Edge Cases: When Users Stray From the Happy Path
Guilherme Hayashi | Aug 19, 2022
Last year, we shared our views about MVPs (minimum viable products) and the problems they can cause for quality software development.
If you haven’t read that post yet, here’s the key takeaway: an MVP framework can lead companies to focus too much on the ‘minimum’ and ‘viable’ aspects of the MVP meaning. The result? A bar that’s set too low in terms of value, resulting in lackluster products that just about do what’s required.
Swapping ‘viable’ for ‘valuable’ is a better way to look at the MVP meaning. This will help shift your focus more towards providing maximum value to customers without overdoing your initial development.
This definition becomes even more valid during a recession where budgets are reduced and providing value to customers is even more essential for success.
In this guide, we’ll debate the question: what does the MVP mean when building delightful digital experiences during an economic downturn?
Firstly, let’s take a look at the MVP meaning in business.
MVP stands for ‘minimum viable product.’ An MVP product is a version of an app or software that provides just enough features to be rolled out to early users to test and validate assumptions. The results of this initial launch then inform future feature development of the product experience.
The primary benefit of an MVP is that you gain insights into how customers will respond to your product without needing to fully develop it.
The MVP framework is intended to be cost-effective, efficient, and ensures you don’t waste time developing a product that customers won’t use.
During difficult financial times like recessions, all businesses are looking to minimize risk while still keeping active in the market.
That’s where the MVP comes in: meaning that you can test your ideas and engage your audience, learn what works and what doesn’t, and all without spending more than you have to at the onset.
So how did the MVP meaning come to be more about minimum viability than maximum value within the constraints of time and budget?
Let’s take a quick look back at how the meaning of MVP has evolved over time.
The term ‘minimum viable product’ was first coined by Frank Robinson in 2001 as a way to align the product and customer development process.
Robinson observed that developers spent too much time focusing on non-essential features at the expense of core capabilities — that they were getting carried away on features that didn’t deliver value, rather than building those that did.
The MVP definition was then expanded upon by Eric Ries in his book ‘The Lean Startup’. Today, Ries’ book has reached legendary status within the world of entrepreneurship, encouraging new businesses to build, measure, and learn (aka the meaning of MVP), among other ‘fail fast, learn fast’ lean practices.
Now we’re not saying that Robinson or Ries was wrong.
The MVP meaning was valid then and it’s still valid today; we can build, measure, and learn from early-stage app designs, we just need to be learning what features are valuable for our users, rather than just what’s viable.
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To stay true to the MVP meaning, minimum valuable software should provide a version of the product that delivers against the user’s truest pain points.
If you can use just the technology you need today to resonate with users and help solve their problems, then you’ll have all the data and behavioral patterns you need to determine future functionality.
These are our three best practices when it comes to creating a meaningful, valuable MVP.
Just like Robinson observed in 2001, too many developers focus on non-essential features — it’s the equivalent of getting distracted by shiny alloys and headrest video players in a car that doesn’t tell you how much gas is left in the tank.
Whichever type of MVP you’re developing, make sure you only focus on the essential needs
Remember, that’s the MVP meaning: to provide the features that users need to get value from your product and perform the intended tasks with ease.
If you spend too much time on extra features, you risk losing focus, wasting money, and missing an opportunity to learn what users really need and how you can best deliver it.
Here at Cheesecake Labs, our methodology is a four-phase app development process intended to create customer-centric, valuable products. The four stages are:
While MVP, or minimum valuable product, plays a role in each step of the journey, we put the MVP meaning to work hardest in the product definition phase.
This methodology is not only leveraged during our full product development service, but we also bring it to bear during our dedicated team engagements to the extent it is needed.
Great product definition requires you to hone in on what you want to build, who you are building it for, and why it needs building.
These irrefutable insights act as a north star, giving you a guide to refer back to as you begin product design and development.
By sticking to the objectives you’ll ensure your app delivers a delightful digital experience that gets the job done without going overboard — it’s a practice we’d advocate for in many situations, but especially during a recession.
Fewer than 0.01% of new apps succeed at launch. This is often due to bugs and usability issues, as well as poor product-market fit.
The MVP can absolutely help test how relevant your product is to the market, but you won’t be able to access any of those valuable insights if users cannot use your product!
MVP does not mean ‘poorly made app’. And the quality assurance process is every bit as crucial for your MVP as it is for fully fleshed-out platforms.
Yes, you’ll need to spend a little more time and money to implement a thorough QA process, but compare this to the money you’d lose launching an app full of bugs and you’ll start to see why QA is essential.
There’s not a business out there willing to risk the cost or reputation damage of a failed app launch — and especially during a recession.
Once you’ve rolled out your MVP and received feedback, you’ll probably want to add more features to the product. Perhaps you want to add a voice search function, for example?
Again, build and integrate these features with the MVP definition in mind and keep the focus on providing greater value.
Developing and testing MVPs is an iterative process — and one that takes time. But it’s important to make sure a feature works before moving on to the next.
And if something goes wrong, stick to the roadmap rather than starting again. This way you’ll build a delightful digital experience while maintaining an MVP agile focus.
The MVP we built for EQI Investment focused on the most valuable features first so that we could validate the concept and engage an initial user base.
From there, we then followed a strategic roadmap of feature updates as part of our ‘Dedicated team’ service.
The whole point of an MVP is to optimize and refine as you go along. If features need removing, take them out! You’ll only waste time and money by pursuing features that don’t work just because you feel attached to them.
Times change, technology evolves, and user expectations and needs adapt. As we head towards an impending recession, the MVP has significant meaning in modern app development — providing you can follow the insights as they are presented to you, rather than suffering from creator bias or letting your love for an unnecessary feature cloud your judgment.
At Cheesecake Labs, we’ve defined, designed, developed, and optimized hundreds of delightful digital experiences.
We’ve also weathered the storm of economic downturn before — offering stability and expertise to our clients, from MVP through to full product launch.
Read more about how we used the minimum valuable product for an IoT project, how we built an MVP web app before expanding to Android and iOS and get in touch with the team to discuss your software project today.
Jumped drillships to join great friends on their amazing mission, exploring his developer/entrepreneur skills. Loves traveling and can cook a lasagna better than his grandmother.