Table of contents

01 | What exactly is an MVP?

Clock 6 min read

The definition

In the digital world, the concept has been promoted as part of the ideas of Product Development and Lean Startup, authored by Steve Blank and Eric Ries, respectively. Both presented the idea of a digital product implementation starting with an MVP.

*See details in the books (“The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company” S. Blank, B. Dorf; “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” by E. Ries). 

The precise understanding of what an MVP means may be contentious and often causes many emotions. Let us refer to the definition as formulated by Eric Ries.

“Version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

The definition, when broken down into parts, includes:

PRODUCT VERSION – first or subsequent 

MAXIMUM – product knowledge gathered through user feedback

MINIMUM – effort, financial outlay, team commitment, amount of time

For a digital product, an MVP is a product usually, in the early stages of development, with a minimum number of functionalities of high value and allows the collection of feedback from users.

Using an MVP to validate ideas and user needs, and to test the business model and market, is probably the most popular scheme for emerging startups. This approach is characterized by the need for minimization, prioritization, and validation. 

The growing expectations of users and the increasing ease of adaptation to complex digital products are also significant here. Although the MVP concept appears to be a simple model, in practice it can cause some difficulties, especially when it comes to deciding what should actually be built.

Pros and cons of MVPs

Advantages

  • checking and testing hypotheses (technological, business) at the lowest cost
  • limitation of the number of functionalities for optimal operation 
  • investigating market trends in reality
  • gathering meaningful quantitative and qualitative data
  • gather arguments to make effective, relevant decisions (business, technological, ux)
  • acquisition/expansion of user base
  • greater chance of generating investor interest
  • minimization of risk

Disadvantages

  • difficulty in understanding the purpose of an MVP
  • confusion between MVPS and other types of minimum products
  • lack of a rigid minimum framework 
  • difficulty in defining an appropriate scope 
  • the temptation to add more functionality
  • difficult to determine the ultimate audience.

What will not be an MVP?

Not every emerging product will be an MVP. Here are some situations when a new digital product is something other than an MVP.

  • A prototype or other form of idea representation is built to validate the idea with users.
  • POC- (proof of concept) because it explores technical possibilities rather than user feedback.
  • A product that does not have a defined purpose and test area. In practice, this means a product is too large, and isolating a test area is impossible. It can also be a product already being developed as another version of a well-known solution. It can also include a product whose concept has already been validated with users using tools other than MVP and is well-known for what to build. 

What does this look like in practice? How do the biggest ones do it?

What to know how do the biggest ones do it? See our blogpost written by Antoni Leśniewski

Alternatives to the MVP

We wrote above that the main goal of an MVP is to test a business idea at a minimal cost. Finding feedback among the target audience and collecting feedback will help to accurately determine further iterations to increase the value of the development. After all, some of the ideas initially MVPs  (Uber, Dropbox, Figma, Slack, or Twitter) have been spectacularly successful. At the same time, according to the Startup Genome report, 9 out of 10 startups eventually fail, so low-cost validation of ideas and business models is a perfect model for most entrepreneurs. In recent years, we are already talking, not so much about building MVP, but about the MVP approach.

Despite the long history of putting the MVP into practice, the concept has remained constant. However, many other minimal products have been developed based on its basement to help check and verify to abandon or improve the product. One can feel slightly lost among these three-letter abbreviations eg. RAT, MVP, MMF, MMP, MMR, MAP/MLP, and MBI. Some treat them on a par with MVP or even as a kind of MPV. We stick to the position that these are alternatives to MVP, to use depending on the business context, the area to be explored, or the form of feedback we want. 

Minimum Marketable Product

An MMP (Minimum Marketable Product) is usually a product at a later stage of development than an MVP. “Minimum marketable product” is a term first used in 2003 by Mark Denne and Jane Cleland-Huang in their book “Software by Numbers”. The MMP concept assumes that the idea and its future market presence are already well-proven. The end users of the target product and the understanding of the problem itself are no longer debatable or need to be validated, and the next iteration is suitable to go out to a broad audience. The MMP is a product that provides a business benefit with the least amount of functionality possible. It tests the business model and focuses on monetization options.

Differences and similarities between MMPs and MVPs

What differentiates an MVP from an MMP is that an MMP is product-focused more on validating the business model, therefore the possibilities of ways to monetize the product, rather than testing the idea itself. 

MMP characteristics:

  • fast to implement as MVP
  • maintains a minimum number of functionalities
  • allows testing at the marketing level
  • focuses on testing the possibility of monetizing an idea

Minimum Lovable Product  (Minimum Awesome Product)

From a user’s perspective, the MVP of a digital product appears unfinished, full of errors, and simply not attractive.. 

