Why and how should we define the Minimum in an MVP?

There is no hard definition of what the minimum in a Minimum Viable Product is. All makers are riddled with doubts while building an MVP. What features should it include? How much expenditure spent on developing it is too much or too less? In what time frame should we build it? Are we too fast or too slow?

Oh! This is too complicated! Should we just shape a deep product than a preliminary MVP? No. Launching an MVP reduces the risk and aids us in testing several hypotheses.

Why MVP?

Though starting small with an MVP is important, many product builders and innovators want to build the most perfect product possible. For the love of their ideas or technologies, they craft their products and are keen on honing them with thorough testing before releasing them to the market. However, business experts suggest that such blind love for innovation doesn’t help us in impressing customers or setting up a profitable business. This is especially true for several reasons – One, the markets are volatile, disruptions can affect us from anywhere and anytime, and technologies get outdated very fast. Two, innovators get emotionally attached to their ideas and do not evaluate them objectively. Finally, building a complete product in a longer time frame is more suitable for Waterfall models that are not preferred anymore, and not for the more assuring Agile Methodologies.

Don’t we like the meticulously built perfect product?

The only way to build safe and resilient businesses is by starting small, evaluating ideas, developing a flexible strategy, testing business hypotheses, evaluating customer feedback, and growing steadily. While everyone loves an overnight success, it is hard to predict what brings it. If you’ve heard about rules for a sudden success, beware, they’re most likely afterthoughts. They can’t be taken as rules independent of context. Hence, it is much better to plan for steady success. Anyway, planning small but steady growth doesn’t stop any possible overnight success.

Are all MVPs the same?

There is no common consensus on what features an MVP must include. It varies according to the product and the domain. If you’re launching a product that is quite similar to other competing products in the market, then to catch even the minimum attention of your customers, your product should include a few advanced and distinguishing features too.

On the contrary, if you’re implementing a totally new idea, the minimum may include the basic features that can be built fast and with minimum resources. The e-commerce giant Amazon didn’t start with selling a vast number of products online. They started selling books despite the assuring prediction of huge growth in online sales of many more products. Several other companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, Zappos, Spotify, etc, started in a similar way.

A Minimum viable product in many cases also refers to a minimum marketable product. Some call it a Minimum Lovable Product to stress the customer acceptance aspect. Resolving the ambiguity of ‘minimum’, some build Earliest Testable, Earliest Usable, and Earliest Lovable Products. Whatever you name it, the main purpose of MVPs is to validate your hypotheses and learn what the end user thinks about your ideas. Hence your minimum must include testing your riskiest assumptions. Most often, these are the assumptions you’re afraid of testing and wish to postpone to the end. Despite your fears, your MVP ideation starts with identifying your risks.

Would you like to build a Minimum Viable Product? Do you have a business idea that you want to test with an MVP?