Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Link to view session slides.

“Products” include physical, tangible products and services. Products fail for a variety of reasons:

Failure to understand customer needs
End user input/feedback is dismissed or not sought out
No product/market fit
Poor design
Weak team execution
Requires too much consumer education (new markets)
Unsafe
Over-hyped
Poor timing
Multiple factors need to be considered for a value-driven product.

How to Develop a Value-Driven Product

At each stage of your innovation journey, you should use different tools with different levels of granularity to test your ideas.

Note: depending on the startup idea, “prototype” and “MVP” can be synonymous; for others, it won’t be.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development.

It’s the bare minimum version of your product that still solves the problem for your customers.

The most important job of an MVP is to get something in the “hands” of your customers in order to learn from it.

An MVP can be:

Website Landing Page

Blog

Concierge

Wizard of Oz

Crowdfunding

Video

Etc.

Here’s an example to help understand the concept of MVP:

Someone needs transportation between Point A and Point B, and you’re trying to figure out the best way to solve this problem. The first thing you give the person wouldn’t be a Porsche! Perhaps you first start with a scooter. You talk to your customers and their feedback is that they enjoyed the ride but they want something motorized, so you give them an electric bike. It does the job, but now they want something that can hold more than one person, so you give them an electric tandem bike. This does the job.

The goal with an MVP is to solve our customers’ problems with the least amount of effort, and then collect validated learning (customer feedback) to iterate.

How to Build an MVP
Use lean methodology

Listen to and incorporate customer feedback

Use hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative updates/releases, and validated learning

To ensure your MVP is given its best chance to prove product-market fit, use the following steps to guide your development:

Step 1 – Identify the Problem
Prior to any MVP development, ensure that your idea fulfills your target users’ needs and/or satisfies a pain point in their lives.

One of the top reasons businesses fail is because the market lacks a need for it. That’s why this stage is extremely important – if your product doesn’t solve the problem, users will not consider it as a solution.

At this point, you should have completed a Value Proposition Canvas (VPC) for your product. If not, do so now! Visit the Week 2 module: Value Proposition Canvas.

From your VPC, you’re going to focus on the pains & gains that matter most to your customers to create a prototype.

Step 2 – Define your Value Proposition
Your product is a manifestation of your Value Proposition – the value you bring to your customers, how you solve their problems, and satisfy their needs.

Revisit your VPC and focus on the Pain Relievers and Gain Creators that matter most to your customers.

Some additional questions to ask yourself:

What value do my users get from my product?
How does my product benefit its users?
What value does my product offer that’s different from other solutions in the market?
Once you have defined the value offered to your users, outline them. Use the outlined value to create wireframes (aka low-fidelity prototypes) for the development of your MVP.

Step 3 – Map the User Journey
Your product should be conveniently designed for users, also known as the User Experience (UX). Develop your prototype/MVP from the perspective of your users.

Start from the first customer touch point and work through to the final action or process. Generally, it’s a good idea to work through these five phases, which are the 5 channel phases from your BMC:

Awareness
Consideration/Evaluation
Purchase
Delivery/Onboarding (depending on your startup)
After Sales/Advocacy
When mapping the user journey, define the overall process stages that are needed for a user to reach their main objective. Focus your attention on users’ pain points, not features.

A basic outline may look like ‘Website Visit’ → ‘Locate Product’ → ‘Buy Product’ → ‘Tracking Order’, ‘Receiving Order’.

Every startup’s process will be unique. Align the process stages with the goals your users have while using your product. With these stages clearly outlined, you can begin to list and prioritize features within each one.

Customer journey map example:

Once you create your customer journey map, you should invite your target user in on the process and get their feedback on your map. What have you missed? What is something important to your customer, but that you downplayed?

Here are some templates to map your customer journey:
Template 1 (click here) — You’ll have to create a login with UX Pressia (it’s free). There are several template options. I’d recommend “CJM for Saas” or “SaaS support journey map”. Then click “use template”.

