When you're working to build a great UX design, it's easy to get ahead of yourself and try to envision the product in its final, polished form. However, starting at the end of the road and working backward can cost more money and time and stifle creativity and innovation.
Rather than having the finished product in mind, it's become increasingly popular to build MVPs to pursue the best possible UX design.
When you go this route, you can tap into the needs of your target audience, the business needs, and where they intersect before you've launched your product. But what exactly is an MVP, and how can you use one to test and build a truly great UX design?
MVP stands for minimum viable product, and refers to an early version of a product that has the least amount of features necessary to have users test the product and give feedback. This term was first coined back in 2001 by Frank Robinson, but it gained popularity thanks to Eric Ries (The Lean Startup) and Steve Blank.
Basically, this is a bare-bones, stripped-down version of the final product you envision offering. Rather than having all the bells and whistles, your MVP only has a small handful of its most important features.
Your MVP can then be used to collect feedback and data about your product before you launch it in its final form. It's also an excellent opportunity to test any assumptions you have about the product.
When you google around for the definition of an MVP, you'll likely hear many varying responses. Some people might refer to it as a product version with the minimum set of features that solves a certain problem, others might describe it as a product version with only the most desired features, and others still might say it's the fastest product version that can be created. In reality, all of these definitions can be true. Which version you hear will likely have to do with whether you're talking to an engineer, a designer, or a business stakeholder.
For a deep dive into what an MVP is and how they work, check out this ultimate guide.
Building an MVP has many benefits for your brand, design team, and target audience. Let's check out some of the most compelling reasons for using an MVP as a part of your UX design process.
When you create an MVP as a part of your UX design process, the major benefit to the brand comes from money saved. After all, if you could create a product that people are thrilled about at the cost of less money and resources, would you do so? Yeah, you probably would.
Beyond that, MVPs can help you save time and increase creativity and innovation in the design process.
The design team also benefits from creating an MVP before launching their complete UX design. They are tasked with searching for the absolute simplest solution to meet the user's needs. By creating an MVP, they can focus on only the most essential functions of a site or a product rather than getting bogged down in all the little details or less important features.
If you've ever created a site or a digital product before, you know that getting a little feature-happy can be too tempting. Your design team is a collection of highly creative people, and they can get a little carried away dreaming up new features that could be added. While this is all well and good, it can end up backfiring if the users get overwhelmed.
Designing an MVP can help to avoid this outcome. By focusing on the most important features, your team can keep their eye on the most critical aspects of the product. Then, when it comes time to create the final product, they can thoughtfully add in additional features only as needed.
Developing an MVP isn't just beneficial to your brand and your design team. It can be a big win for your customers, too.
While you might think that customers want products with as many features as possible, the reality is that most people don't like it when there is too much going on with a given product.
Having too many choices can give people decision fatigue, basically meaning that we stop being able to make decisions efficiently and effectively after we've already made a certain number of decisions. This can apply even with seemingly harmless products– people typically reach a point where they get overwhelmed by having too many choices or decisions to make.
When it comes to your product, you want to create something that users can use with the least amount of friction. You want the UX design to allow an easy flow for the user to float down the river rather than ask them to paddle upstream.
The goal for the UX design of your MVP is to offer a product to customers that is easy and intuitive to use. The tasks they are trying to complete should be navigated without encountering any obstacles or resistance.
If you are looking to build a great UX design for your product, the design management system known as Lean UX might be of interest to you. The Lean UX process helps remove waste in the design process, encourages constant collaboration and communication, and allows for more experimentation.
Rather than emphasizing the full set of requirements and the deliverables like traditional UX, Lean UX focuses on the experience of the design process and only a slice of the final feature set requirements.
A core piece of the Lean UX puzzle is the creation of the MVP. By developing a minimum viable product, you can run usability testing sooner to get feedback as early on in the process as possible. This creates the opportunity for teams to make fast decisions, be flexible, and make changes when necessary.
