MVPs: Your most valuable plan to hit the market swiftly!
When creators think up a new product, they often include a thousand and one features to make it engaging and totally unique. Unfortunately, the resulting beast is often huge and unwieldy.
A “Minimum Viable Product”, or MVP, is basically a pared-down version of a software with just enough features to meet the needs of early adopters while obtaining useful feedback for future iterations of the product. Who determines what features go into the MVP, or not? The answer is “everyone”: the creator of course, the end users especially, as well as the developer, who is best positioned to balance out fundamental purpose, on the one hand, and technical complexity, on the other hand.
The idea of the MVP is that you can always release future iterations of the product (versions 2, 3, etc.), incrementally adding features at every sprint. The iteration and incremental improvement model of development has stood the test of time for all manner of products; in short, it is the best way to release your creation as quickly as possible.
The very nature of software development is beautifully suited to this model, as long as you tweak your methodology. Your goal is to obtain comments and opinions on your product as early as possible to gain a better understanding of the actual needs of end users, which, in turn, will help you decide what features to include in your product (or not). In other words, this feedback will be your product “wish list” for versions 2, 3, and later.
To get to the best possible MVP, you’ll need to use models, proofs of concept, “spikes” and finally a working prototype, developed jointly with designers, UX experts and developers. A high-frequency feedback loop (for example, at each sprint demo, or at each important milestone) will ensure success.
As is always the case in software development, some features will be more complex to achieve or technically uncertain. For each feature, ask yourself if said feature is essential for initial launch — and get confirmation! —, in order to avoid needlessly delaying the release of your product.
First impressions are crucial, as they say, and this goes for new software products too. This is why you should have at least one feature that will differentiate you from the competition – for example, a feature that is unique or especially effective. Best practice has you selecting just a couple of features, saving the others for future versions. The secret to MVPs is to provide enough goodies to engage users, while always saving something for later. This balance can only be achieved by a disciplined team, supported by software experts that can work the feasibility/complexity equation, weigh the different features and make technical recommendations.
Generally, an MVP includes every aspect of the final product, but in a “lite” version. For example, it will already have a forum or a blog, but at first, it won’t be searchable. Eventually, a complete feature, while not essential, will provide an exciting new development for users in later versions.