Launching an MVP is like asking your crush out on a date. But if you don’t try, you’ll never know if there’s a chance for a relationship.
I remember the discussions I had with a co-founder on what to include in the MVP. It was eternal, and he knew exactly how the product should look. The most extended discussion lasted for 7 hours straight, and we still didn’t agree; I wanted to ship the MVP; it was already over-engineered, but it still lacked almost everything for him.
How to proceed in such a situation when emotions are involved, and the vision seems in danger?
I’ve seen this problem repeatedly as a founder and, unfortunately, see it all too often in my role as a startup advisor. Yet it’s simple to solve. So let’s dive a little deeper into the world of MVP.
Understanding the concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and its importance in product development is crucial. Eric Ries, the author of “The Lean Startup,” defines an MVP as the version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.
“As you consider building your own minimum viable product, let this simple rule suffice: remove any feature, process, or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek.” — Eric Ries
This means that an MVP is the starting point for any product development process, and its purpose is to gain valuable insights into customer needs and preferences. To achieve this goal, an MVP should have the basic features necessary to showcase the product’s value proposition and generate early user feedback. However, it’s important to note that an MVP should not be a scaled-down version of the final product but a fully functional solution that can be used from the start.
By doing so, you can avoid the risk of investing resources into a product that may not meet customer needs and preferences and use the feedback gathered from the MVP to guide future development efforts, ensuring that the final product meets the target audience’s needs and offers maximum value.
There are different types of MVPs:
- Concierge: A fully human-based MVP.
- Single Feature MVP or ‘One Painkiller’: Pick one key feature that will be a painkiller for your target audience.
- Pre-Order: It describes the future product and engages consumers to pay for it before its release.
- Piecemeal MVP: Use existing tools and solutions for providing your product features.
What is not an MVP:
- A prototype, presentation, or video
- An expensive product that has “all” the features
- Something that is not based on your hypothesis
- A product that is not evolutionary
In the early days of Amazon, founder Jeff Bezos conducted extensive research to determine the top products that could be marketed effectively online. After narrowing the list to five products, he ultimately decided on books as the most viable option. The decision was based on several factors, including the relatively low cost of books, the vast selection of titles available, and the high global demand for books.
Bezos launched the minimum viable product for Amazon as an online bookstore, which he managed directly from his garage.
Zappos took a similar approach: The founder took photos from local shoe stores and placed them online. If someone purchased a pair of shoes, he would walk to the store, buy them, and send them to the customer without any additional infrastructure.
Other famous businesses that started with an MVP are Airbnb, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, and Dropbox.
Launching an MVP is a crucial step in testing your business idea. It allows you to quickly and cost-effectively validate your assumptions before investing significant resources in a product that may fail.
Following the Build-Measure-Learn loop of the Lean Startup methodology is essential to build an MVP that provides real value to your users. This approach involves creating a product, measuring its effectiveness, and learning from user feedback. By providing value to your users, you can create a product that people want.
Gathering user feedback through interviews and tests is crucial to ensure your MVP provides value. By listening to your customers and making improvements based on their feedback, you can develop a product that meets their needs and generates buzz in your target market.
Remember, your goal is to create a product people want to use, not to find customers for a product you’ve already created.
Spoiler: No. It continues to be a valid approach among entrepreneurs and startup founders with limited resources. While the Lean Startup methodology may not be the only approach to building a successful business, it remains a great tool for validating business ideas and reducing the risk of failure. It emphasizes the importance of testing assumptions early, gathering customer feedback, and iterating quickly to improve the product or service.
That being said, like any methodology, the Lean Startup approach is not perfect and may not be suitable for every business. Some argue that it does not suit today’s startups with enough funds to launch a fully functional product and learn at a larger scale. However, we’re in a recession or close to it and need to spend our funds wisely. Adapting the Lean Startup principles will help you achieve your goals faster, with less risk due to its user-centrism.
In a previous article, I wrote about validating your idea without writing a single line of code, and it was all about creating and testing a value proposition. I consider this the most crucial step in building products users love, and the rest is “just” execution.
You must invest significant time and effort to develop and test your value proposition. However, you can accelerate this process by conducting a demand test. This involves creating a landing page that explains your value proposition and driving targeted traffic through online advertising.
Continually refining your value proposition through this process increases the likelihood of achieving product-market fit and ultimately drives business success. Once you have a solid value proposition, you can confidently build an MVP to deliver the promised benefits to your target audience.
