So much has been written about Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), but people still face the same problems when working with projects and trying to create the “perfect product.” This isn’t another educational article, but instead I’d like to share my experience from a real case and tell you how we changed our project development approach.
Before using MVPs, our approach looked like this: The client was always right, and if the client paid for the project, we would do it the way they wanted it to be done and we would not try to discourage or stop them from their wishlists and useless ideas. We managed the project as a list of tasks that were to be implemented, but not as a product that people would use. The more tasks we had to accomplish, the richer and more complex our self-image was.
As a result, many startups were closed because the number of “wishlist” ideas grew exponentially and important things got lost. The development turned out to be too expensive and the product did not meet clients’ expectations. This was the WRONG approach and we do not do things this way anymore.
A few years ago, a client hired us to create a new social network. He had a certain budget for development and project launch. The guy loved the project and had lots of ideas, and every week he generated a dozen new ones. He developed all the technical documentation for the project by himself and constantly made new changes in the development process. The client wanted to release this 'perfect product' quickly, creating a project that would fully meet his expectations.
Because of all the changes, the development of the entire project was delayed for a year and a half. The client ran out of money, so we had to put the project on hold. After six months, the client came back with a new budget and, sure enough, with lots of new ideas. We started developing a mobile application, adding new useless functionality, and it took us another six months. No one used the product except the client and his friends. That was no surprise since the client hadn’t done any analytics or launched a beta version or tested his hypothesis before creating the “perfect product”.
As a result, the client spent all their money, but the project still wasn’t live. The guy had huge problems with investors because he had spent their money but never launched the product, and our company did not get a new project for our portfolio.
If the client had followed the concept of the “lean startup”, created an MVP, and tested hypotheses instead of trying to make the “perfect product”, most likely this project would have lived on and found its own target audience.
Today, when coordinating a project and deadlines, we explain to our clients the main principles of MVPs and help them select hypotheses, create a list of tasks that need to be implemented in the first place, and limit their “wishlist” to make sure clients will get a high-quality and desired product that their target audience will enjoy.
Many companies have had similar cases where a client came up with some crazy ideas and said “I need a cool website! It should process at least a million requests per second. I’m going to present it at the next IT conference and after the presentation, there will be five million users because everyone will be so eager to use it.” So developers began to work on a highload architecture, set up shards and replicas, bought powerful servers, and after the conference, the guy got only 100 people in the database and a load of 20 requests per second at its peak.
Bottom line: lots of time and money are wasted, the project is closed after a month, as it turns out to be useless for its audience.
So What Is an MVP?
An MVP is a Minimum Viable Product, or sometimes it erroneously stands for Minimum Valuable or Minimal Valuable Product. It allows you to receive meaningful feedback from users, understand what they need, and therefore avoid creating something they are not interested in or giving them a product they are not able to pay for or use.
The main idea of this concept is that the whole project is a hypothesis. You assume that this product or service will be in demand and that you need to check this out. To do this, you have to go after the following algorithm:
You must understand that an MVP is not a raw product made in a hurry or an unfinished thought. It is a product or process that contains only the basic functions that must be tested on real users and/or potential target audiences.
When you decide to create a product or service, you initially have a lot of assumptions. You think that you know what users want, what they look for, what the design should look like, what marketing strategy to use, which architecture should be the most effective, or how to monetize the product.
But these are not the main aspects to pay attention to! It doesn’t matter how well you might have thought this over, because these are still just hypotheses and they could turn out to be wrong. Without deep analysis, you won’t know which one is good or bad.
Therefore, you should not try to release all the features or implement all ideas that come to your mind right away. It might turn out that many of them are not in demand at all, but you may have spent lots of time and money on them.
The MVP concept allows you to reduce the project launch time by creating only the necessary features and start getting real feedback on your product.
If you are a startupper or creating a new application, be sure to test your hypotheses first. And be patient, especially when adding new features.
If you hired a team to make a custom project for you and they mindlessly agree to all your “wishlist” ideas (even the most idiotic ones), fire them immediately — do not wait until they waste all your money.
If you are a team that develops custom projects, help the clients choose the necessary hypotheses, manage the project as a product that real people will use, and help your client create a good application that will not die within six months. If the project dies (as not all ideas are good and will not necessarily survive), then you will save a lot of time and money for the client. Believe us, clients will appreciate your honesty.