An MVP shortens the time needed to enter the market and lowers the risk of failure

Day 26. November 2014 posted Stanislava Vabšek

The main purpose of an MVP (minimum viable product) is to put it in front of the test users as soon as possible and systematically measure their reactions. We then take these reactions into account when making decisions about further development and thus lower the risk for developing a product that nobody would want to buy. In this, functionality takes precedence over aesthetics, but you can also be led by the “proverb” that says that you had invested too much time and energy into building your MVP if you aren’t at least a little bit embarrassed when showing it to your test users. Those were the key messages of the 2nd module on the topic of developing a product, an MVP and user experience. It was carried out by the team of the company Gigodesign for the participants of the Start:up Geek House.


“If we even want to be able to talk about the existence and the development of the product, the innovator or the entrepreneur has to fulfil three conditions. They have to have a user for whom this product is meant for, a value that this product brings to the user, and the latter has to be big enough that the user is prepared to pay for it with their time or attention or money,” emphasised Matevž Medja, CEO and co-founder of company Gigodesign and the design accelerator DsgnFwd.

Matevž Medja, Gigodesign: “Without a user and a value for them, we can’t talk about a product.”


Unconfirmed hypotheses lead to failure

This is why it isn’t surprising that in the world of start-ups, wrong or unconfirmed hypotheses of value are amongst the main reasons for company failure. Each start-up should thus ask themselves four starting questions before even doing anything, namely:   

  1. Are customers aware of the problem that we are trying to solve?
  2. Would they buy the solution for this problem if it existed?
  3. Would they buy it from us?
  4. Can we build a product that solves this problem? 

An MVP allows the company to start learning about the market

The key tool for starting to learn about the market that’s based on the build-measure-learn noose, is an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). It is recommended that a minimal amount of effort, funds and development time be put into an MVP. Its main purpose is that we can set it in front of the early customers, systematically measure their response, enter these responses into decisions about further development and thus lower the risk of developing a product that nobody wants to buy.

Team Gigodesign while solving a dilemma of a Boatguard team member: whether to and to what extent invest into developing their own “case” for the product that allows users to guard their boat via a mobile device and application when they aren’t nearby.

From a sketch to an early prototype

An MVP can thus be merely sketches on paper that depict the use of an application or pictures sent with a phone, thus explicitly explained the bootcamp participant Matevž Petek, otherwise the co-founder of the start-up Povio and the newest project Doo Doo (a platform for virtual hitchhiking). An MVP can also be a website, a video presentation or an ad, and in certain cases even a built early prototype that the company offers to potential customers to test.


Where is the limit to over-engineering?

Participants asked about the extent to which an MVP has to be developed or designed and where is the limit to over-engineering. Matevž Medja explains: “The answer is hidden in the name MVP itself or rather in the word ‘minimum’. We have to ask ourselves what is the minimal or the most basic set of features for the user so they get the best possible awareness of the product and allow the company to get their product or service to the market as soon as possible.”


Five to seven user tests for 80 % of bugs

Primož Mahne, creative strategist from Gigodesign, also warned the participants about the necessity of including the user into the product development process as soon as possible. “Testing with five to seven users can uncover up to about 80 % of all bugs of the product. It’s important that the entrepreneur and their team know how to put themselves into the customer’s shoes, understand their problems, and then use all possible methods of service design to discover solutions that hadn’t existed before,” additionally explained Mahne. Luka Stepan, leader of industrial design in company Gigodesign, added that when developing physical products, it’s good to have a designer on the team so they can ensure suitable appearance and features right from the very start, as a lot of start-ups come knocking at their door when products are already in the late development phase and it’s thus difficult to make changes that would contribute to a bigger success.

There is no single formula, functionality before aesthetics

After the presentations of the participating teams and looking at the practical cases of company Gigodesign, the participants of this educational module have realized that there is no single formula for building an MVP and that a lot depends on the characteristics of an individual product and the entrepreneur’s judgement. When doing this, they can rely on guidelines such as: give priority to functionality not aesthetics, a good design is the least elaborate design (less is more), and if you’re in a dilemma, simplify. For example, if you are arguing with the co-founder about who’s right, it’s very probable that actually neither of you are right and that the answer is hidden outside, on the market, with potential users. But in no way does an MVP mean that we can be careless and unprofessional, have additionally warned the lecturers at yesterday’s module.


Understanding design and user experience

As the experienced Gigodesign members have additionally explained, design encompasses comprehensive planning of user experience – the product’s appearance is only one part of this process. Or, as Steve Jobs often emphasised: design isn’t how a product looks like, but how it works. It’s comprehensive user experience, everything from the first contact with the product, using it and solving problems to complaints and after-sales activities, much like a suitable visual identity is the result of the right decisions about the character of the brand, its users and the features it promises.    

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