Development Myth: Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Means Delivering an Incomplete Product

There are a lot of misconceptions around the concept of minimum viable product (MVP) in software development. A common one we hear is the concern that using an MVP means that you’ll deliver software that is in some way incomplete. This might be caused by people focusing too much on the term “minimum” and not enough on “viable.” To debunk this myth, let’s take a closer look at what MVP really means in software development and how it can be a valuable tool you can put to work for you.

What is MVP and Why Would You Use One?

Thinking of your product through development as a minimal viable product (MVP) is a tool to help you prioritize your work and to help you and your team test your assumptions with your market. Most software is built on assumptions about what your users want and need from a software solution. And that’s okay, in the beginning you likely only have assumptions to work with. An MVP approach helps you get working software in front of your users so they can provide you empirical data with which you can continue to improve and iterate on your product. A simple way to think of MVP is to ask yourself, “what is the smallest thing I can build that will still bring value to the customer?”.

Too often teams can work for months, spending valuable resources developing features that ultimately fall flat with users. Providing a solution and seeing how users interact with it will give you more valuable data than asking them theoretically how they would use it. Plus, with direct user feedback, you and your team are better prepared to head in whatever direction the market points you next. All in all, working in this way keeps your team nimble and ensures that money isn’t being wasted.

Creating Your MVP

What your particular MVP solution looks like will be different for every app or website based on specific functionality and industry standards. To start outlining your MVP, you’ll need to sit down with your development team and discuss first what is considered the “minimum” and then you’ll add in functionality that is expected to ensure that your product is also viable in the marketplace.

Graphic showing a venn diagram of minimal (rowboat) and maximum (super yacht) and valuable (speedboat) software

To help ground this idea of MVP, we often like to use the analogy of building a boat. There’s a wide range of boats you could build, from a no-frills rowboat to a super yacht. Your MVP solution will be something in-between these extremes. Creating only the basic requirements will give you a rowboat that’s likely unappealing to your users, but they also don’t need a super yacht right off the bat. Your aim is something usable and appealing without being overkill. In other words, aim for the speed boat in the middle.

In a more concrete example, let’s think about a team building an ecommerce website. You and your team will list out all of the minimal necessities, for example, you need a way to accept credit card payments or your website can’t perform its basic function.

Once you have your core functionality down, then start to think about what would make your solution viable in the market. For example, you might decide that it’s commonly expected in your industry and among your competitors to offer a feature that saves payment details for future purchases. This certainly isn’t minimal functionality, but if it’s expected, you and your team might decide it worth doing. On the other hand, you might decide that a one-click checkout is just a nice to have and hold off on that feature until you get more user data.

Man on a small sailboat with a tiller

Conclusion

It’s important to remember as your build your MVP solution, that this is just a starting point for user feedback, and that it’s not likely your final product. As you hear from users, you will continue to iterate and add-on features based on what you learn. The goal of working with an MVP mentality is to not overexert your team and your resources on a software based on assumptions alone. A well conceived MVP strategy can both save your company money on the project and bring more value to your users in the long run.

Are you interested in taking an MVP approach to your next development project? Aptera’s high-performing teams can help lead the way to a valuable solution for your business.

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Nikki Dent

Nikki Dent

Nikki is a technical copywriter for Aptera. With a bachelor’s degree in writing from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind., she has been honing her craft of marketing copywriting for the past five years. In her role at Aptera, Nikki enjoys learning and writing about the technology and strategy at work across the company.

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