Template 2 (click here) — You’ll have to download the PDF and annotate on the PDF, which is a bit rigid because your saved version becomes your most recent version, so you can’t erase/delete things.

Step 4 – List & Prioritize Features
To begin, jot down all the features you want to build into your final product. The features listed should offer solutions to the pain points outlined earlier while defining the user journey.

To keep things organized, place them in buckets aligned with your defined User Journey stages. Call out features that would differentiate your product from competitors and circle areas along the journey that could be differentiated enough to create a competitive advantage.

After compiling your lists, it’s time to prioritize features for your MVP.

Begin by asking questions such as:

What helps my users do what they want to do within each stage of their journey?
What provides the most perceived value for the invested development time?
Which features differentiate my product the most from competition?
What features should we test to further prove product market fit?
Next, rank all features in your list on a scale from 1 (high priority) to 5 (low priority) as it pertains to the answers to questions like the ones above.

Once ranked, the features ranked as ‘1’ should be included in your MVP. At least one feature from each stage in the journey should be included in your MVP feature set with the next highest ranking taking precedence if a ‘one’ ranking was not given.

When all features have been given a priority, define the scope for the initial launch and move into building your MVP.

As a best practice, draw out what you envision the completed product to look like and design your MVP to scale to your vision.

Step 5 – Build MVP
It’s time to actually start building. But, before you do, how are you going to build it? Will you build it yourself, hire an internal team of designers and developers, or outsource to a technology agency?

I’d imagine the majority of you will be building your MVP yourself. Here are the tools I recommend:

MarvelApp
Moqups
InvisionApp
As you build your MVP, keep in mind that ‘MVP’ does not mean lower quality than the final product. In fact, it must fulfill the same customers’ needs and be scalable as the number of users and feature sets grow.

Step 6 – Measure & Learn
Once you develop your MVP, it’s time to go back to your customers to validate your solution. But before getting to the hands of the user, it’s important to understand what you’re measuring.

Identify the specific KPIs used to determine success and ensure the systems and tools are in place to collect and measure valuable user data. Let the data drive your decisions. Throughout this stage, you’ll ask questions like:

What metrics matter? And how will I measure them?
What does the data say that can help fulfill our customers’ needs?
Are users engaged and able to complete the desired task(s)?
Where am I losing customers? Do they convert? Where do they fall out?
This stage will be a guide to your growth experiments and will help you decide what is tested to prove it has more of an effect on your defined KPIs. The integration of analytics into your product is an integral part of the MVP process. A lot of products fail as a result of failing to implement analytics and/or leverage them across their decision making process.

You’ll continue to measure and learn as you scale your MVP’s feature set, providing more customer benefit and adding additional value to your product. Testing will be what graduates your product beyond the MVP stage into the growth stage.

Wireframing
Before you dive head first into creating a digital version of your app or website, start with a wireframe.

A wireframe is the layout of a web page or app which articulates what kind of interface elements will find a place on important pages.

The major goal of wireframing is to offer a visual understanding of a page at the earliest stage in a project to get the approval of all the stakeholders and members of a project team.

A wireframe is an app or website’s skeleton or basic structure. It is focused on functionality, such as main columns and buttons. A wireframe also:

connects the site’s/app’s information architecture to its visual design by showing paths between pages
clarifies consistent ways for displaying particular types of information on the user interface
determines intended functionality in the interface
prioritizes content through the determination of how much space to allocate to a given item and where that item is located
Wireframe (Examples):

Tips on sketching wireframes
(video 4:45 minutes)

Prototyping
“A simulation or sample version of a final product, which is used for testing prior to launch.”

A prototype is the theory behind your product made into form. Instead of having a vague idea of what you want to eventually build, you make something tangible.

Prototypes can vary in size and how much time and effort you put into them. It might be a simple sketch on paper or it might be something more functional and interactive.

The main benefit of a prototype is that it helps you to communicate your idea.

Depending on your skill level, you can make your prototype as complicated or as simple as you like.

