Apr 20, 2023



min read

Apr 20, 2023



min read

How to spec your minimum viable product (MVP)

In today's fast-paced digital world, building and launching a product has never been easier. With so much technology out there, barriers to entry are a lot less than they were even a decade ago.

Shaun Miller


Head of Product Strategy

abstact planning diagrams
abstact planning diagrams
abstact planning diagrams

However, you have to start somewhere, and developing a minimum viable product (MVP) that can meet the needs of your customers and provide value can be a daunting, yet challenging task. 

What is a MVP?

A minimum viable product is a version of a product that includes only the essential features to satisfy early customers and to validate the product's value proposition.  

The MVP’s purpose is to launch your product quickly with a limited budget. 

Eric Ries, the man responsible for bringing the MVP approach to the masses defines it as: “The version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

Your MVP, although ‘minimum’ must be viable, meaning it must be usable, reliable and meet the customer need it’s intended for.  Your MVP should aim to be built in a time frame that aligns with its scope, whether that’s 6, 12, 18 months, or more. 

The great thing about a MVP when it’s ready for the real world, is that it allows you to quickly test and learn from customer feedback before investing time and money in iterations on the way to a fully-fledged product. 

But how do you spec your minimum viable product? In this article, we'll discuss how to specify your MVP, focusing on digital product development and delivery. 

We’ll also look at the good and bad of MVP planning, or lack thereof. So let’s get started.

There are five important elements you must address, and three of those must happen before you design your MVP.

  1. Define goals and objectives

  2. Do your research

  3. Prioritise your MVP’s features

  4. Design your MVP

  5. Set clear success metrics

  1. Define goals and objectives

If your goals and objectives aren’t properly defined at this stage you’re in danger of failing before you’ve even started. Having a clear understanding of your goals will help you define your product's scope and features.

So, before you start planning on how minimum your product should be, you must clearly define your goals and objectives. 

For instance, what problem are you trying to solve? What do you want to achieve with your product? Are you looking to create a new market or disrupt an existing one? 

  1. Do your research

Research is pivotal to the path you take. It may well be that your product idea doesn’t align with the market and/or doesn't fulfill your audience’s needs. But you’ll only know this if you perform both qualitative and quantitative research. 

Gathering as much data as you can on markets, competitors, trends etc. will enable you to develop a strong MVP. You must also note that with your research you need to know who your customers are. 

Identify your target customers

With goals and research complete, you now need to dig deeper into your target customers. 

Who are they? Who will be the early adopters? What are their needs and pain points? What are their behaviors and habits? 

Understanding your target customers will help you design a MVP that meets their needs and provides value. 

  1. Prioritise your MVP’s features

When developing your MVP, it's essential to prioritise the features you’re offering to your customers. 

Focus on the features that are essential to solving the core problem and providing the most value to your target customers.

Avoid the temptation to include every possible feature in your MVP. This is a mistake! It will only lead to delays, increased costs, and a product that's too complex to test, validate and launch. 

It's important however, to not overlook the remaining features of your prototype. Prioritise them in high, medium and low categories and put them in the product backlog in readiness for subsequent phases of the product delivery.

  1. Design your MVP

Now you have all your features in place, you’re ready to design your MVP. If everything is done right, your product should be easy to use, intuitive, and meet the needs of your target customers. 

Think about user flows. Identify and explain the steps users need to take to achieve your goals and objectives. Focus on basic tasks like using the product, for instance. 

Consider using wireframes, prototypes, and user testing to refine your design and gather as much feedback as possible, as this will help you in developing the full-fat version of your product.

  1. Set clear success metrics

Build, Measure and Learn is the mantra. 

When launching your MVP, it's essential to set clear success metrics. These metrics must be aligned with your goals and objectives. They’ll help you measure the effectiveness of your MVP. 

Some examples of success metrics include user adoption rate, customer satisfaction, and revenue generated.

Pros of good MVP planning

  • Faster time-to-market: A minimum viable product allows you to launch your product quicker than a full version. This can give you a competitive edge

  • Reduced costs: By focusing on essential features, you can save time and money on development and testing.

  • Customer validation: A MVP allows you to test and validate your offering with early customers. This helps refine your product and avoid costly mistakes.

Cons of poor MVP planning

  • Choosing the wrong problem to solve: Products fail. It’s a business reality. Even the biggest companies have experienced it, like Coca-Cola  in the mid 1980s. For the best possible chance of success, ensure your product is solving a real world problem with an effective solution. Nobody wants a product that’s not really solving anything!

  • Poor user experience: If you fail to design a MVP that meets the needs of your target customers, you may end up with a product that's difficult to use and fails to provide value.

  • Limited functionality: If you don’t prioritise your features correctly, you may end up with a product with limited  functionality. This is a turn off for any customer.

  • Lack of direction: Without effective research, clear goals and objectives, your MVP is doomed to fail.  It will lack direction, appear confused and will drain your resources.

  • Scope creep: This happens when scope or requirements aren’t managed properly. Scope changes must follow a clear process. If not, then your MVP project can potentially derail. You can mitigate this by enforcing a strict ‘scope kill’ approach – which prevents changes. 

Working with Codehouse

At Codehouse our Product Development team is available to discuss your digital product and get your business idea off the ground in the shape of a minimum viable product. Get in touch to find out more.

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