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UX should help shape Valuable Minimum Viable Products

May 11, 2020

Leigh Whiting, Experience Design Lead, Decision Inc.

User experience (UX) is fast becoming one of the most vital elements an organisation must incorporate into its product development cycle. One bad customer experience can easily result in lost business. Equally, employees must be able to easily use solutions to ensure things such as data analysis can be done as effectively as possible.

With an increase of the agile development approach, decision-makers are under pressure to rethink how they get a solution from concept to the customer as quickly as possible without compromising on its quality. This is where the well-known concept of a minimum viable product (MVP) becomes critical.

MVP is traditionally seen  as a development technique in which a new product is developed with  the minimal core features included for it to be deployed while sufficiently satisfying early adopters. But considering a modern organisation looks to incorporate a smooth UX in everything it does, there is one key component missing – a lack of focus on customer desirability.

Instead, a more modern definition could read ‘the smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value and as a bonus generates value in terms of adoption and customer insight’ Of course, it is also important to define who the targeted customers are as value for early adopters is different to those who like buying established products and technologies.

Self-Actualisation

Because MPVs are an introduction to a product that will eventually be sold to customers, an evolutionary approach must be adopted. A company must introduce iterative improvements, without compromising on user satisfaction along the way, to ensure the survival of the product.

At times, UX design can be negatively affected during MVP projects. But when done correctly, the shift in mindset will result in the development of more meaningful products that can deliver significant user value. In many respects, UX design can be considered the self-actualisation of products to realise their full potential.

Keeping Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in mind, the traditional MVP approach takes a horizontal slice across each level until the product eventually comes to fruition, which results in a feature-rich, but experience-poor product. Adding UX designers to the MVP development team will result in a vertical slice taken across all levels. This subtle difference ensures the integrity and quality of the user experience remain intact across features, and the only variable is the actual feature set.

Understanding Requirements

The understanding of user needs and mindsets can help determine which features are vital. And when people start using those features, developers will be able to gauge the level of interaction more effectively. Balancing User Experience with business viability and technical feasibility during development ensures that whatever feature set has been prioritised, will deliver reliability, usability, and ultimately user satisfaction. Without this, the goal of the MVP, to learn as much about the user without investing heavily in development, will not be met.

Other benefits include gaining a faster understanding of whether the product is viable or even needed. This can be done without investing a significant number of resources to fully develop the final version. Furthermore, companies can better determine which features matter most to users. The development team can then add, improve, or remove these through an iterative process.

Not only will developers save countless hours by focusing on what is necessary, the organisation can create solutions faster than before allowing it to outperform its competitors and solidify itself as a market leader.

UX and MPVs must go hand in hand in the digital business environment. Whether it is developing solutions for a rapidly expanding customer base or delivering something to enhance employee efficiency, this is a central idea that must be embraced in the months and years to come.

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