Minimum Viable Product.

Whenever I hear it as part of a project I want to take myself off for a little cry. Based on my experience and anecdotes from friends and colleagues it invariably means whatever’s being delivered will be crap and a shadow of what it could be.

MVPs are trendy because the bare minimum is quicker and cheaper to do – it’s seen as a quick win – but everyone concentrates on the ‘minimum’ aspect and totally forgets the ‘viable’ part. It’s viability that determines whether or not a product will connect with your audience.

The public don’t know what an MVP is. And they certainly don’t care. They’re judging it on the belief that your product is the best it can possibly be, as if you had all the time and money in the world. They won’t remotely understand why you would want to launch something that’s not actually ready.

The assumption is that people will stick with you whilst you iterate and develop over 101 cycles to get it to a decent state. But they won’t. They’ll take a look, make their minds up and, if it’s not good enough, off they pop, never to return to give you a second chance. First impressions count.

You can end up with something that started out as a brilliant idea but slowly slides in to the pile of projects that never make it. You thought it was viable but the public doesn’t agree, so they don’t engage and numbers never get high enough to justify working on it further. That means the planned iterations never happen and it remains as shoddy at the end as it was at the beginning, because speed and cost were valued over everything else.

But if you’re going to go down the minimum route, why not whole heartedly embrace it?! Where do you stop? At an idea, a wireframe, a rough? Minimum is never going to be enough to excite someone that’s not already onboard.

That doesn’t mean you need to build in every single tiny element you’re ever going to want. It’s fine to have a roadmap for future development. But it can’t be so basic beyond belief that people laugh at it.

The other apparent advantage of an MPV is that you can ‘fail fast’, but isn’t it better to do it right to start with and not fail at all? It’s so much easier, quicker and cheaper to win people over first time than to chase after them once they’ve already taken a look and decided it’s not for them because, realistically, it needed another four months of work before release. Good (let alone great) isn’t fast and the minimum is never enough.