Why Bare-Bones MVPs Are No Longer an Option

Minimum viable products (MVPs) are a powerful way to understand the successes and shortcomings of a digital product. However, too often, MVPs are used to validate technicalities rather than evaluate the experiences of users. As a result, the problem-solving capabilities of a product are frequently confused with its feasibility.

The contrary is true too – if the experience it delivers is poorly executed, the idea will be forever tainted, and a learning opportunity is squandered.

In its essence, the concept of an MVP is sound – speed-to-market is crucial in the fast-paced markets of today. It’s the focus of the MVP that requires attention, and this comes from user research. Any MVP should have a minimum experience baseline that’s rooted in user needs. It should make something possible for users and be expertly delivered.

In this blog, we’re going to dive deeper into why shipping a well-crafted and uncompromising MVP is vital against today’s backdrop of exponential digitization and rising user demands.

MVPs need to work for the user

Userswill happily change brands if a product isn’t meeting their needs – whether the version they’re using is an MVP or not. In fact, one of the two most common – and avoidable – reasons why new ventures fail is not researching user needs before building an MVP, according to Tom Eisenmann in a 2021 HBR article. Users need to be at the heart of any digital offering from day 0.

Businesses should dig into the ‘why’ with users before embarking on an MVP to test the technology and validate the problem they’re trying to solve in the first place. The social media management platform Buffer is a good example of a company that first established the user need for its product before launching an MVP.

Before building its platform, Buffer created a two-page explainer website outlining what the product would do and solicited feedback from users on how they’d use it – providing them with crucial insights to ensure MVP success. The platform is now used by thousands of small businesses worldwide.

Rather than trying to implement all of the features on your roadmap in the first iteration, conduct user research to understand the most important ones for solving your users’ needs. For example, a smooth checkout flow and multiple payment options within an e-commerce app will likely be essential for users from the get-go, while augmented reality-powered ‘try-on’ capabilities can come later.

As Peter Drucker, the father of management thinking, once said, “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

MVPs should stand up to market competition

If a company doesn’t move quickly enough to get a good MVP out, its competitors will come in and fill that vacuum; businesses cannot rest on their past successes to stay relevant in a cut-throat market.

This CB Insights report found that getting outcompeted was the third biggest reason startups fail. Poor MVPs can be the difference between a loyal user base and one that has set up shop with your competitor before you have time to rectify the situation.

While it’s important to focus your first-release features on those that are most needed by your users, your MVP shouldn’t be so lean that it doesn’t match up to your competitors’ offerings. A bare-bones MVP saves time, but it doesn’t guarantee market success. Prioritize your core features ruthlessly, execute well, always look out for success signals, and pivot when necessary.

MVPs shouldn’t sacrifice technology

Technology is advancing incredibly fast, and implementing new technologies six months or one year from now is too slow. Businesses need to be jumping on innovations as soon as they can.

While an MVP is designed to get a solution out into the market to test as soon as possible, it still needs to work to solve critical issues outlined in the market research and user testing stages. The engineering has to be complete in the sense that users shouldn’t be able to recognize that it’s an MVP, and it should be continuously improved upon thereafter.

A poor-performing app will result in quickly fleeing users – 71% of app uninstalls are attributed to app crashes and 70% of users abandon an app because of long loading times. Seamless UX has to be backed up by a solid backend if you want your MVP to retain users and a foothold in the market.

Uber is a good example of a successful MVP that prioritized high-performing technology from the beginning. Uber kept its initial tech-driven interface simple – but reliable – and tested it out first in San Francisco before expanding into other cities. Uber is now a household name around the globe in large part due to early iterations that followed through on the company’s core mission of cash-free ride-hailing. 

MVPs for real-world problems and user success

MVPs are a powerful tool to help you set your stake in your market and gain a foundational user base that will expand with future iterations and features. For the delivery team, this means establishing a shared understanding of the user and the problem space, as well as the intended outcome and the metrics that should be tracked in order to reach that outcome.

In today’s landscape, the bar for user acceptance is high. Products need to move beyond just being functional to be considered serviceable. A good MVP should solve real-world problems that users are facing and do so with excellent UX/UI.

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