What Is a Minimum Viable Product?

6 min read

A simple definition of a minimum viable product (MVP) is an early version of a product with enough features and functionality to gauge user interest and affirm the product idea. 

Eric Ries coined the term within the Lean Startup methodology. He explains a minimum viable product as “a version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learnings about customers with the least effort.”

A minimum valuable product can benefit someone who wants to:

  • Test an idea before spending money on the full development

  • Learn more about customers through trial

  • Quickly get a preliminary version of a product to market

Making an MVP is common in agile product development settings such as software development. It occurs early in the development cycle before making a final product. 

3 Elements of a Minimum Viable Product

What are the 3 elements of MVP? 3 elements of a minimum viable product are:

  1. It’s simple and cheap.

  2. It sufficiently demonstrates potential value to early adopters.

  3. It facilitates feedback from real users to guide further development.

Entrepreneurs pursuing a business idea should test their product’s core features in a rudimentary iteration to gather user feedback before spending more money to create a final product. A minimum viable product can also help a company test a new product before giving it a bigger budget at a larger scale.

What is the difference between minimum viable product and most valuable product? The difference between minimum viable product and most valuable product are:

  • A minimum viable product is an early version that’s cheap and basic, taking the least effort to gain customer input. 

  • A most valuable product (or maximum value product) is a more developed version that gives a user base the best experience and satisfies their expectations. 

In other words, a most valuable product prioritizes customer-oriented value over development-oriented value. It will change over time to adapt to the industry and customers’ needs. For most companies, a minimum viable product is needed first to assess a product’s potential before the user experience is perfected. 

Other MVP alternatives include:

  • A minimum marketable product coined by Software by Numbers writers Mark Denne and Jane Cleland-Huang.

  • A minimum lovable product, defined by Aha! co-founder Brian de Haaff. 

Why You Need an MVP

What are the benefits of having an MVP? Having an MVP allows you to:

  • Assess customer reactions and market needs early in development

  • Validate if a product is worth investing in at a larger scale

  • Offer a functional product to attract users rather than disappoint with something less than

  • Produce a more affordable option than building and redoing a full-fledged product

Many startups fail because they can’t find a target audience that sees value in the newly launched product or services. Effectively using the MVP concept can help you hone your deliverables during development. Work with your product manager and product designers to maximize the MVP’s payoff. 

Be prepared that having an MVP may slow down the development process if you need to make repeated adjustments based on feedback. It could also gain competitors’ attention if you rush a sub-par product to market too quickly. Make sure you are careful about introducing your MVP effectively.

Example MVPs

Still deciding whether you need an MVP for your product idea? Many well-known companies tested their hypotheses with minimum viable products and found huge success — Dropbox is one example. Founder Drew Houston made a demo video of his idea. This gave prospective investors a better understanding of Dropbox’s core functions and potential value. 

Other examples of minimum viable products: 

  • Zappos. Founder Nick Swinmurn’s initial business model of photographing shoes at stores and posting them to his website was a hit. 

  • Airbnb. Before you could list your house or room for short-term rental, Airbnb founders tried the idea themselves. They rented out air mattresses on their apartment floor during a nearby conference. 

  • Amazon. Jeff Bezos decided to harness the early internet to create an online bookstore, running the operation from his garage.

Twitter, Spotify, Foursquare, and Groupon have all followed the MVP concept. If major companies and small startups can benefit from MVP development, so can you!

Why are minimum viable products common in agile development?Minimum viable products are common in agile development because iteration testing and validation occur during development based on user input.

How to Define a Minimum Viable Product

Begin your product development process by following these three steps. They will help you identify when your minimum viable product is ready for launch.

1. Check your goals.

Your MVP should align with your business’s strategic targets and values. A minimum viable product that doesn’t support your objectives isn’t worth pursuing. 

How can you tell if your product fits? Have a clearly defined business roadmap and then compare it to your goals of launching the new product. Is your aim to reach new potential customers? Would adding new features to your current products better serve that objective? What key performance indicators will you use to confirm you’ve succeeded?

By answering “why” now, you will define the MVP’s purpose and viability, ensuring you’re geared toward success.  

2. Start problem-solving.

A good MVP solves problems. What solutions will your new product provide for consumers? Because of your minimum viable product’s limited functionality, its benefits to users should be obvious from the get-go. 

Consider who your target users are, their problem, how the product will solve it, and the main actions they need to perform to reach that goal (the journey map). Look at competing products to understand the market landscape and find a product-market fit. 

Create a value proposition statement asserting why customers would choose your product or service, especially over similar ones that solve the same problem. Its benefit should be based on the problem that your product solves. 

3. Make a product development plan.

You’ll use your action map as a skeleton for constructing your MVP. In your product development plan, list a breakdown of the features that align with previously defined essential actions. Prioritize these features when building your minimum viable product. 

Your first version of this product only needs the core feature set. Other elements can be added later in future product enhancements by UX designers to augment the user experience. For now, the core functionality should be present to satisfy end-users. 

Need a hand with your product idea?

Don’t waste time and money with a trial-and-error approach to developing your product. Hire an experienced product developer to help you create a minimum viable product and bring it to market. 

MVP Match can connect you with freelance product developers ready to help you reach your business goals. Contact us to build relationships with product experts today.

About the Author

Kate manages content marketing for talent acquisition at MVP Match. Her job? Attracting the best and brightest tech talent into our community where they are matched with rewarding roles they deserve. She's a copywriter at heart, and has spent over 10 years in marketing for tech, healthcare, and consulting firms. An avid traveler and workation pro, Kate both embraces and advocates for a future where everyone is empowered to define work on their terms.