Fundamental concepts of MVP

Minimum Viable Product: Does it ring a bell? A decade ago, I didn’t hear this as much in my circles… fast forward by a decade and we seem to be living in a MVP world, literally. But before we jump and conclude that MVP is the future of ‘whatever’, let’s understand a bit about the origins and a few fundamental concepts of MVP.

Hari Nallan

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a product that has just adequate features that make it Viable. It was originally defined by Frank Robinson in early 2000’s and popularised by Steve Blank and Eric Ries. Coming to the concept of MVP, as per the definition above, that product should be viable in the first place, to qualify as an MVP. The surge in MVP Development activities recently suggest that investors are increasingly averse to high risks that come from building full-feature products and prefer those that are just adequate to be marketed. All this sounds nice and logical, except for how I see this being interpreted and executed upon. I will talk about my concerns later in this article and focus on the concepts first.

For a product to be viable, it should be valuable:

MVP should be viable in the first place and for that, it needs to deliver value to its users. That is the very reason why the focus on value is more important than viability. You will know how to build valuable products from our MVP Development offering here.

Minimum is not cheap:

Let’s start by thinking a little deeper. Can there be a universal definition of Minimum? It is subjective right? The amount an MVP costs to Boeing will be very different from what it costs to Tinder. It is very important to determine what is minimum in your unique context before jumping into conclusion that Minimum means cheap! Know more about how much should you be spending on your MVP?

If its not a product, its not a MVP:

A product has certain characteristics and it is important to understand them. A product is tangible, usable and has a merchandisable value. Without these, a product is never complete (at least, your users are not going to see it as complete). An idea does not qualify to be a MVP nor does a roadmap. For you to call your efforts an outcome of MVP, the product should have some merchandisable value and it is not going to be easy to arrive at this. You could ask yourself these basic questions to determine if what you are building is actually a product:

  • Is there a tangible form to your product that your users can see, feel, smell, hear or visualise?
  • Is there a definition to your product that your users understand?
  • Is there a problem or an aspiration your product is addressing?

If you do not have answers to these questions yet, the best time to find those answers is now. Because, the purpose of MVP is to gather feedback for further development; the purpose is not to ensure failure (unless failing sounds cool to you).

Minimum Viable Product


MVP is not necessarily fast:

I’d like to bust this notion right here, right now: Don’t assume that MVP necessarily means fast results. No, that has not been the fundamental concept, ever. MVP ensures identifying those elements that constitute a minimum acceptable product that has adequate features to market. It is faster to build MVP than a full-feature product, however, if your MVP project is not managed with the right principles in mind, you may be up for surprises! So, there you go: Just employing MVP approach doesn’t ensure fast results. You could think of Agile, Lean approaches as well that can ensure fast turnarounds. Also, consider these core principles of MVP development here.

Don’t lose track of learning:

Generally speaking, you choose to build a MVP in order to test your product, learn from its performance and pave way to the future. I would say that when you take away the aspect of learning from your MVP, you are almost ensuring that your product is headed towards failure… and learning isn’t easy. That means that you need to keep constantly seeking users’ feedback, be your customer, exercise empathy and whatever it takes to make sure you are learning from it and by doing so, ensuring that your MVP efforts materialize in a full feature product.

When you apply these foundational concepts, your MVP is far likely to receive the success it deserves than when you don’t. As a UX Strategist and Founder of a design consulting company, I would want to hear about how design thinking approaches helped you in getting your MVP right.

Do share your stories!

Hari Nallan

Hari Nallan

Founder and CEO of Think Design, a Design leader, Speaker and Educator. With a master's from NID and in the capacity of a founder, Hari has influenced, led and delivered several experience driven transformations across industries. As the CEO of Think Design, Hari is the architect of Think Design's approach and design centered practices and the company's strategic initiatives.


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