Before you hire a developer to build an MVP, though, there are a number of steps you'll want to take. Check out our article about what you need to know (and do) before you hire an MVP developer.
An important part of building your MVP is UX research. This will help you consider how your MVP will integrate with other aspects of the product you are creating.
Market research is also essential no matter what kind of product you're building. As you likely know, the requirements of your target audience need to be met for your product to be successful.
You'll want to look at the UX that your competitors use in similar products. You can also conduct in-depth interviews with people that fit your core audience and online surveys to help you build your library of insights.
Are you building an MVP for a product that already exists? If that's the case, you can gain a lot of valuable info from a contextual inquiry. This is a specific research method that combines interviews and usability testing under one umbrella.
When you conduct a contextual inquiry, you can observe the user testing the product and learn how and why they engage with it. Through this type of research, you can identify any issues quickly that exist with the product in its current form. This allows you to tap into how to create your MVP most effectively.
At this stage of the process, you can create a quick prototype or product build. The goal is to create a product that has the minimum amount of necessary features for users to test the product. This means that the wireframes are still in draft form, and there isn't finalized code.
Now it's time to measure the valuable data you can gain from usability testing. For example, you will be able to learn vital information such as why a user seemed to fumble when navigating the product or how many times a particular type of error happened. To effectively analyze the data you have access to, it's a good idea to set benchmarks.
At each stage of building a great UX design, you always want to be paying attention to the most important takeaways and what can be improved upon. From your collected data and findings, you can learn which features are essential and which are distracting from the main purposes of the product.
When you are diligent about documenting your findings and data, you can pinpoint exactly what made your MVP a success or what made it miss the mark. You can then continue using this information to create the best possible product efficiently.
Creating an MVP can be an incredibly useful tool when you're developing a new product or making changes to an existing product. However, it's essential to invest in creating a great UX rather than trying to cut design costs in this regard. If your MVP UX doesn't appeal to your target audience, you'll have to head back to the drawing board.
Coined by the architect Louis Sullivan, the phrase "form follows function" has had a rippling effect beyond the world of architecture, being incorporated into the design process in auto design, software engineering, product design, and more.
When you're creating an MVP, you want it to be as minimalistic as possible while still fulfilling the function you intend it to. At this point in the process, the actual uses of the product are at center stage, and everything superfluous is removed.
There is a concept in UX design known as the aesthetic-usability effect. This is the phenomenon where users tend to find products to be more usable the more visually attractive they are. This means that how aesthetically pleasing your visual design is can hugely impact how willing users are to tolerate minor issues that pop up with your product.
This means that your design team should invest in creating a visually attractive MVP while still keeping a minimalistic attitude towards the design and what is included.
Remember when we talked about decision-making fatigue earlier? When thinking about the CTA you include in your MVP, this psychological concept comes into play. Rather than throwing out a ton of different potential actions they can take, zero in on the smallest number of CTAs possible while still pointing them in the right direction.
In order to increase your signal-to-noise ratio, you have two options. You can minimize the noise by way of getting rid of absolutely everything you can without jeopardizing functionality, or you can amplify the signal by solely using clear, understandable, and on-point graphics, icons, texts, and more.
If you want to make your design cycle more efficient while also ensuring that the product you make best serves your core customers, building an MVP might be the right choice. You can use the Lean UX MVP process repeatedly to create the ideal product, and it can be used regardless of whether you have one designer or a full team of designers.
Of course, one of the benefits of creating an MVP is saving time and money while also boosting the potential for innovation and creativity. If you're looking to create a great UX design, one possibility is to outsource this task to a team of experts. As with most things in life, the process can be more affordable, more efficient, and generally go much more smoothly when you have a team of pros on the job.
If you're not psyched about the idea of putting together a team from scratch and building an MVP on your own, we're here to help. It doesn't matter whether you're a small startup or an enormous international corporation– our team of experts would love to work with you. Feel free to drop us a line and tell us about your next project!
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