Using a data-informed process of developing a product means you won’t be building willy-nilly, but instead you methodically test the features of the product as you develop it. The million dollar question, however, is what exactly are you testing in your product? You must be building it to test the viability of the product. One of the lean startup gurus introduced the term Minimum Viable Product.

Now, what exactly is the minimum viable product? In a nutshell, an MVP  is a product without all the bells and whistles. It has limited features and focuses on the core functionality. Once you’ve made an MVP, you can introduce a stripped down product to see if it will resonate well with the target market. Some of the early users might pay money for the product while others might give you their valuable feedback. But you should ensure that the product that you develop actually helps in solving a significant problem that a customer is facing.

At this stage, it’s a good idea to set up a website and online marketing in order to analyze how interested your target market is in the product you’re developing. By having a website where people can sign up for the MVP pre-launch, you’ll have a lot of data about the potential success of your product. Most importantly, look at the conversion rate of your web traffic to product sign-ups. Running a limited-time offer on the landing page is a great way to check how interested people are in registering on your site for the product.

Viable or Desirable

While MVPs are very popular, they are not the only way of testing the waters of a target market and launching a product. Most companies pursue product development with a primary focus that is entirely different from others. For example, some businesses have a strong strategic emphasis on making a return for stakeholders. They’re going to be most interested in evaluating if a product is viable from a cost and potential sales perspective. They’ll focus on questions like how large the target market is, how much people are willing to pay, and how long it will take to scale up the business.

On the other hand, some businesses, especially in the world of tech startups, focus on a specific technology that they want to bring to market. These engineering-focused teams are less concerned with the nuts and bolts of business analytics and are more concerned with ensuring the feasibility of the product they are making.

You’ll also find some startups that are most concerned with desirability of a product in development. They’ll focus on how users respond to a product’s look and feel, what features they are seeking in addition to core functionality, and how to ensure longevity in customer usage.

The Need For An MVP

Looking at all these different methods for evaluating a product in development, it’s clear that the MVP is best suited for the business analytics-focused business. An MVP is not going to provide adequate data on feasibility or desirability if it sticks to the industry standards.

The information you can gather with an MVP is certainly useful. If you create a successful MVP, based on user sign-ups, pricing, and feedback, you will know you have a commercial product with a good chance of success.

However, if you’re interested in creating a product that is focused first and foremost on the individual user experience, you may want to consider a minimum desirable product (MDP) instead. With this model, you don’t want to offer a totally stripped-down user experience, but instead a really attractive design that will satisfy users beyond the core functionality of your product.

MVP Versus MDP

It is crucial for you to understand the differentiation between an MDP and MVP. Developing knowledge about the key differences between the two will give you a competitive advantage in approaching product development.

If you developed a popular app that brings in a lot of revenue but has super high user turnover, you can bet you’ve made an MVP and not the MDP.

If you’ve launched a dating site that has tons of new users willing to commit to a monthly subscription fee but very few users willing to commit to an actual date with other users you developed an MVP and not an MDP.

A game site that gives cash rewards to users would obviously be insanely desirable but good luck making that viable.

You may have created a fun kitchen gadget that all your friends and family swear by but you can’t convince any business partners to go in on it. This would probably be an example of an MDP and not an MVP.

Do you think desirability is the more important metric?

Most consumer internet services do not care if they have a viable business, at least in the beginning. Tech startups are often looking to scale something into a massive internet phenomenon over the next five years instead of trying to make a quick buck today. That’s the reason that the focus is usually on finding a target market instead of focusing first on making the business profitable. If you have a great product and a large enough target market, you’ll become profitable over time.

For these reasons measuring product desirability can be a more important metric that viability. As shown above, you can have products that are desirable but not viable, but for the most part, if you have legitimate appeal from a desirability perspective in a large enough market, you’re going to have a viable product.

Minimum Feasible Product

It’s important to note that MVP and MDP are not the only approaches to a product launch. A minimum feasible product is a way to assess a product that is focused on a technological function instead of a mass market appeal. A great example of this would be a new pharmaceutical drug that cures cancer.

If your product actually cures cancer, it will definitely be viable and desirable, so you would not be concerned with an MVP or an MDP. Instead, your focus in the initial stages would be the minimum amount of development involved in making a feasible drug for curing cancer.

There are many ways of assessing the potential success of a new product. It’s important to find the approach that fits your product so you can gather the most relevant information.