Is MVP Right For Your Project?

There’s very little in professional life as exciting as launching a product. Seeing your idea transformed from its initial spark into a functioning app with real users is a creative experience like no other. But as anyone who has experienced the process will tell you, there are frequent pitfalls that can tarnish or even derail a project entirely.

Timescales and budgets can be challenging, but the biggest obstacle is a lack of confidence. You need the confidence to make decisions, invest time and money, and not overextend yourself. Many people who are new to the process lack confidence because they can’t be sure how their project will be received.

MVP is a product design strategy developed and refined by some of the leading startups in the world. MVP involves designing and building a version of your product with enough features to entice early adopters and enable you to gather enough feedback to establish a roadmap for future development.

In this series of articles, we’ll explore MVP and how you can use it to design products like apps and websites. First up: Is MVP suitable for your project?

How to Define an MVP

MVP is an iterative process, but unlike some iterative methodologies, MVP isn’t about creating a prototype. MVP is about creating a fully functional version of your product.

The most important letter in MVP is ‘v’ for ’viable.’ The product you build will not be the final version, but it must be a finished version. The goal is to design and develop a working product that real customers will pick up and use.

The ’minimum’ in MVP means honing your idea by trimming away the fat until you’re left with the core of your concept. Those extra features, the nice-to-haves, aren’t discarded — you might add them later — they’re just de-prioritized for now. It’s all about getting over the line as quickly and simply as possible.

When to Employ MVP in Your Projects

In our experience, most organizations adopt MVP later than they should. That’s not to say that MVP principles can’t benefit mature products — Uber famously pivoted its business model by adopting MVP to recover from some early missteps. However, MVP offers the most benefits when employed right from the start and becomes central to how you think about your product.

How you approach problems will be transformed by releasing your product onto the market and gathering feedback from real users. Some excellent UX (User Experience) testing strategies are available, but there’s no substitute for a real person spending their own money, to tell you that your product is a success.

MVP brings with it a number of benefits that are more pronounced the earlier you employ it:

  • Increased confidence: The most important thing that MVP brings to the table is confidence. When real users interact with an actual product, you have undeniable proof of success. For some organizations, that makes it easier to secure investment. For others, it’s just about being able to sleep well at night.
  • Reduced time to market: Reducing the number and complexity of features that must be designed and built means taking your product to market sooner. Accelerated development not only realizes your goals faster but also reduces the chances that someone with a similar idea will beat you to the punch.
  • Reduced costs: Developing a smaller product with fewer and less-ambitious features reduces the demand on your budget. It also means less wastage because you won’t pursue features that real customers don’t see as valuable. It may even mean that you can fund later stages of development with income from early product versions.
  • Improved adaptability: In any project, problems can arise. It’s often the creation of a product that identifies the need for a related solution. MVP helps identify issues early on, at a point that they can be solved simply and when pivoting is possible without extensive reworking.

MVP may show you that your users really do want the all-singing, all-dancing version you dreamed up. Or, it may reveal opportunities that you hadn’t considered. Whatever the outcome, MVP will give you the confidence to make those decisions.

When MVP Is Wrong For Your Project

MVP is such a powerful methodology that there are very few downsides to adopting it. However, it’s not the right strategy for every project.

The key to making MVP work is gathering feedback from real users to guide future development. Occasionally, that may not be possible. For example, if you’re developing a product for an event, like a festival or conference, you may not be able to get it in front of real users until the day of the event.

Occasionally you’ll need to design and develop more features than you can reasonably consider the minimum for viability. For example, suppose you’ve raised seed money from investors to begin development. In that case, you may already be committed to building certain features to satisfy those relationships — although in our experience, seasoned investors recognize the value of MVP and prefer the low-risk approach of MVP over funding a founder’s vision.

Depending on your industry, you may even be required by law to develop certain features. For example, the financial sector is heavily regulated, and fintech apps often need auditing functions that are more detailed than strictly necessary.

Sometimes you’re developing an app for a specific set of users to whom you don’t yet have access. For example, you might be building an in-house tool for a team that has yet to be hired.

In all of these cases, speak to us; we can make suggestions for a tailored approach that incorporates as many of the benefits of MVP as possible.

Is MVP Right For Your Project?

MVP can be incredibly beneficial for businesses testing the market before sinking too many resources into creating a fully-fledged product. MVP reduces risks, reduces turnaround times, saves money, and ensures you are confident in the product roadmap you pursue.

If you think MVP might be right for your project, there are some simple questions you can ask yourself to help you decide:

  1. Can You Define a Clear Goal?
    Before you begin working with MVP, you need to be able to determine what is the minimum viable version of your product. You need to know what it must do to eliminate the features that are only nice to have.
  1. Can You Prioritize Features?
    MVP is about reducing the functionality of a product down to its essence. If the only way your app can be built is fully formed, with no scope for growth, then MVP may not be suitable for your project. 
  1. Can You Let Users Guide Development?
    MVP depends on gathering feedback from real users and acting on it to improve your product step by step. You may find that customers take your product in unexpected directions. However, with the right feedback processes, you can be confident that you’re developing a solution that customers want and need.

Start Designing a Product With MVP

The MVP approach is ideal for startups that are light on their feet and willing to pivot quickly. It allows you to create digital products with less risk, lower budgets, and reduced timescales.

MVP is a powerful, flexible, and proven approach to product design. We’ve seen projects benefit enormously from this approach, and after so many successes, it’s rare that we recommend any other strategy to our clients.



Vladimir Mrkela
Vladimir Mrkela
Vladimir is co-founder and CEO of the Northwest. His background is in PHP development and project management. When he is not sitting in the front of the screen you may find him outdoors - riding a bike.

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