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Part 4: Defining the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Prototypes

Refresh what you know (or may not know) about the MVP and how to create one

Elisa Riteau

Elisa Riteau

posted on Sept. 1, 2017

“There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes.” (R. Buckminster Fuller).

Vacation has the tendency to wash away memories, especially when it comes to work! ;) So here is a little reminder of the previous parts we went through, based on Lean UX Designing Great Products with Agile Teams, the great book by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden:

Now that the assumptions have been converted into hypothesis and user outcomes have been defined, it is time to discover how to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and the prototype which comes with it.

In this post, we’ll review:

  • I. The definition of MVP
  • II. How to create an MVP

“MVPs help us test our assumptions – will this tactic achieved the desired outcome? – while minimizing the work we put into unproven ideas.”

(Source: Lean UX Designing Great Products with Agile Teams, by Jeff Gotheld & Josh Seiden)

I. The Definition of MVP

The Minimum Viable Product can be interpreted in two ways:

  1. Some will use it to understand the market needs. It is more of a learning process.

  2. Some will use it to “start delivering value to the market as quickly as possible” by creating a simple feature or a small version of the product. It is more of a testing process.

In both cases, the MVP will face several iterations as testing helps to capture the needs of the market and target audience. The hypothesis comes to fruition.

II. How to Create an MVP

The first question a team must ask when it comes time to create an MVP is: what do we want to achieve here? What is the next step once the MVP is in place for testing? Does it fit the market (Product Market Fit) or respond to the needs of the target audience?

It’s important to look at all the listed hypotheses and prioritize the ones that are worth trying the most (but not necessarily the less risky), without spending more time than needed. Doing this will help to set up the next step.

Through testing and experimenting, the MVP will prove the veracity of those hypotheses or will prove otherwise. The outcome will give a pretty good sense of whether the project needs to go further, be improved, or just be disregarded.

Always remember to ask: What do you want to learn from this MVP? The learning goals need to be clear and defined.

The benefits of creating an MVP include:

  • Getting straight to the point by removing any features or functionalities that don’t serve the target audience
  • Seeing if users are interested or not -- depending on the business goal, this can include seeing if they engage with a clear CTA button to register, subscribe to a newsletter, send a contact request
  • Detaching from initial ideas because the results prove that they’re not such good ideas after all
  • Relying on the Agile methodology and using easy and versatile tools to make quick and frequent changes. Numerous iterations may occur, but there’s a possibility that the entire MVP will be thrown away.
  • Testing ideas by using available, efficient mechanisms and systems such as “email, SMS, chat apps, Facebook Groups, eBay storefronts…”.
  • Using analytics to track and measure user behavior in order to improve their experience
  • Making sure that everything perfectly fits the current flow, plus the look and feel. The product design process can be extremely useful here (see section II from the part 3 series)
  • Determining if the product can be coded or not. In the second case, the MVP relies on “sketching, prototyping – paper, low-fidelity on-screen mockups, middle and high-fidelity on-screen prototypes, coded and live-data prototypes – copywriting, and visual design.” For an example of a prototype, see the example below that I put together for a RevSquare client.

At the end of the day, the whole point of creating an MVP is to test an idea, learn from the results, improve the experience, or give it up. Just start again until it fits your target audience expectations and needs.

“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” (Carl Jung)

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