The Product Design Process

Minimum Viable Product

Paul Boag

Paul Boag

The Product Design Process

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The "Minimum Viable Product" Lesson is part of the full, The Product Design Process course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul discusses MVPs as a product version with enough features to attract early adopters and validate the product idea, while also gathering user feedback for future improvements. He emphasizes the value of starting with an MVP, as it reduces risk, allows for faster market entry, focuses on the core value proposition, provides tangible evidence for investors, and enables learning through user experience. He also discusses the iterative process of building an MVP, listening to feedback, adapting to different audiences, and observing user behavior.


Transcript from the "Minimum Viable Product" Lesson

>> So where do we start when faced with those kinds of challenges? Cuz it really is overwhelming. Well, this is where this idea of minimal viable product comes in. And I suspect most of you have heard of minimal viable product, but I do just wanna kinda give my own definition of it.

So we're all talking from the same song sheet or whatever the phrase is. So minimal viable product is a product version with enough features to attract our early adopters and validate the product idea in the development cycle, gathering user feedback for future iterations and improvements. Now, minimal viable product, there's been a bit of a reaction to it and a bit of a kinda kick back against it, because minimal viable product became a synonym, is that the right word?

Synonym for kind of half baked idea, a half baked execution. And that is not what a minimal viable product should be. It's the last bit that's really the most important. It's that opportunity to gather user feedback for future iterations and improvements. If you launch a minimal viable product and stop there, then you've wasted your time, right?

If I'm faced with building a new app or even doing a major overhaul of an existing app, so like the warehouse management system, I did kind of that. In that one, I did two pass-throughs I did a quick cleanup, right? Where I went through and I did the hide remove hide and shrink thing.

And then once I'd done that, it was like, okay, well we need to step back now and look at this properly. And I actually started by, well, okay, let's create a minimal viable product. And then we can start reintroducing some of the functionality from what's there at the moment, as depending on what people scream for.

Cuz there's this presumption that, if we take things away, people are gonna freak out, right? Well, let's find out, let's build a minimum viable product with all those things taken out, right? And if people freak out, we'll put it back in, but if they don't, then we can save ourselves a load of effort, right?

A minimal viable product is almost always my starting point when I'm doing product design. And why do I start with a minimal viable product? Well, for a start, it reduces risk, right? It validates the product concept with minimal resources being invested in it, and that lowers the risk of a large scale failure, which costs organizations a lot.

And we as product designers need to worry about that kind of stuff, right? We need to care about risk and those kinds of issues not just can we create pretty interface, right? And it also allows you to get to market faster, right? Which is great, allows you quick launch gaining a competitive edge it being the first to market, if it is first a market scenario.

But in any case, it's good to to get to faster market because the faster you get to market faster you can get feedback. It also focuses you on the core what really matters it helps identify and refine that product value proposition. What is essential to that product what makes that product what it is?

Also if you need investors, it's great to have a minimal viable product because it gives you something tangible to show to investors not only a tangible app but also tangible user data on using that app. It also allows you to learn through the experience by having a real experience of how the market's responding, how users are responding, how viable the product is, it's an incredible learning experience.

And then finally, it allows you to target your resources better and by informing your decisions based on data and user interactions and what you build next. And how you scale up based on the feedback you're getting from the market. So actually, minimal viable products are a really valuable tool if you are acting as a product designer.

And there is this basic kinda loop which you go through with minimal viable products. So essentially I use a garden analogy or park analogy for some reason, I don't know somewhere in the past I decided to start using a park analogy and it's kinda stuck ever since. So I start off by building the simplest version of the product as cheaply as possible.

So, I grasp big area, I shove in some trees and that's my minimum viable product, right? But then it's about listening to the feedback you receive and improving it over time. So people might say, it's not very colorful, right great fine, so we'll put in some flowers to make the the park more appealing and more engaging.

But also you're not just listening, you're also adapting the product to attract a different audience and a broader audience. So oftentimes say if you are creating that task app I was talking about earlier, the temptation is on building a task app that can appeal to everybody, right? But if you go down that line A, you're gonna make your marketing really hard because you're trying, you're not targeting your marketing.

But B, you're gonna have to build a wide range of different features. But if you say right, I'm gonna start off by building my minimum viable product just for those stay-at-home moms. Then you can rule out, for example, building all that complex project management stuff, right? But it gives you a focus.

So for example, in our park analogy, to begin with, we just wanna get some users interacting with it, we get a bit of feedback. But then we might decide, okay, we wanna attract old people, all right? And we noticed that old people are coming and they're coming to the park but they're not staying very long, right?

And we want to get them on board, so we're gonna put some benches out, right? Then they'll sit down and feed the birds and stay longer, so I'm adapting to the audience I'm trying to attract. And then also I'm observing people's behaviour as well. So it might be that kids are coming along, we want to attract kids and get them staying longer.

So in that situation they seem to be getting bored very easily when they come to it, they're not really staying very long. So we might decide to create a boating lake cuz I live in the 1950s, so that kids can sail their toy boat. Probably iPod point, charge point that's what we need.

But you get what I'm getting at, really, that is such a terrible analogy I've used there, isn't it? But anyway, so essentially you build your minimal viable product, you listen to feedback, you adapt based on new audiences you want to attract and you observe user behaviour, that's the key takeaway here.

So the trouble is, is that so many people just screw up minimal viable products terribly, right? And what they do is they do this, right? So they try and create far too many features and they try and is it feasible, right? Can we get this thing working, right?

And so they managed to get it working, but of course, if you've got a load of shitty kind of features, then nobody's gonna stay with that cuz it's not valuable, it's not usable, it's not delightful. What you need to be doing with the minimal viable product is just build a single feature and just do it really really well.

So going back to that task app example, that groceries buy all thing just do that amazingly well. And don't worry about all the the projects and subprojects and re-occurring tasks and that kind of, that can come later.

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