When the Startup atmosphere started to form, there was a rush towards following all the rules in the book ‘Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries. Lean Startup was the Bible, the holy grail for launching a Startup or a Product and getting it out into the Market. It had the most interesting and insightful thoughts on making sure you don’t stay stuck trying to finetune details of your business to the point of paralyzing your ‘go to market’ moment. And Eric Ries was correct, a lot of times, Founders & Product Developers get stuck at the phase of building and honing all the aspects of their product because they want it to be perfect, that they don’t eventually go to market or test in the real world with their target market – what we call Minimum Viable Product or MVP.
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and to provide feedback for future product development.
Gathering insights from an MVP is often less expensive than developing a product with more features, which increases costs and risk if the product fails, for example, due to incorrect assumptions. The term was coined and defined by Frank Robinson about 2001 and popularized by Steve Blank and Eric Ries. It may also involve carrying out market analysis beforehand.
The MVP made sense when the clouds of Startupsphere was still gathering when Technology Products were still gathering clout and trying to be popular. However, what happens when the thing that used to be scarce, is in the hands of everyone? Or what happens when almost everyone knows how to use a particular product that was previously tough to teach them to use?
Let’s take a look at Social Media, for example, Social Media products are now so ubiquitous and in the hands of everyone. Or chatbots and chat applications, they are everywhere and in everyone’s hands. Which brings me back to the question – What happens when almost everyone knows how to use a particular product or that category of product that was hitherto not so popular? When you decide to build another product in that category, are you still going to build “a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development.”?
Considering that there is already a set expectation and pattern of what products in that category look/feel like and users aren’t going to expect anything less than what they already know, the answer to the question above is therefore, no. The MVP doesn’t make sense in this scenario.
Imagine creating another social network or chat application, anything less than the features of the current social platforms (Facebook etc) will be considered a mediocre by prospective users. You cannot give them “a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers”. This is where the MVP goes to die and the Minimum Awesome Product – MAP, rises up.
Minimum Awesome Product goes beyond just releasing products with just enough functionality for the user, it is offering more than the functional to the delightfully familiar. You want the user to instinctively (familiar pattern) be able to use it and be delighted by what they are using, so as to able to give you the kind of feedback that helps you hone the actual experience better.
Think about it, you really don’t want the user asking questions like “where do I go to find friends?” on a social platform, or “I’m looking for the search feature” on a content/media platform.
In a conversation between Marketing Sherpa and Sean Ammirati, Partner, Birchmere Ventures, Sean explains why the MAP is important:
“It’s easy to assume you can just release your product and get the feedback you need to improve it. After all, the essence of the Lean Startup Movement is releasing ‘Minimum Viable Products’ and learning from your customers. However, it’s important to clarify that viable doesn’t mean crappy.
What you want to do is release the minimum amount of functionality to create an awesome experience so you can learn from it. If the features released aren’t done with excellence, you won’t be able to learn because the product’s instability will bias the feedback. Therefore, think about what the minimum amount of functionality you can release with an awesome experience is and then learn from there. In other words, don’t build Minimum Viable Products, build Minimum Awesome Products.”
There is however a case for the former MVP – when you are creating a novel product or developing something in a new category, MVP is the way to go.
As Dave McClure states in this reply to Carlos Beneyto, “not sure that MVP and MAP are mutually exclusive… depends a lot on how “awesome” the available alternatives are in your target industry. (if zero alternatives, then MVP = MAP; if lots of options, then MAP >> MVP)”