Stephen's Thoughts

Husband, Father, Entrepreneur, Experience Designer, Motorcycle Rider, Cook and Believer. Founder of Atrack and Co-Founder of Startup Ignite. This blog is (mostly) dedicated to my thoughts on UX, technology and entrepreneurship. Follow me.

October 5, 2012 at 6:41am
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Forget your MVP, build a MCP.

Maybe the scents make it compelling? Or is it that the scents are flavors?

A Minimum Viable Product has just those features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. … It is a strategy targeted at avoiding building products that customers do not want … “The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” The definition’s use of the words maximum and minimum means it is decidedly not formulaic. It requires judgment to figure out, for any given context, what MVP makes sense.

Source: Wikipedia

That’s a wonderfull explanation of what an MVP is supposed to be. You know what the problem is? The “It requires judgment to figure out…” part. If you are not a (good) product person it’s very easy to get your MVP wrong, or even, not understand what an MVP is. Especially, when the term gets thrown around a lot without proper explanation. News Flash: Most people building products, especially in the tech industry, are not product people. Even the so-called “business person” is most definitly NOT a prodcut person. For this reason, I do not like to use the term Minimun Viable Product.

Minimal Compelling Product (MCP)

As a UX professional I try to use language or examples that paints pictures or is self descriptive. Idealy, someone should get it with as little explanation as possible. The term MVP is a very clever term used to describe a methodology made popular by Eric Ries. The problem is, it paints a completly different picture for Mr. developer in his garage building the next Insta-something. Minimaly viable is too easily confused with things other than the actual product, like code, backend systems, device support and design*. Instead, minimally compelling, I think, more explicitly draws attention to the prodcut that is being built. Here are some examples of how I think the two terms mighht draw different conclusions:

Instagram: Fast beautiful photo sharing.   

MVP: Build a web based app that allows users to share pictures.   

MCP: Build a native app that allows users to add a filter to a picture before sharing.

Trello: Your entire project, in a single glance.

MVP: Create a todo list that has the ability for all tasks to be viewed on one simple page.  

MCP: Build a todo list that displays it’s tasks in an easy to view manner that emulates offline behaviour, such as moving cards from one list to another.

Diaspora: The community-run, distributed Social-network.  

MVP: Build a social netowrk than can be individually run on a users computer, using nodes and distributed networks.  

MCP: What the hell does this even mean? Tacos and beer sound more compelling than this.

Turntable.fm: Play music together.

MVP: Give users the ability to join a “room” and listen to music together by uploading songs from their computer.

MCP: Give users the ability to join a “room” and listen to music together. Users can play music by uploading songs from their computer or choosing from an online database that contains hundrends of songs instantly. 

In each of the examples above, I believe the entrepreneur has a better chance of seeing success if V1 of his product is the MCP vs the MVP. I think the term Minimally Compelling Product makes the non-product person really think through what V1 of a product should be. It at least begs the question: What’s the least amount of features that will be compelling to a user in order for them to use it. I think, swapping out compelling with viable, to them, paints a differnt picture.

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* I’m not saying these things shouldn’t be part of the MVP process, they should, but they should be second to product development. You need to understand what the MCP of a product is before you engage in any of these activities.