This blog post describing what MVP means in software development was originally published in December 2018 and has been updated to include additional information in August 2021.
Since we first published our definition of what MVP means in software development, we’ve had a lot of time to plan, design, and even develop and maintain MVP applications at Airship. With this new perspective and experience in mind, we want to share what we’ve learned and provide more context around minimum viable products and how to help them succeed.
What is NOT an MVP in software development?
A new question we wanted to answer is what is -NOT- an MVP in software development. First, an MVP is not a prototype. Yes, they do behave the same and share similarities, but they are different.
A prototype is a mock-up that conveys the idea of your product and/or functionality but the product itself is not functional. According to Venture Leap who defines it best:
“It means that the product or software doesn’t need to actually work, it just needs to be able to help a developer get the first feedback on design or UI/UX elements. This way you can easily spot where users get confused while clicking through your prototype and make sure to fix it in the next stage.”
A prototype can be a valuable tool if you need to get investor or stakeholder buy-in for your idea.
What is MVP in Software Development?
The acronym MVP in software development and project management means “Minimum Viable Product.” This is an important concept all entrepreneurs and leaders should know before going into any custom software development project. In fact, an MVP could save your project time and money.
The formal definition of MVP according to Techopedia is:
"A minimum viable product (MVP) is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product's initial users."
An MVP is the best way to start any project because it allows for agile development cycles. This means that your product gets to users faster, who then will provide crucial feedback that will then help your product become even better in the next development cycle.
Minimum Viable Product is what can be described a version of the product that contains basic minimum required set of features. Will it have all the awesome features you want your users to have? No, but it will have what you really need to get to market faster. Is this the final product and how it's going to look to all my users? No, this is the very beginning of your incredible product journey.
Why does my project need an MVP?
MVP can be best described as a mid-point between the earlier stages of the development process and the final product. In a way, it's one of the most important stages of the entire development process. From here you will test your product in markets and with your target audiences and have the ability to pivot if needed.
We all want our custom development projects finished faster and under budget. An MVP allows you to do that by stripping away all of the extra features that haven't been tested with users and that could be built during the next version. This provides faster turnaround time and allows your team to get a product that you can then flesh out.
It's great to be prepared to build your product completely and have a cohesive vision for any product, but just like eating an elephant, sometimes it's better to do one small bite at a time to reach your goal.