Developing a Minimum Viable Experience vs Traditional MVP

Posted / 09 November, 2020

Author / Enginess

Developing a Minimum Viable Experience vs traditional MVP

You’ve probably heard of minimum viable product (MVP). As the attitudes and norms of Silicon Valley has become the dominant corporate culture in the US and Canada, MVP has become the standard approach to new product development.

We think that MVP doesn’t satisfy the needs of most businesses and organizations.

While you can launch faster and learn more via multiple iterations, MVP doesn’t do the job the customer wants it to.

Today, we’re going to present another approach to MVP -- minimum viable experience, or MVE. We think that MVE is a better way to take new products and services to market, and we think it might the approach for you.

Here we go!

MVP is a framework for thinking about how to take products to market. Developed in the early 2000s and entering the mainstream mostly via the lean startup movement, it is now the de facto approach to shipping new products (especially software).

The basic idea is this.

As an entrepreneur, you’re never going to be satisfied with your product. You have a big vision, and might be tempted to put off launching until your vision is perfect.

The challenge is that this approach is very expensive, since it takes a long time and there’s no money coming in, and risky, because you’re not getting early market feedback.

A better approach is to work out what the minimum requirements of your product are to get it in the hands of customers. You can figure out the rest of the stuff later. That’s the heart of MVP.

For example, say you’re building a motorhome. Your know that at least it needs the basic components of a car (engine, wheels, etc... ), it needs to be roadworthy, and it needs a place for you to sleep and cook. Everything else can be sorted out later.

So, your MVP, in this case, might not be a motorhome at all, but rather a van with a bed in the back. As you put your product into the market, you get feedback much faster than traditional product development, which in turn makes each iteration better and better.

And eventually, you end up with a product your customers love.

The Problem with MVP

Not all in well in the world of MVP though. While it is possible to ship product quickly, there are a few common objections. 

Not everyone has an engaged user base

As Karl Smith put it in his blog: “An MVP requires an engaged customer base who are happy to have limited features and capabilities provided there is a transparent, responsive and rapid development process.” Not everyone has this. For example, if you sell software to hospitals, you’ll probably have to look long and hard before you find an early adopter. What’s more, you might struggle to get enough customers to make viable, data-driven decisions.

MVPs usually have a poor brand experience

If you’re only focused on shipping product features, then brand and customer experience will (generally) go out the window. For some products selling into some markets, this is fine. For instance, consumer technology companies have a notoriously early adopter customer base, so launching something new right now is often better than launching something better, later. Again though, this isn’t true for every market.

MVP doesn’t consider the whole market

The market isn’t just comprised of customers. A 5C Analysis shows us that markets are made up of (at least) yourself, collaborators / partners, customers, competitors, and socio-political-economic context.

Basically, your product doesn’t exist in a vacuum. However, MVP assumes that you have pure greenfield to pursue, and there is no auxiliary cost of creating a poor first impression (for example, having someone drift to competitors, or give you a bad review online).

All in all, while MVP is a great framework for shipping product quickly, it’s maybe not a great way to take a company to market.

Fortunately, there’s a better way.

Enter the Most Valuable Player - the MVE 

Minimum Viable Experience has the same core ethos as MVP. It’s focused on shipping the minimum viable thing that your customers will put up their hands for as quickly as possible.