5 Tips for Building A Strong MVP from ThinkNimble’s Marcy Ewald

Building a minimum viable product is one of the first steps towards creating an innovative product that your customers love. But there are a few things to keep in mind in order to create an MVP that shows promise and potential. Labs mentor Marcy Ewald, COO of ThinkNimble, held a session to discuss her five tips for building a great MVP for your target users that gets to market quickly.

Tip #1: Have or acquire deep industry knowledge

Building an MVP is all about creating a product that’s good enough to launch to market. But the more you understand your market and the industry, the better your MVP will be. “The more time you've spent in an industry, the more you know your users, and the more you can create a product that's actually for them, and it just makes you a better product designer,” Ewald says. “So I think that's really important. Actually speaking to those users on an ongoing basis so that you know what they're looking for and what problem you're solving for them.”

It’s much easier to create a solution for a problem you’ve already experienced first-hand. For example, if you’ve worked in an IT department, you’ll probably be able to create a better solution to a problem related to IT than someone who hasn’t spent any time in that field. “If you haven't spent time with the problem that you're solving, then you're not going to solve it as well as someone who has. And the second that there is a person with more knowledge in the space, their product becomes more valuable than yours,” Ewald says. “You have to get really deep into your user personas and start to actually align yourself with them. That’s hard to do if you're not already in the mind space of your persona.”

Tip #2: Don’t aim for perfection

An MVP won’t be the final version of your product. In fact, it should be far from it. Once you launch your MVP, you’ll take feedback, implement it, and iterate on your product in cycles until you create something more refined. If you worry too much about creating a perfect product from the get-go, you’ll have less time to receive valuable feedback. “Getting your MVP in front of your users immediately is so important. And it's so hard because it doesn't look perfect. It doesn't look like what you were dreaming about every night, but your users will use it. They won't care,” Ewald says. “They're not going to say, ‘Oh my God, this button is misshapen in this one spot.’ They may complain about it, but they're still going to use your product. So launching is the number one goal, and you shouldn't let anything stand in your way for that.”

Tip #3: Don’t tackle features or side projects that aren’t critical to your target users

When you’re creating an MVP, you should avoid any tasks or projects that get in the way of your main objective. If you let yourself get distracted by things that aren’t mission-critical, you risk delaying the release of your MVP and blurring your product roadmap. “Your critical path should be built around your optimal persona, and it should be built around what they actually have to do. And then anything else you should just throw away,”  Ewald says. “If you get feedback from someone who's not your optimal user, and they say, ‘I really would like to have this feature…’ you should take out a huge grain of salt. In the MVP phase, you should be building exclusively for people that you think are going to be your first users.”

Tip #4: Ask for feedback

Even though you’re creating a product that’s just viable enough to launch to market, you should still collect early feedback before you release it. The feedback you receive will be valuable for any future iterations of your product. “I think that creating a friend and family group who'll give you honest feedback about your product is something that people don't do. So creating that quick feedback loop to ask questions like, ‘I designed this screen. Do you know what you would do with this screen? Do you know how you would move to the next screen?’ Ewald says. “And if they say, no, you should be moving back to the design board instead of pushing forward and filling on an imperfect base.”  

Tip #5: Simplify, simplify, simplify

Even if you have a very complex product, you should try to simplify it as much as possible for the purposes of your MVP. Products that are too complex to use can be a big red flag for users, so it’s best to avoid over-complications. To simplify your product, always circulate any new features that you implement among your team and ask if they think there’s a simpler way to do it or if it’s even necessary. “Always ask yourself, why am I building this feature? Is it really related to my key hypothesis that I'm proving to investors? Or is it something that I think is important but doesn't necessarily support my key objectives?” Ewald says. “You should always be simplifying. It's really hard to do when it's your product, but it's helpful to help you hone in on what's important.”

Read more articles about product development.

This post is based on content from a WeWork Labs programming session.

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