In product development, the minimum viable product (MVP) is a method that exposes your idea to potential customers in a tangible form, so that they can grasp your vision, and give valuable feedback before committing resources. It’s a way to find a profitable product/market fit, or to exit gracefully. Minimum time and cost, minimum risk.
The prototypes that you build in the process also become nice little Rosetta Stones, which you can use to translate between client-speak, customer-talk, sales- marketing- and tech-nish.
Specifications usually grow from of a team of people with different backgrounds, different skills, different expectations, and vastly different ways of talking about abstract ideas and concepts.
Let’s use a simple web app as an example:
The developer takes the specs, and sees the words “landing screen”.
He knows what that is, and he builds a “landing screen”, a screen that welcomes people to the app, and has a bunch of buttons for all the possible actions that a user could want.
Oops, the marketing guy also knows what a “landing screen” is – that’s the place that prospects are directed to land on when they click on a Google AdWord.
Oops, the CEO also knows what the “landing screen” is – that’s where the company logo goes, and the corporate vision is explained.
Even a quick-and-dirty prototype has the power to immediately translate the phrase “landing screen” into something that everyone disagrees with. This is a good thing. Everyone’s now on the same wavelength. Everyone is speaking the same language.
People are very flexible with the labels they use for things, and maybe this team decides that in future they are going to call this the “dashboard”, or the “buzz box” or whatever …
One thing’s for sure, if they had handed over their beautifully worded specs as a “final design specification” and waited for a final product to be built, then they’d be in trouble.
The few extra hours spent on a prototype are worth it every time.