When you’re a startup trying to break into or disrupt an existing market, time is precious.
And because you’re small, you have the advantage of being nimble and quicker to market than established giants. You can design, build, launch and iterate faster. In this article, I’ll show you how you can design your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in a minimum of 2 weeks. If you have never built an MVP, have an MVP that’s not attracting a lot of users, or have a new product idea and need to launch quickly, this is for you.
But first, let me go over what an MVP is. Eric Reiss, who popularised the term, explained it as:
“The MVP is a version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about their customers with the least effort.”
There are 2 keywords here. The first is learning. You’re building a product to get user feedback, so you can keep on adding and improving it until you get a full-fledged product that’s a market-fit. The other keyword is least effort. You’re building a product that solves a specific problem for your users, not one that does a whole lot for them. Steve Blank, another MVP advocate, sums it up like this:
“You’re selling the vision and delivering the minimum feature set to visionaries, not everyone.”
So, how do you design an MVP in 2 weeks that you can confidently build to launch?
Through a design sprint, of course. A sprint helps you design and validate your idea with potential users quickly, to give you the foundation of your product.
As a caveat, 2 weeks is the minimum duration. If you get great user feedback, you can go straight to development. But if user feedback is generally bad, then you will probably have to run an iteration sprint to get it right, or go back to the drawing board.
Who do you need in an MVP design sprint?
As a startup, you don’t need many people in this design sprint. I’d say it will be you, co-founders if you have them, a designer or two, and someone who understands the technical aspect of building the MVP. If you want, you can hire an external design sprint expert to run the sessions, so you can focus fully on the MVP.
How to design an MVP in a minimum of 2 weeks?
Read my article on design sprint for beginners to understand the purpose and process. Now, let’s get started. Before you design an MVP, you should have already:
- Understood and researched the problem you are trying to solve
- Known the target users you are building for
- Have spoken to them about the issue your product is trying to solve
You need to do as much research and dig up as much data as you can to bring to the sprint. The more you prepare, the more informed you will be to make the right design decision.
Day 1: Mapping and Prioritising
On Day 1, you will be mapping the problem, which is the big picture. Then, you’ll decide which particular subset of problems you want to focus on, for which user. Remember, this is an MVP. You are not designing everything for everyone.
You may have more than 1 target user persona. If so, pick one persona to work on. The general rule is you pick the persona that makes up the majority of your users, or the ones that will pay to use your solution to their problem.
Next, choose which problem to solve for them. Focus on the biggest and most pressing issue for them. Ideally, this problem is something none of the competitors have managed to fully address. For our MVP, we’re going to be great at one thing, instead of mediocre at many things.
Day 2: Ideation
The second day is all about generating ideas. It’s a fun day where you can go crazy and expand your creativity. There are a few ideation techniques in a sprint, such as the “Lightning Demo” and “Crazy 8”, and even non-designers can take part. It is best to come prepared with inspirations and ideas in your head.
Don’t think about the full-fledged product in your head. This way, you’ll have more liberty to experiment with the MVP design. Besides, the full product is an idea in your head. You haven’t tested it with real users yet, so your assumptions could be wrong.
Day 3: Voting & Storyboarding
You’re halfway through, and today you will vote on the best idea. Once you have that, you have a base to jump into storyboarding and determining the user flow. Crafting the user flow through a storyboard is critical if you want to appeal to early adopters. Look at how your competitors do it, understand their benefits and disadvantages, so you can design better.
Day 4: Prototyping
Day 4 will be spent designing the prototype and planning the user tests for the next day. Although this MVP will change, it’s still important to catch the attention of early users by establishing an emotional connection through design. It doesn’t have to be mind blowing, but you should still incorporate design principles, such as easy navigation, intuitive UI, symmetry, proportion, and contrasts.
Day 5: User Testing
You’ll need about 5 people in user testing, and make sure you identify who they are early on. Don’t pay attention to what they are saying, observe what they are not saying. For example, if you feel their enthusiasm is lacklustre, follow up with what would make it exciting for them to use. Ask them a series of questions until you understand what their expectation is.
As a last note, user feedback is gold. They help you iterate and refine your design until it’s ready to be built. It usually won’t take long, just an extra couple of days or a week. Development shouldn’t take long too as you’re building a set of features only. However, you do need to be mindful of the technical challenges when it becomes a full product. You should still plan for scalability, agility and performance when developing an MVP.
Once the MVP is done, get it out there and acquire users. Gather as much user feedback as possible and keep iterating and expanding your product. One thing to remember is you may pivot quite a bit in the early days, the more feedback you get. You should always be driven by user needs and feedback. Once you have a decent product and sizable user base, you have more ammunition to secure more funding or market aggressively.