A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the version of your product with the smallest set of core features that will provide value to your initial customers/users. This MVP is then released to a subset of your initial customers/users who are typically early adopters and are willing to provide feedback as well as grasp your product vision.
The benefits of an MVP are to:
- Test a product hypothesis with minimal expense
- Bring forward learning of customer wants, needs and reception of your product
- Reduce engineering costs of building features you later discover are not wanted by your customers/users
- Gain early feedback from initial customers/users allowing you to focus your improvements for a larger rollout
Importance of a well designed MVP
As you will be determining the future direction, and perhaps viability, of your product is it important that your MVP is well designed to get the results you need. Even though your MVP is a minimal version of your final product it needs to give your customers/users a complete experience and they should derive value from using it. A perfect MVP would also show where the product is going so users can envision the complete experience. This image perfectly shows how your product should evolve from MVP to your final completed vision:
It is also important that you have the proper analytics built into any MVP. You need to know exactly how users are interacting with your product, where they are having problems and where they are giving up. You can learn a lot about what your customers aren't telling you with the right analytics.
Is an MVP the starting point?
An MVP is a great tool to evaluate the value of your product with customers/users but doesn't have to, and most of the time shouldn't, be the initial starting point for your product. There are many ways to get valuable feedback from customers/users and evaluate your product before you even start building. These are:
- Interactive prototypes
- Landing pages
- Adwords campaigns to a page allowing users to declare their interest for your product
- Talking with potential customers
These will help you decide if your product has value before you even start building. You can also use these techniques to iterate on your idea and design, taking your learnings into your MVP.