So what is an MVP? Turns out it's not just an American sporting term… At least, that’s what I first thought, so hopefully I’m not the only one (but hey, we’ll do our best to make your app the Most Valuable Player in the app store!).
In tech-speak, MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product.
Essentially, it refers to a product that has the minimum level of features required to test your concept. It’s like the first draft of a novel or the prototype of a new car model. It might not have all the features it could have - in fact, plenty of people might have suggestions for improvement - but it is a whole product, functioning near seamlessly for people to use.
The philosophy behind a MVP is this: a perfect product can only be achieved by adapting with user feedback.
Why is an MVP important?
Here’s an analogy. Say you’re entering a cooking competition (maybe your friends hilariously volunteered you) and in preparation, you spend a lot of time practicing your best dish - a classic curry. Eventually you know the ideal ratio of curry to rice grains, you’ve got the cooking time down to the precise second and you’re even using fresh saffron!
You’re certain your dish will do well and you decide to try it out on your friends and family. They’re all making positive noises as they gather round the dinner table, but when they tuck in it turns out they’ve got some suggestions… they love the saffron rice you made but they think there’s a bit too much of it… they enjoyed the naan bread but they would have liked it a bit more spiced… they think the curry is excellent but couldn’t you have found some less boring bowls?
You hadn’t anticipated this! You thought the rice was the perfect amount, the naan bread was spiced exactly right, and the bowls were the epitome of style!
We could say this initial curry was your MVP. It was a viable product because it showcased your recipe, with none of the elements inedible. Going forward, you can make tweeks to it. At the competition, your friends and family will feel they helped massively so they’ll be even more excited to cheer you on. If you win, it’ll be because their input helped widen the curry’s appeal.
OK, let’s get back to the tech...
You might have all the bells and whistles for your new app already pictured in your mind. Maybe you’ve imagined how useful all of the features are going to be to the world. They probably will be! And whilst it’s fantastic to be so driven, how do you know for sure that the features you think are most important are the features your users are going to love?
The MVP gives your first users a taste of your vision. When people download your new app or visit your website, they are already expressing an interest in what you have to offer. These first few users are going to be your lifeblood - they will be the people who promote your product to their friends - so you need to give them something that has room to grow.
Once you see some user interaction, you can identify unseen selling points and see which aspects could be further developed. As time goes on and your product has more and more users, their needs can be analysed again. Demands on tech keep evolving and you could say no product is ever really finished…
So, to recap, a MVP is a product that is just viable enough to be tested in the market. It might be a pared-down version of your full vision, but it’s not half-finished and it’s certainly not missing any key aspects. It’s a major milestone in creative development - the moment your idea is ready to be debuted to the world!