We get a lot of clients asking us to design an "MVP" that they can show to potential users, investors and partners to get feedback or raise funds. In most of these scenarios, the hardest challenge is defining what is the minimum set of features that will prove there is something viable in a product that solves a need for the target user.
Here is our process of designing an MVP.
1. One line definition of the product
We work with the client to define the product in one (short) sentence. The shorter this line is, the more clear the product is. This helps in filtering out the toppings from the doughnut.. Contrary to what most people expect, this is the hardest challenge.
An MVP does not mean a poorly designed prototype. It means what is the minimum representation of the product that clearly and effectively communicates the usefulness to the user. In order to do this, we find that an MVP should still excite the user about the product. It should tell the story in a concise, appealing manner. The tag line, the logo, the typography, the wireframes, the designs - all of these are very important in telling the story and assessing the user's excitement to use the product when it is built out with all the promised features.
Very often in our design process, we find that the images that we sift through for branding impact us hugely in deciding what is minimal, what is viable and what the wireframes should flow like. We find that this is an often overlooked aspect of building an MVP, and we think this is critical.
Once we have a good idea of what we want to put in front of users to get feedback and see if there is something viable or not, we build the wireframes. We sketch on paper or design using photoshop and we put these into prototyping apps like Marvel or InVision or POP.
After several iterations of putting wires into these apps, showing the flow to friends of the company, early adopters, and folks in communities like meetup groups, we then get onto designing the refined visual designs.
The actual design is only a third of the effort, since by this time the wireframes and flow are defined in detail, in collaboration with some feedback from early adopters. The branding exercise also makes designing easier and more effective since a lot of the visual and aesthetics are already well thought through. Once the designs are done, they are uploaded again into apps like Marvel/POP/InVision and these are again iteratively demonstrated to early users and improved upon.
A good chef tests his dish every step of the way. Similarly we think feedback is critical at every step of the design process. It's important to have original thought and a strong opinion, but this should be edited with user feedback. Once the designs are completed, we try to get these up on some user forums to get some feedback from people who are not friends of the company. Nothing like some honest criticism. We improve the designs again through a couple of iterations.
In this way our clients, our community and early adopters are all part of our process of designing the MVP.