You can prototype your entire solution or just a part of a solution to test that specific part of your solution.

Techniques:

Napkin Sketches This is the lowest level of prototype. If you can use a pencil, you can manage. Draw out a basic idea of what your user interface will look like.

Digital, Clickable Prototype: This is a higher-fidelity, working mock-up of your envisioned product. We dive into this more in the sections below.

Ad-libs

Storyboards

Value Proposition Canvases

Goal: Identify Minimum Viable Product

Low-Fidelity Prototypes (Examples):

High-Fidelity Prototypes (Examples):
Oftentimes, high-fidelity prototypes can also be considered MVPs.

Start with a low fidelity prototype, then iterate, refine, and increase design fidelity.

Customer feedback becomes more relevantly valuable as we progress and increase the level of granularity in our prototype to develop something that most closely resembles our actual final product.

Clickable Prototype (app):
Give your customers something to interact with and observe their interactions and reactions.

How you can do it right now (app):

Create a clickable prototype using MarvelApp or Figma

Let your target customer poke around with your prototype (Ethnographic studies, Five-Second Tests, Observational Usability)

In the beginning, try only observing. The user needs to be able to discover features and understand what your product offers without you chiming in to help.

The more you explain, the more you bias the experiment.

Clickable Prototype (website):
Give your customers something to interact with and observe their interactions and reactions.

How you can do it right now (website):

Create a website using Wix or Squarespace

Let your target customer poke around with your prototype (Ethnographic studies, Five-Second Tests, Observational Usability)

In the beginning, try only observing. The user needs to be able to discover features and understand what your product offers without you chiming in to help.

The more you explain, the more you bias the experiment.

Landing-Page:
Offer your real or fictional product to the general public.

How you can do it right now:

Create a landing page using Wix

Put a big Call To Action (CTA) button that’s relevant to your product; for example: “Buy”, “Pre-Order”, “Subscribe”, “Sign up”, etc.

Drive a little traffic to your landing page with AdWords, Facebook Ads, or any other method you think will attract your target customer

Enable Tracking & Analytics

Gauge interest by analyzing how many people clicked on your ads and what percentage of them clicked on your CTA

Examples of Successful MVPs

Link to Dropbox’s MVP video here.

Tools for Prototypes and MVPs
To make a website (No coding tools)

WIX, Weebly, SquareSpace

To make an app (No coding tools)

Moqups, Marvelapp, Adobe UX, InVision, Glideapps

To make nice presentations

Free icons: Noun Project, Icons8

Free vector illustrations: Ouch, FreePik

Free, high-res, beautiful photos / stock images: Unsplash, Pexels

Open-source illustrations for any idea you can imagine and create: Undraw, Opendoodles, Illustrations.co

Create mockups online: Artboard.Studio

Additional Design & Deck Resources

Canva: incredibly simple graphic design for everyone

Powtoon: to make videos and presentations

HiSlide: free library of beautiful Google Slides templates

TinyTake: screen recording

Tools to test if there is growing demand for your product and in which markets

Google Trends

Market Finder

Assignment
(1) Identify what your MVP is going to be. What are you trying to (in)validate with your MVP?

Is your MVP going to be a Wizard of Oz type of experiment? A digital, clickable prototype? Something else?

If you’re struggling with how to build an MVP from your idea, start by mapping the user experience/the customer journey.

What is the most painful part of that journey for your customer?

Is it the login process? Then start there. Is it the browsing or purchasing process? Start there. Is it the social sharing ability? Start there.

(2) Create a low-fidelity version of your MVP.

Perhaps it’s a hand-sketched, low-fidelity prototype (tips on how to sketch low-fidelity prototypes).

Perhaps it’s the storyboard for an explainer video.

Or…?

(3) Be prepared to share the low-fidelity version of your MVP in our live session for feedback. You’ll use this feedback to iterate.

(4) Start thinking about how you are going to increase design fidelity. The next step in the validation process is to show your MVP to prospective customers for feedback.