Once you have defined the value proposition and identified the benefits you might address, you will now decide which ones to address with a Minimum Viable Product, or MVP. You are going to decide: “If I provide my target customer with this solution, does it solve the problem that I know she has?” for our target customers.

4.1 What is a minimum viable product (MVP)?

An MVP proves or disproves one’s assumptions about a problem. The objective is to find out which of your assumptions are wrong by getting feedback on your product from real users as quickly as possible.

Minimum means building the product with the smallest amount of resources. At the same time, an MVP must be viable or complete enough to prove or disprove your assumptions. Your goal here is to validate or invalidate your hypotheses on problem-solution fit.

MVP can be thought of as a process: Identify your riskiest assumption (i.e., what users want, how the design should work, what marketing to use), find the smallest possible experiment to test that assumption, and use the results of the experiment to correct your course.


4.2 Determine what you want to test

You can use MVP to test product and marketing concepts.

  • With a "marketing MVP," you illustrate the functionality of a potential product to prospective customers to see how compelling they find your description. Common marketing MVPs include landing pages and marketing flyers.
  • A "product MVP" gives prospects a sense of the actual functionality of your product. Common product MVPs are low fidelity wireframes/prototypes.

You can use  qualitative or quantitative tests of the marketing or product MVP.

  • Qualitative testing typically involves talking directly with a small number of customers .Such conversation can give you important detailed information from each, but the results are not statistically significant.
  • Quantitative tests are run with a much larger group of customers and study the aggregate results instead of the individual responses. These approaches are good for learning “what” and “how many”, but won’t tell you “why”.

4.3 Marketing MVP tests

Marketing MVPs help ensure that your messaging resonates with customers, and aid in quantifying the expected conversion. Below are a few examples of both qualitative and quantitative approaches to testing a marketing MVP.

Qualitative marketing MVP tests

  • Shows customers your marketing materials for feedback e.g., flyers, landing pages, videos, ads, emails.

  • Ask: How compelling is the marketing material and why? What benefits resonate? (You could even ask them to compare to a competitor’s marketing materials).

Quantitative marketing MVP tests

  • Landing page: describes the product, asks for some expression of interest - typically a “sign up” button.

  • Ad campaign: display ad campaigns to test messaging and images (Google, Facebook).

  • Marketing A/B testing: test two alternative marketing material designs concurrently to see which converts better.


4.5 Product MVP tests

Product MVPs will help you make sure customers see value in the actual product. When constructing your MVP, it is useful to think about options based on “fidelity”, or how closely your MVP represents the real product, and “interactivity”, which measures how much the customer can interact with the MVP relative to a live product. A few product MVP examples, in order from low to high fidelity, include:


1. Sketches

Sketches have the lowest fidelity and lowest interactivity, but are extremely low cost and easy to rapidly iterate. Tools: whiteboard, pen and paper, a tablet or smartphone. A storyboard is an example of a quick and easy prototype where you draw all the components of your product or service in sequence of steps to illustrate how it will work.

2. Wireframes

A wireframe is a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a product, typically a website or mobile app. Wireframes offer improved fidelity over sketches as you can give a sense of the product components and how they might be arranged. Wireframes are not meant to be visually perfect , and usually have a lot of placeholders. Many wireframing tools have made it easy to create clickable wireframes that connect different pages

3. Mockup

Mockups are the next level up in fidelity, and look much more like the final product than a wireframe. Mockups often include visual design details, images, etc., instead of placeholders as in the wireframe.

4. Interactive prototypes

Prototypes are not quite fully functional, but they provide a level of interaction beyond a clickable mockup.

5. Concierge MVPs

These allow you to test your product or service live using manual workarounds, or hacks. Using a “concierge” MVP involves doing everything for early customers by hand, not automated by tech, and work best for services that require a lot of interaction and input from customers. A Wizard of Oz MVP is similar to the concierge MVP in that you’re doing everything manually, but you’re hiding the manual process from the customer, so that they think it’s a real live product. e.g., you send an SMS manually to individuals, crafting it to look like it’s a standard message coming from a server.

6. Live product

A live product has the highest fidelity possible, so it can generate feedback on things like how the product looks and behaves in different contexts that you would not get from lower fidelity options. Ideally, you start with lower fidelity MVPs, and increase fidelity over time to a point where you think you can proceed with building a real product.


4.6 How to Run MVP tests

How many customers should I test with?

  • One customer at a time! Avoid group dynamics — people are more comfortable sharing real thoughts if they are alone with you. You can interview multiple customers at once if you need feedback quickly, but note the challenges.

  • Consider testing in waves of 5-8 customers, uncover issues, revise the MVP, then go back out again. Have one person take notes while one gives the interview. The fewer the observers the better.

Do I test in-person or remote?

In-person is preferable as you can observe their facial expressions, focus, reactions, etc. You can also build a relationship that could help make them feel more comfortable giving feedback.

How do I find customers?

  • Refer to the personas you created. Where do they live, do business, congregate?

  • Market / customer research companies are an option in some markets, and may allow you to hire recruiters.

Do I compensate people for testing my MVP?

This will depend on the company, market, and target user. Some companies will use mobile airtime as an incentive, some consider the use of an MVP as a benefit itself, you can also provide early admission to the full product for MVP testers.

Do I record the interaction?

It can sometimes be useful to record the audio or video of a test, but make sure you get consent. Note that a lot of people do not like being recorded.

How do I create a product MVP test? 

Develop a test script for the entire conversation, including the steps you want the user to take. Test it on your team members first. Anticipate an MVP test taking 1-2 hours per person.

  1. Start by spending a few minutes getting to know the person, and setting expectations. Make sure they know you want them to give honest feedback, even if it is negative. Ask how they feel about what they are using now, how it works, and their current frustrations.

  2. Ask questions and observe, but don’t lead. If a customer does something curious, ask them why they took that action: “I see you did this, can you tell me why?”

  3. Ask open questions, which begin with “why”, “how”, and “what”, rather than a question with yes/no responses. Write your questions in advance so that you are not distracted.

  4. If the user has challenges understanding or using the product, your job is to understand the issue - not to help them - to keep the test as real as possible. You are a fly on the wall! After the test wraps up, you can answer questions or respond to challenges they had.

  5. Ask if they would be like to be notified when the product comes out.


MVP test tips

  • Prepare for logistical challenges. People can be hard to find, connectivity can be an issue, traffic causes delays, etc.
  • What people say they will do and what they actually do can be very different. Actual behavior is more important than opinions.
  • Even if your hypotheses are correct, your execution might fall short in terms of marketing or design.
  • Expect to track results manually. If you’re serving end-consumers, you may have a paper registration or application, or use a paper contract.
  • Connectivity may be an issue. Set up simple dashboards. Follow up with your channels regularly, by phone or whatsapp if needed.
  • Expect time delays. You’re unlikely to see metrics change in real-time like a developed-world mobile app business.