With help comes MLP (Minimum Lovable Product), which we can place further down in the evolution of MVP. It is a nod to the user, where, by design, a minimal product is created that the user will love. After all, the experience of the end user plays a big role in the desire to use the product.

How an MLP differs from an MVP

MLP – puts the user and their experience first, assumes the creation of long-term relationships, and the realization that technology itself is no longer impressive. People who use great products every day do not appear out of a void and already have certain (quite high) expectations at the start. A product cannot be built solely on its functionality, as the visual layer also has its value here, as it is what triggers the customers’ emotions from the first use of the product, not from the next iteration.

Looking at the process and the level of complexity, we may say that an MVP tests an idea in a market that is not easily defined and where customer needs are not fully known. In this case, there are not too many competing products, and the technological solutions are not yet well established. The minimal effort put into building a product when success is uncertain is, therefore, perfectly justifiable. Customers tolerate such a product more than they like it. MVP puts a premium on speed.

It will be better to use MLP when the market, and the broad range of competing solutions, can be easily analyzed. When the user problem is easy to define and the technologies intended to use are stable, customers are expected to love the product through a refined UX/UI layer. MLPs place a premium on experience. 

MLP characteristics:

  • focuses on user experience
  • MLP takes longer to implement than MVP
  • can be a downstream version of an MVP if the MVP is not yet widely known on the market
  • requires stable technology
  • good solution in an explored market

If we look at the pyramid of product value the comparison could look more or less like this.

Summary for MVP, MMP, and MLP models

MVP principles

  • The goal is to increment
  • The problem cannot be understood
  • The market cannot be analyzed
  • Customers do not know what they want
  • Few product alternatives exist
  • Avoid architectural decisions because technology is unpredictable
  • Lean effort because success is unlikely
  • Pivot
  • Customers tolerate your product

MMP principles

  • The goal is to earn
  • The problem can be understood
  • The market can be analyzed
  • Customers know what they want
  • There are some alternatives
  • Focus on the areas of architecture that relate to the business, not the functional model
  • Efforts for selected areas
  • Measure
  • Customers use and pay for your product

MLP principles

  • The goal is to disrupt
  • The problem can be understood
  • The market can be analyzed
  • Customers know what they want
  • Many product alternatives exist
  • Make architecture decisions because technology is sufficiently stable
  • A dedicated effort to the opportunity
  • Focus
  • Customers love your product

Not just MVP. Other methods of validating ideas

“The Fake Door”

Also referred to as MVP before MVP. This method helps to measure interest in a product or functionality. It is a method of pretending that functionality exists when in reality it does not. It could be, for example, a button leading to functionality, but when you press it you get an ‘under construction’ message.

Advantages

  • allows easy collection of feedback on the interest in the product or lack thereof
  • avoids the development of “unwanted” and unnecessary functionalities

Disadvantages

  • possibility of a loss of credibility – due to missing functionalities users may treat such solutions as scam
  • inaccurate data – some user clicks may be based on curiosity rather than actual need.

Landing Page

You may read or hear that a landing page is a very good MVP. However, this is not true, as a landing page is not a working version of a product, but only a form of presentation, so it cannot be called an MVP. We do agree, however, that a landing page can be a good method of verifying interest in a product. Thanks to the page, we can reach out to potential recipients and obtain feedback on the product concept itself or the choice of potential options, i.e. subscription types, prices, etc. The use of a landing page seems most appropriate when we want to build a base of potential customers and get feedback on the range of functionalities in a future product.

Advantages

  • the solution is quick and inexpensive
  • quick verification of the value proposition 
  • ability to build a base of interested users
  • ability to create different messages and compare results

Disadvantages

  • it’s impossible to measure conversion because the product does not exist
  • collect a limited amount of data
  • competitors may use the idea

Email campaign

An email campaign allows you to measure the reaction of people in your current user base to information about a new product or functionality. In this way, you can test the idea for a new feature or value proposition.

Advantages

  • easy and quick method to validate an idea
  • reaches a specific, known audience
  • facilitates direct interaction with potential customers/users

Disadvantages

  • requires a user base.
  • disadvantages of the e-mail campaign itself may distort results (low conversion)
  • most effective when you already have a landing page

Marketing Campaign

Using social media as an opportunity to reach a wide audience, you can easily and quickly get feedback on a product idea or new feature. 

Advantages

  • it helps you discover the aspects of your product most desired by users
  • it is a flexible solution for getting feedback from a diverse group of people

Disadvantages

  • may require a considerable financial investment
  • it requires good knowledge of analytical tools
  • it is a good data-collection tool but does not provide much exposure.

Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz method is used, if there is no possibility to implement all of the key functionality in the MVP, we focus on implementing the part of it that is the essence of the MVP in-house, trying to ‘fill in’ the remaining scope using solutions already available on the market.  The end-user has the impression that he or she is getting a finished product, but what is out of the user’s eyes is done manually, and the user has no idea about it.  E.g. to see how many customers will use a subscription service orders are manually duplicated by the customer service team so that the customer sees the final result in the form of goods delivered to him/her regularly. 

Advantages

  • ability to check for scale
  • very authentic from the customer’s point of view, allowing multiple insights into user behavior gathered
  • allows for quick iterations during the experiment

Disadvantages

  • to be used for a specific short time
  • limited in the number of people to work with
  • requires consistency in user interaction
  • requires precise operating instructions for those working in the background.

Concierge

As with real concierge service, it is about delivering value to the target consumer by performing an area of activity for them. In practice, this means that if we identify a key functionality in the MVP area, that is important from the perspective of building user loyalty from the first implementation, but there is no way to deliver it in an automated form (because it requires a longer development time / larger fund), we should consider a semi-manual method.

It is a version of the product where much of the work is getting done manually, and customers, unlike the Wizard of OZ method, know about the manual work behind the scenes by consciously handing over their tasks. This validation method works well for B2B companies, where we take over the customer’s work to check the viability of automating functionality planned for development in later stages. An example here can be working on sheets, generating reports, etc.

Advantages

  • valuable feedback because of close work with the client
  • helps build functionality more easily through a better understanding of processes.
  • provides a large amount of knowledge about user needs

Disadvantages

  • requires human involvement 
  • requires trained people
  • difficult to scale
  • time-consuming due to the large amount of manual work.

Clickable prototype

To test the performance of specific elements of the solution, it is worth building a prototype. This is a practice way to verify how the functionality works, identify gaps in the process, or how people walk through the process.

Advantages

  • easy, fast, and cheap 
  • ability to very faithfully replicate the experience of using the product

Disadvantages

  • not used to validate ideas only functionality or processes.

User interviews

An idea can also be validated by interviewing people who could potentially become future users of the product. 

Advantages

  • relatively easy and cheap
  • qualitative data are acquired

Disadvantages

  • correct analysis and experienced researcher necessary, otherwise easy to burden conclusions with declarative data
  • requires a definition of a respondent group before the survey.

Pre-order

By proposing pre-orders, we can test how much interest users will have in a future product and how many will be willing to pay for a non-existent product that is expected to solve their problems in the future. Relying on this, we can conclude whether the user’s needs will be met or not.

Advantages

  • quick and cheap

Disadvantages

  • need to deliver on the promise.

When MVP is not the best idea?

There are many situations when building an MVP is a waste of time, resources, and money. Sometimes it is worth considering skipping the MVP and planning to prepare the design and implementation of the target product straight away. Sometimes completely giving up on building anything new may be the most appropriate.

  • the company’s area of operation is extensively described/researched and the resulting product will be one of many similar ones already existing on the market (e.g. a food ordering app)
  • we have already verified that what we will build meets a market and user need
  • we already have a product and we regularly conduct quantitative and qualitative research based on the conclusions of the research we introduce new functionalities.

When does an MVP fail?

When operating in a very well-described/researched area, the product is one of many similar ones on the market.

The solution is verified. There is confidence it meets the market, business, and user needs.

We already have a product and regularly conduct quantitative and qualitative research and introduce new functionalities based on research and opinions.

To remember

To summarize. An MVP is a working version of a product that we build to verify certain hypotheses. All other forms of verification of these hypotheses that are not a working product are not an MVP or any of the subsequent phases of its development. If you have all your hypotheses verified and know what you want to build, then an MVP is not for you. However, if you have an idea for a product whose representation in the market is negligible or non-existent, then an MVP may be the solution that validates the rightness of building a product based on your idea.

We hope that you now know all about what is MVP and what is not.

To find out more about the minimum solution-building process read the next chapters of this e-book.

Quiz Time

Which product version requires stable technology and a well-researched market?
Delivering value to the target consumer by performing a particular area of activity for them is characteristic of the method:
When we do not know how much interest there is in a product in the market and we would like to obtain funding from customers to cover production costs, it is best to use the following method:

Congrats!

0 out of 3

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1 out of 3

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2 out of 3

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3 out of 3

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3 comments
  1. Avatar
    Jagoda Złakowska
    1 year ago

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    Alton Kulbacki
    9 months ago

    Your post has piqued my interest. We learnt a lot from it. Thank you for posting your knowledge and experiences.

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    Kirstie Youell
    9 months ago

    One of the most important things of your blog is the quality of the content you provide.

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