By definition, the minimum viable product mindset is restrictive. Your goal in building a minimum viable product is to test your idea as quickly as possible and that means making sacrifices.
There’s no room for fancy extras. It’s all about asking the tough questions: What can you get rid of? Can your users live without X or Y?
Adopting such a hard-edged attitude poses risk. Early adopters typically love being involved in the building and shaping of a great product from nothing. They’re beta testers, developers and first-wave team members who will forgive shortcomings and even report bugs so you can fix them.
But the next wave of users will not be so understanding. They will see news about your product on sites such as Reddit, BuzzFeed and Techli and demand a great experience. Users are particularly harsh with underperforming mobile apps. Research by Compuware in 2012 found that nearly 80 percent of some 3,500 users surveyed said they will retry an app only once or twice if it fails to work the first time.
Even the big guys aren't immune to flops. The Google X search bar design only lasted for one day in 2005. The Motorola Rokr tried to integrate iTunes into a phone for the first time, but it was so buggy that it was almost impossible to use. Amazon’s Fire Phone came equipped with plenty of crowd-pleasing features, but it ultimately did not stack up to today's top smartphones.
Even in the lean, mean world of minimum viable products, balance functionality and design or risk drowning in the crowded marketplace. Here are a few tips for striking the perfect balance between form and function:
1. Test your idea with an elevator pitch.
If you can’t describe your idea in a one-sentence elevator pitch, it’s not ready to go to market. Being able to clearly communicate your idea to members of your team as they work is imperative to creating a fantastic user experience.
2. Design with yourself in mind.
You are the first user. Walk through your schematics with usability in mind, and assess your experience.
You’ll be far more likely to create a user-friendly app if you design it with your preferences in mind.
3. Listen to beta testers.
Even though you need to be your app’s first user, don’t let your own passion blind you to bugs and usability problems. Listen to your beta testers, and make an effort to incorporate their feedback to ensure your app will appeal to a wide variety of people.
Launching a successful minimum viable product depends on striking the right balance between functionality and design. Just look at NailSnaps, the nail-art app that gained a lot of press attention last year: It had two founders who were dedicated to creating the best possible user experience, communicating their vision and listening to early testers to improve the app’s functionality.
Just because you’re focused on building an minimum viable product as quickly as possible doesn’t mean you can afford to put out a subpar product. Aim to perfect the features included so that you can launch the product with confidence and deliver a stellar user experience.