Why You Should Build an MVP and Not Your Product

  • Katie Deck
  • September 13, 2019

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a no-frills version of your product with the core features needed to solve your users’ problem and provide immediate value, quickly, while minimizing development costs.

This early version of your product allows you to test your business concept before spending your life’s savings on a cat food delivery app. By offering a core set of features rather than a full-blown, feature-heavy product, you can test key hypotheses, gather user information and intelligence, go-to-market quickly, and keep costs down.

It sounds easy, right? Just pick the core features you need, test with users, and continue to build future iterations of the product until it looks like the cat food delivery app of your dreams.

Sadly, there are two traps products can fall into: over-conceptualizing and under-conceptualizing the features needed for an MVP.

You think the MVP should have a searchable map and a chat-with-a-cat feature. Your partner thinks the MVP should have payment options and allow users to coordinate their profile colors with their cat in order to stand out from the competition.

To avoid these situations, it’s essential to set clear product goals, determine business outcomes, and prioritize product features for your development team to align product functionality with your core users’ pain points. You need to be thinking about what problem do your users have that your app will solve (in our case, a cat food delivery app), and what is the central functionality required to deliver a solution?

If you’re not thinking strategically about developing only the foundational features your app requires, you risk spending more money on additional functionality that doesn’t deliver value. Features can go unused because they don’t serve a purpose in addressing user needs, and the product concept moves ahead in the development process without reason.

For example, you may anticipate a need for users to color coordinate their profile colors with their cat, but realize you only need scheduling and payment options to deliver the product’s value promise. From the opposite perspective, under-conceptualizing and unclear requirements can result in not enough functionality to address user needs.

The risk of developing more (or less) than you need is why validating your product assumptions is so important. Starting with a core feature, learning how users react to that feature and building in accordance with user feedback is essential for determining the appropriate amount of functionality your product needs to acquire and retain users.

Using the minimum viable product (MVP) development method allows your team to learn how your target users experience and react to the app’s core purpose, and with this insight, you can allocate your budget to areas that best satisfy your overall business objectives. Building an MVP is an iterative process designed to identify user pain points and determine the proper product functionality to address those needs over time.

In some instances, an MVP can also be used to showcase business potential and win stakeholder buy-in. Whether you’re looking for support from internal or external investors, an MVP definitely strengthens your position, as it proves the merit of your product and secure funding for future development.

So the next time you’re looking to build the Uber, Spotify, Cat Food Delivery App of apps, remember to stay clear on what features you really need for your MVP and don’t build for your long-term app.