How to Launch a Successful Minimum Viable Product

February 26, 2016

9:00 pm

It's time to launch the first iteration of your company's product.  Where do you start?  What do you need?  What is a minimum viable product?

The Minimum Viable Product

The purpose of a minimum viable product (MVP) is to get your product to market and in the hands of real users.  If you're looking to generate substantial revenue from an MVP, odds are your product will fail to launch.  This is because you will force your product to become money-driven instead of user-driven.  If users do not love your product, you will never make money.  If they love your product, you will.

There are three primary ingredients for a successful MVP:

  1. A technically-savvy team built around a common vision
  2. A user-centered experience
  3. Lean product-market functionality

Minimum Viable Product - Justin Baker

Goal 1: Technically-Savvy Team

Building an MVP is the transition from an idea to a product.  To do this, you need to make sure that you have a team with enough technical savvy to execute the vision.

The Ideal MVP Team

  • One full-stack developer who understands application architecture.  A developer is not someone who “knows how to code”.  A developer is someone who understands the fundamentals of application development and can build a minimalist application built to scale.  You do not need someone with 10 years of experience, but you will need someone who has a comprehensive perspective of an application's life-cycle.
  • One detailed-oriented domain expert who works with the developer on a day-to-day basis.  This domain expert can be the founder or someone on the business side, but this person must be involved in development on a daily basis.  Development is not limited to a programmer.  Everyone needs to get into the gritty details, the functional caveats, and the overall app vision.

Goal 2: User-Centered Experience

If you are trying to assess if people enjoy your product, you must build a usable experience.  You can have the best idea in the world, but if your application is difficult to use, then no one will use it.  A user-centered experience approach ensures that you are building an application that minimizes onboarding friction, clearly surfaces your value prop, and enables the user to make a value-driven usability decision.  In other words, your MVP should test whether people find your core value prop enticing, not whether they can actually figure out how to use the application.

Goal 3: Lean Product-Market Functionality

Is there a place for your product in the market?  This is the primary purpose of your MVP.  Do people actually want it?  Is there demand?  These are the questions you must answer.  The functional scope of your MVP must be limited to demonstrating your core value prop. Do not add bells and whistles, extra features, customizations, super duper social sharing, or anything else you think is “cool.”

Rules for Lean Product-Market Functionality

  • Identify one core feature that you want to launch
  • Eliminate all friction for using that feature
  • No not focus on monetizing that feature (yet..)
  • You should be able to launch this feature in less than 3 months – if not, then you are building too much too soon
  • Build to scale – you're going to be adding more features in the future, so make sure your design can handle scalability

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Lead Product Designer at LaunchDarkly | Heavybit Ind | 500 Startups Justin has over 10 years of experience at the intersection of design and development, particularly in the startup world (from early stage to series A). He is a tennis playing design aficionado who loves creating intuitive mobile and web products. He holds degrees from UC Davis and USC, with a UX certification from NYU. In his spare time, Justin is completing his M.S. in Application Design at Northwestern, harnessing his studies to solve LaunchDarkly's data design challenges. Aside from design, Justin enjoys computer games, collecting rare rocks/minerals, and volunteering.