I spent a lot of time working in and with startups in 2015. As it happens when you surround yourself with people who are constantly making things and coming up with ideas, I started to wonder what I could do to solve some problems and help people all on my own. Once I had an idea, I needed something to test it with: a minimum viable product.
What’s a Minimum Viable Product?
Even within the startup world, the term “minimum viable product” carries different meanings. It can refer to a prototype, an experiment or a feedback loop, but my favorite definition comes from LeanStack:
“A Minimum Viable Product is the smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value.”
My goal is to be able to reach more people and teach practical advice for marketing their ideas, because often the best solutions go unnoticed. When I started planning my website, I thought about creating interactive courses, learning-focused games and a large networking hub. Naturally, my site sat in cyberspace with a slick “coming soon” page for months while I waited for the time and resources to do all of these things.
My website idea certainly wasn’t viable for me to do all by myself, and it definitely wasn’t the “minimum.” It’s no surprise to me that I never started work on it beyond the planning phases… until I let all those bells and whistles go.
Why Create a Minimum Viable Product?
The purpose of an MVP is to provide value for and learn from your audience. Before you pour all of your time and resources into an idea, it’s smart to try it out in the real world on a small scale. If there’s something fundamentally wrong with your idea that you didn’t realize, you can correct a major mistake before pouring a lot of time and money into it.
An MVP is also an experiment. You have to go into the process with a hypothesis, such as “I think my idea will help people who need X to accomplish Y.” Then you test that hypothesis, measure it and decide what changes need to be made or features need to be added and why. You may start with one idea and leave with another, but you won’t figure out which changes need to be made until you send your MVP into the wild.
In short, you create an MVP to test whether or not your product or idea is as cool as you think it is… before you pour your life savings into it. It’s a way to validate your idea while minimizing risk.
MVP’s Aren’t Just for Startups
Whenever you decide to make a big change in your life, career or business, think about testing the impact on a smaller scale by starting with an MVP. If you think your business MUST be on Snapchat, for example, start a free account and post consistently for a month while measuring the impact. Just don’t start by hiring a team and pouring all of your ad dollars into the platform before you know you have an audience that will respond there.
What’s My Minimum Viable Product?
You’re looking at it. I decided to launch a website with the minimum amount of pages necessary to test my hypothesis: that there are people who need the advice I’m writing about. Rather than create a whole new interactive site, I am launching with a home page, a resources page, a blog and a weekly email newsletter.
I’m really excited to hear what you think, even if you hate it. I’m not afraid to fail because if I do, I’ll just learn how to do better next time. I’m also not a professional web designer and put this together with about $100 (template and hosting/domain/email tool costs) and spare hours on weekends over the last six weeks, so if you find anything buggy or broken, please let me know! It will only help me.
Thank you in advance, and if you’d like to read more about MVP’s check out Eric Reis’ book: The Lean Startup.