Would you like to test your hypotheses about the problem, the solution and the market for your product cheaply? Do you want to get better information from your users? The minimum viable product (MVP) is one of the bases on which the Lean Startup methodology was born , and one of its most interesting contributions.
Its name already gives many clues although, to refine it, we can say that: The minimum viable product is the one that allows us to launch the product with the minimum possible functions so that we can learn relevant information about its launch and user use through a series of metrics.
In Lean Startup, unlike other similar methodologies such as Customer Development , knowledge is not extracted directly from the customer but is obtained empirically through the launch of various iterations of the MVP. A series of metrics are controlled from which knowledge can be extracted from which the next iteration is nourished.
In any case, both methodologies are perfectly compatible and are usually applied in conjunction with the Business Model Canvas .
The Build-Measure-Learn loop and the MVP
The minimum viable product is designed to work with the build-measure-learn loop, so that with each new iteration:
- We build a new MVP, based on the previous one or completely new
- We establish a series of metrics with which we measure the reaction of users
- To finish we learn from all this information to perform a new iteration
The process is carried out in this order but it is proposed in the reverse order, that is:
- First we make a series of hypotheses that we want to test (learn)
- We define a series of indicators or metrics to extract the information that helps us to verify the hypothesis (measure)
- Finally we build the minimum viable product we need to measure and learn about our hypothesis.
The hypotheses are varied, starting the first iteration with the basic question: is there a group of users with the problem that our product intends to solve?
If the answer is no, we are the ones who have a problem and we have to rethink everything again. If the answer is yes, we have taken the first step towards success.
The minimum viable product is not developed for the masses but for early adopters
It is clear that a product that has the minimum functions necessary to corroborate or disprove our hypotheses cannot be good enough to please the majority of customers.
However, there are a number of clients grouped under the name of early adopters, who put aside rigor to embrace products in the evolution phase, just to be up to date or try new things. It is with this audience in mind that we must approach the entire process.
Later, when we have tested the most important hypotheses, we will change course to focus on the big market. But that is a step that we still have a long way to go.
persevere or pivot
With each new iteration that each MVP of the build-measure-learn loop gives us, we accept our hypotheses: as true, as false, or we find the need to reformulate or vary them to check them again.
With each new iteration we must make a transcendental decision such as:
- Whether to persevere by iterating based on the line we are following. If the hypotheses are quite correct
- Or pivot and drastically change the formulation of our hypotheses . In case we are not getting close to the right solution.
This is one of the most important mechanisms of Lean Startup and it should be kept in mind and not be afraid to make the decision to pivot if necessary .
In order to make a coherent decision, it is important that our metrics are offering us real knowledge about users, actionable metrics. And do not get carried away by the figures of the vain metrics .
Release early, release often
Release early, release often. The mantra of agile methodologies suggests that we launch our product as soon as possible and from there relaunch it very often.
Lean Startup shares this idea, but getting carried away without thinking about the whole can lead to undesirable situations. For example, it can cause us not to see beyond the short term and let us be guided by the demands of users.
However, with the MVP, what we seek is to test our hypotheses about our vision of the product . We try to verify that we have found a problem that early adopters are willing to pay to have a solution for. And that our product is a suitable solution.
Because we always keep our vision in mind, with each new release we try to get one step closer and test the minimum set of features that will provide us with relevant information regarding early adopters.
As we have mentioned, the first hypothesis that we must check is whether there is a market for the product that we want to develop . Therefore, before starting, we must verify that we have indeed detected a problem that people want to solve.
To test this hypothesis we can develop a minimum viable product as small as a landing page in which we explain the problem we have detected and announce that we are developing a solution for it.
We only need a small amount of money to spend on a small adwords campaign and a form on a landing page so that interested parties can receive information about our product.
For the landing page you will need web hosting (we recommend Hostinger for being the cheapest hosting with the best quality, you have hosting from only €0.99 per month ($0.99) with free domain included and other very cheap options if you need more resources) , and if what you want is to set up an online store , for example, instead of setting up an entire platform, you can hire a service like Shopify that allows you to start cheap, easy and in a very short time.
Measure what is useful
The metrics that will provide us with the relevant information that we must learn. They are not vanity metrics like the number of page views or the number of subscriptions, but actionable metrics like the percentage of users who have subscribed in a given time over the total number of users who have visited the page in the same period .
These simple metrics will allow us to iterate in our MVP in such a way that we make reformulations on the problem and check if the percentage of subscriptions grows or decreases, to move on to the next test, hypotheses about our solution.
In the event that we have not achieved an adequate percentage , set before doing the experiments, in a certain number of iterations, it will allow us to learn that the problem we had detected does not have enough of a market. And therefore we have been saved from developing a product that no one would buy . And all this with a simple landing page!
If we affirm our hypotheses and adapt them, little by little our MVP grows and adapts to all the learning that we have been achieving with each iteration, so that we are getting closer to the real product with the least possible expense.