Minimum Viable Product is a concept I was introduced to in the world of product management. In essence, it’s supposed to be the minimum set of features and functionality required to consider the product something that can be released. The idea is to target a subset of the finished product that should be built first so that you can get the product out the door quicker – and it’s a key part of lean startup / lean product management. The idea is to design,build and release quickly and then continue to iterate on the product to keep improving.
This may work in some cases, but frequently it results in products being pushed out the door that are of inferior quality, limited usability, questionable value. The big problem with this is that while the product may now be out on the market, it’s incredibly unlikely that it’s providing a meaningful experience for the early adopters. Those early adopters are the ones who can make or break a product by providing positive (or negative) word of mouth. Knock it out of the park and they will become evangelists dedicated to spreading word of your product to their friends and family and anyone who will listen. Do it wrong, and they will warn others not to waste their hard earned money.
A better goal to strive for is Minimum Meaningful Product. Like the Minimum Viable Product, it’s intent is to identify a subset of the final product that can be prioritized above everything else to allow for a more rapid delivery to market. The difference is that instead of trying to push the very minimum set of features and functionality to have a “working” product to market, the goal is to push the minimum set of features and functionality to provide customers a meaningful experience. The product doesn’t just “work”, it works well. It’s intuitive and works well. A certain amount of polish exists, little touches that delight the user and give them something to be excited about. In short – it provides a meaningful experience that is likely to generate fans and evangelists.
It may take more time to deliver, but not significantly. It will result in a better product, and that’s good for everyone.