First, list all the features or characteristics necessary for your product to function correctly. These are the must-haves that customers expect when using your product, such as a login. It’s essential to group them into the minimum section, which outlines the basic requirements for the product to be functional and solve the customer’s problem or satisfy their needs.
Next, consider the features or characteristics that deliver the value stated in your proposition. These features go beyond the must-haves and provide additional benefits that make your product stand out from the competition.
By identifying these value-adding features, you can focus on delivering the best possible experience for your customers and building a loyal customer base in the future.
Conducting a usability test is a crucial step in ensuring the success of your MVP. The last thing you want is for your users to encounter errors or experience difficulties when using your product constantly.
To conduct a usability test for your MVP, you can follow these steps using scenarios:
- Define the objectives: What do you want to test? What are the key features of your MVP that you want to evaluate? What are the potential pain points that you want to identify? By defining your objectives, you can focus your testing efforts and ensure you get the necessary information.
- Recruit participants: You must recruit participants representing your target user base. You can find participants through online services, social media, or in-person recruiting.
- Create scenarios: Scenarios are a set of tasks that you want the participants to perform while using your MVP. These tasks should be based on the objectives you defined in step one. For example, if you are testing an e-commerce platform, a scenario could be “You need to purchase a product and check out. Find a product you want, add it to your cart, and complete the checkout process.”
- Conduct the test: During the test, you will observe the participants as they complete the scenarios you provided. You can either conduct the test in person or remotely. If you run the test in person, sit with the participant and ask them to complete each scenario. If you are conducting the test remotely, use video conferencing software like “Lookback” to observe the participant as they meet the scenarios.
- Analyze the results: After the test, you need to analyze the results to identify potential issues and areas for improvement. Look for patterns and common problems that participants encountered. Please consider how long participants completed each scenario and any feedback they provided.
Run the test with three to five users and fix the most important usability issues and bugs before starting the user test.
To ensure a successful product launch, I recommend conducting a closed test with a small number of users, ideally around 200. This approach minimizes the risk of damaging your reputation and generates early demand and potential buzz within your target market. Additionally, the smaller sample size allows you to focus on your ideal customer and prioritize their needs without interference from outside noise.During the user test, your primary focus should be further developing your product and making your users happy. This involves identifying missing features and understanding what is a priority for your early users. The beta test serves as an excellent tool for prioritization, with surveys, interviews, and regular user satisfaction research providing valuable insights. Don’t be discouraged by the small sample size, as even at this stage, you can identify key trends and tendencies that will guide your product development efforts.
Obtaining user feedback is critical during the test; The more feedback collected, the better your startup will be positioned to optimize and tailor the product to its users. But what information is most valuable?
Interviews involve one-on-one discussions with users better to understand their needs, preferences, and behaviors. The primary advantage of interviews is the ability to gather detailed and nuanced feedback, providing insights into user motivations that may be missed in other forms of testing. However, interviews can be time-consuming and expensive, limiting the number of users that can be tested. Find more on how to conduct interviews in this article.
Surveys are another standard user testing method, providing a cost-effective way to gather user feedback. Surveys can be distributed via email or integrated into the product, allowing users to provide feedback quickly and easily. The downside of surveys is that they tend to be less detailed than interviews, with a higher risk of missing key insights or failing to capture user context.
Types of surveys:
- Sean Ellis test: Survey once you release your product/service to the testers and measure their happiness. Focus on the users who would be very disappointed if the product/service was unavailable. Iterate until you reach 40% of very disappointed users/customers.
- Superhuman survey: This is an advanced Sean-Ellis test using segmentation to find your “biggest supporters and focus on serving that narrow segment the way Superhuman did.
- Net Promoter Score (NPS): To use NPS for a user test, you need to ask the NPS question (“How likely are you to recommend our product/service to a friend or colleague?”), calculate the NPS score by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters, analyze the score, and follow up with users who gave a score of 7 or lower to identify areas of improvement.
Try to get at least 50 participants per survey. Note that the NPS survey is not perfect for such a small sample size, but it can give you some insights. I would use it rather for an open test with more than 500 users or at later stages of product development and use the Sean-Ellis test instead.
Analytics provides another valuable tool for user testing, allowing you to gather data on user behavior within the product. This data can be used to optimize the user experience and identify areas for improvement. However, analytics won’t explain why something happens, e.g., why people click on a certain button and not the other.
The various methods of gathering information have their own advantages and disadvantages. Thus, the best approach is combining all three methods and using a prioritization grid to determine the most crucial steps toward creating a product that users love to use.