Ok, that’s it. I’ve had it. My patience is done and now its time to blow off some steam. Don’t get me wrong, many of the ideas in lean startup are very useful. But I wish everyone and their mother would stop using the term MVP so loosely.
Everywhere I go, people are proud to be working on the next MVP. When prodded to reveal a probable launch date, it’s mostly more than half a year out. Or unknown. If prodded some more, people spill out the entire feature list, based on good user research. Or not.
Why does this get me? People have taken a beautiful practice, and made it horribly large and turned it into a monster. What was meant to help us focus on validating the assumption that there is a customer for our product, now more often than not means ‘first sellable release’, or ‘first full fledged release’.
The mis-use of the MVP practice had also led to new acronyms like MMF (minimum marketable feature), MLP (minimum lovable product) and many more.
Lets’s go back to the start. Eric Ries coined the term, so what is his definition. And what does it mean?
First, a definition: the minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.
Above definition is from mr Ries himself in a blogpost titled: “Minimum Viable Product: a Guide“.
Let’s zoom in. The purpose of the MVP is to create a new version of the Product, with the goal of:
- getting the maximum amount of validated learning
- while investing the minimum amount of effort
The essential part here is to look at your current Product idea and investigate which assumptions you have before you can make the next step.
When developing a new product, the most important thing to learn can be whether you would have customers, when you finally decide to build this product. But if you already have a product, then the same could go for the potential usefulness of a new feature. Or, if there is already a validated customer need and matching product that people are willing to pay for, the most important thing to learn may be: is that your product, at a reasonable price? Or, it could be a simple a/b test to decide which change to your existing product is the biggest improvement. All may be called MVP and that is what makes it confusing.
I would like for everyone to stop using the term MVP to refer to a certain first ‘marketable’ or ‘usable’ release of your product. Especially if this means you just build it in low quality with bad UX. That is just a bad idea for many reasons. Please ask me why in the comments.
In addition I would love for you to think of the MVP mindset as paramount for agile product development success. But instead of focusing on the MVP, we may be better off looking into Lean UX and hypothesis driven development. Because that is what the MVP was intended to be. The minimum you can invest (build) to validate your biggest current hypothesis.
If you want to know more, here are some excellent articles: