessons when releasing your first product is to learn about the real user experience. These lessons can’t be achieved through internal research or testing. Therefore, the putting the product on the market with a minimum viable product helps the team to learn more about the product and use the consumer feedback to improve the future version of the product.

Switch to agile and iterative process

Instead of the linear process, the team turns to agile and iterative process. The product release helps the team to collect feedback from the consumers that can be used in improving the future version of the product. So, instead of the traditional process, the company release the product, let the consumers test it, and then collect feedback to fuel the iterative loop that is used to develop future versions of the product.

Lean UX framework
lean UX interactive framework.

Minimum Viable Product Case Study: DropBox

When DropBox first started in 2007, there were already file sharing applications in the market, the problem was that it was not usable enough. So, users just avoided using. The existing products were not widely adopted through different platforms and they required custom setup.

This video shows an early stage of DropBox version

The company assumed that if there is a user-friendly file sharing application that can run on different platforms, many target consumers would use it. In order to validate this proposition, the company built a demo with no actual work or released software. They published it in order to drive the interested consumer to sign-up for product information. Once, the proposition was validated, the company started to develop the product.

The minimum viable product is considered a crucial step, especially in the new product development. It can save the company any unexpected surprises when the product is released to the market. Additionally, many advantages can be gained through the application of the MVP such as reducing the cost and developing time, increasing the learning curve, and turning to an agile and iterative process.

The minimum viable product varies base don the company needs, it can be a demo to get the consumers’ feedback or a real product to learn about the user experience. Accordingly, the target of the minimum viable product and why it is needed shape its characteristics which vary from a company to another.

Rafiq Elmansy is the founder of Designorate.com, author, and design and innovation consultant. He is an affiliated faculty teaching design at the American University in Cairo. He holds a master degree in Design Management with Distinction from Staffordshire University, UK. He has more than 17 years experience in the field of UXD and interaction design, and his books are published by John Wiley, O’Reilly Media and Taylor and Francis. He is also a contributor at the Design Management Review. Rafiq is a jury board member for the A'Design Awards, Poster for Tomorrow, and Adobe Achievements Awards. His design artwork was exhibited in many locations including Croatia, South Africa, Brazil, and Spain.
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