MVP: Is Your Product Really Minimum AND Viable?

June 30, 2015

Our tech community loves the term MVP (minimum viable product) to describe the first version of their product. Unfortunately, many ambitious product launches show that they are neither viable or minimum. They prove to be far too complicated to really connect to the user. Staying true to the core functionality of a product may be difficult, but it is necessary to finding success.

While we were preparing to launch Dispatch, we understood that the main goal of the app was to provide effortless, private communications to the users. However, during the development process, we had many intense conversations about features we couldn’t live without. This process of over-complication threatened to derail the product before version 1 (or .01!) had even shipped. We had even taken time to build wireframes and designs for several features that we thought would be rolled out soon after launch, but hadn’t covered basics like profile management! Features like a to-do feature, geo-tagged videos, and a heat map were put on the back burner to ensure a successful launch.

We did what every team does when creating new products. We tried to think of everything. But until you’ve launched, you need to slow down and consider the user and how they will use it. Here are some tips to make it easier for you to launch your product and keep MVP in mind.

1. Build an MVP

Focus on which feature(s) is the true core of your product. For example, Twitter’s core is the ability to post updates to your followers. Had Twitter focused on direct messages, hashtags, images, and videos would they have found the success that they enjoy today? Those features add value to the end product, but if the user doesn’t fully understand the core use, what good is it? So I recommend you focus on the true purpose of the product and can clearly communicate it to others. Hint: You should be able to to say this in once sentence.

2. Execute it

Put your product in the hands of your users, let them experience it, and listen to them talk about it. Their real life scenarios will give you a deep understanding of what value it brings to them so that you can understand where it succeeds and where it fails. Use a diverse group of users to give you the best view of how it would be used in the wild.

3. Learn and Iterate

Using the information you’ve collected, you now know if your product performs as designed and what additional functionality your users want. Now you can correct any mistakes and begin adding features (like direct messages on Twitter) to round out that experience!

I know how exciting it can be when you think of all the features you could implement. Make sure to staying reasonable and anticipate the needs of your user. Keep a close eye on development times and the associated costs for each of these features to see if it is really worth it in the long run.

“Is this enough? Maybe if we add and we’ll attract a larger user base. Right?”

Staying true to your initial product is difficult and can be frightening. Letting these doubts drive your product development may harm your product in the end. I sincerely believe it’s better to be loved by a few than liked by many.

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