You’ve got a Big Idea and you’ve launched your start-up. You’ve read every book on Lean and you are committed to taking a experimental approach. You know the first step is to create your first Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and start honing in on your exact value-proposition. But when you start scoping out the MVP you realize it has quickly gotten out of hand. What is supposed to be a minimal, simple product has turned into a large software development project. It seems like your vision for the company is too big to fit into one prototype.

If that sounds like you, then you are facing one of the most common problems entrepreneurs must overcome. Here are three UX tips to help you create your MVP. These tips are guaranteed to help you to start thinking less like an entrepreneur, and more like a User Researcher.

1. It’s a probe, not a product.

In psychology research the word “probe” is used to describe any kind of in-depth study. “Probe” can also be used to describe an artifact, instrument, set of questions, or any other stimulus that helps facilitate the investigation. And that is the whole point of an MVP – probe for feedback on your vision. When you start thinking of your MVP as an experimental probe, you can ditch all of your preconceived notions about what makes a good product and focus your energy on how to conduct a good experiment.

2. Build one, and only one, idea.

So now that we’ve determined that your MVP is a probe, not a product, we can start designing the experiment. For an MVP experiment, you need to determine what the core premise of your startup is and design the MVP evaluate it. In any proper scientific experiment you have one, and only one variation. Everything else is controlled and kept constant. In your experiment the MVP is the variation, so it needs to represent one, and only one idea. This means your MVP should have:

The most common problem entrepreneurs face is that they have an abundance of ideas and they have a hard time distilling their vision down to just one. It helps to remember tip #1, its a probe, not a product. By deliberately leaving feature ideas out of the MVP you are designing a better experiment and will gather better data and knowledge.

3. Test it with at least 5+ people before you iterate.

As I explained in tip #2, many entrepreneurs face the problem of too many ideas to fit in one MVP. One symptom of that is trying to cram too many ideas into one MVP. The other most common symptom is moving on too soon. You should not move away from any experiment, qualitative or quantitative, until you have enough data to determine  that you either

  1. have your answer, or
  2. have a faulty experiment design and need to try again.

Since most initial MVP experiments are qualitative usability-tests and observations, you should follow the 5+ participants rule of thumb.


I want to hear from you!

  1. What else do you struggle with in building, testing, and refining your prototypes?
  2. Do you have any additional tips or “lessons learned” from creating an MVP?

Leave your thoughts in the comments box!


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