Death to the Minimum Viable Product!

I am declaring death to the Minimum Viable Product!

And I don’t do that lightly considering our advisory board consists of the father of the Lean Startup, the author of Lean UX, the author of UX for Lean Startups, Marty Cagan, and several other awesome Lean thought leaders..

…so please humor me for a minute to explain why I want to kill (actually tweak, but “kill” sounds more dramatic) the core principle of Lean.
Tweet: Death to the Minimum Viable Product!  #lean #leanux

What is an MVP

Let me start by clearly defining the MVP:¹
Minimal Viable Product Definition



Sounds simple…so what’s the issue

The MVP is the most misunderstood term I have ever experienced in business.

Tweets about Minimal Viable Product

So many people have read/heard this definition and concluded that the MVP is really just a [crappy] version of your product that is an embarrassment to show to customers. I have heard so many times, “let’s just remove these features and call it the MVP version.” And so you get blog posts like this one from a company that I greatly respect, but really, really misses the point of the MVP.

Or tweets like this one..which..ugh, I don’t even know where to start.

Tweet about Minimum Viable Product

Again, the point of the MVP is to LEARN about customer demand and usability before over-committing resources. To make sure that you are only building what customers want. An MVP is NOT a fully usable product that will delight customers. It is simply a learning vehicle. A focus on Learning before scaling is one of the core Principles of Lean UX. In Jeff Gothelf’s words:

Principle: Learning over Growth. It is difficult to figure out the right thing to build and scale a business around that thing at the same time. They are contradictory activities. Lean UX favors a focus on learning first and scaling second.

Why is there a disconnect?

I think the root of the disconnect between theory and practice is the use of the word Product in the term MVP.

Lean practitioners have a very different definition of the word Product than most Product Managers that I know. When Eric Ries says, “that version of the collect the maximum..validated learning” he is much more focused is on learning, than on product. The point of an MVP is to validate or invalidate a specific hypothesis. That is why Lean uses the concept of a concierge MVP and heavily relies on user testing of prototypes. An MVP can be coded, but the key is creating a product version focused on hypothesis validation, not growth.

But for some reason, most people hear the the word Product and assume that it means the first version of a product that is coded and “launched.” And so, they build that version, release it and guess one likes it. Well…no duh!

What’s the alternative?
Tweet: Death to the MVP. Hello MVE. #lean #leanux
I would like to introduce the MVE..the Minimum Viable Experiment.

What’s the MVE you ask? Well, it is a prototype or a concierge MVP or anything else that you can use to validate or invalidate a product hypothesis.

See what I did there? Genius, right? I basically hijacked the definition of the MVP but am using a word that [hopefully] won’t be misinterpreted. My hope is that by replacing the word Product with the word Experiment, that the expectations are now better aligned with the results (ie learning) that you are likely to get.

No one expects an experiment to grow or scale. So no one should be disappointed when it doesn’t.

Again Jeff’s book Lean UX gives us great guidance here:

Lean UX makes heavy use of the notion of MVP. MVPs help test our assumptions – will this tactic achieve the desired outcome? – while minimizing the work we put into unproven ideas..This concept is an important part of how Lean UX minimizes waste.

Your prioritized list of hypotheses has given you several paths to explore. To do this exploration, you are going to want to create the smallest thing you can to determine the validity of each of these hypothesis statements. That is your MVP. You will use your MVP to run experiments. The outcome of the experiments will tell you whether your hypothesis was correct and thus whether the direction you are exploring should be pursued, refined or abandoned.

Dude, will the MVE go Viral?

I doubt it. First, MVE doesn’t sound as sexy as the MVP, an acronym that sounds like an award for a pro athlete. Second, I am not going to market it beyond this post.

But popularizing the term MVE wasn’t the point of this post anyway…happy experimenting!


New Validately Features: Get More Out of Your Lean Customer Research

We’ve listened to your feedback, tested prototypes, and launched a series of features that will allow you to get more out of Validately and your Lean Customer Research.  The highlights include:

  1. Sound recording of test respondents…without a download or plugin
  2. More analytics for quicker response analysis
  3. Easier sharing of results


Ask your test respondents to talk you through what they are doing and thinking as they go through the test. Just select sound recording during your test set-up.

sound recording copy

Your respondents will be asked to enable their microphone via their web browser before the test begins. But a download or a plugin is NOT used.


New Path Report: The order in which pages were visited by your test respondents, grouped by the number of page visits for each click with metrics such as average time on page and % exits.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 11.32.37 AM

Improved Page Analytics: Additionally we show time spent on all pages and exit % in two other new reports.

Queuing of Recordings to Specific InteractionsOn the Path report we have added the ability to watch the recordings queued up to where in the recording the test respondent performed that interaction.

  • For example, let’s say less than 30% of test respondents exit on a particular page. You can now easily identify the associated recordings and watch them starting at the point where the test respondent entered that particular page. No more watching long videos!

Validately Paths pageRelevant recordings

Page Markers on Player Progress Bar:  We’ve introduced markers on the player progress bar to indicate the points in time when the tester clicked a link in your prototype to change a page. This makes it easier to see visually how long the tester spent on each page in your prototype and how often they changed pages.

Validately Player

Each vertical bar on the player progress bar represents a page change in the recording

3.  EASILY SHARE Qualitative Feedback and Videos with Teammates

You can now share the results from any test with teammates via a shareable URL. Test results are private by default. But if you want to share with teammates outside of Validately, click on the share link on the test results page.

Share survey results

You can also share specific videos with teammates outside of Validately from the Respondents tab on the test results page.

share video


We hope that these features make your lives easier. We have a lot of great features queued up but would love to hear your suggestions on how we can make Validately better for you.  Email our founder ( with any feedback or requests.




Marty Cagan and Jeff Gothelf Join Advisory Board. Lean Customer Research Academy Launches.

Happy New Year!

We made a New Year’s resolution to help you become awesome at Lean Customer Research. To help make our resolution a reality:

“Validately provides the very latest and best techniques for rapid iteration in product discovery. And, rapid iteration is the key to coming up with successful products – products that are not only technically feasible and usable, but most importantly, valuable enough that customers choose to buy or use.”

Marty Cagan

Silicon Valley Product Group Founder
Author of Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love

“I’m excited to join Validately’s advisory board for a variety of reasons not the least of which is the service’s capabilities to bring the user into the conversation quickly, efficiently and cheaply. At the heart of a great Lean UX workflow is customer feedback. Surprisingly, many organizations see the customer acquisition and research processes as laborious and costly leading to less of this work being done. Validately makes that an after-thought ensuring companies get quick access to the real-world market insight they need to make the best decisions.”


Jeff Gothelf
Author of Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience

The Lean Customer Research Academy offers free video courses on Lean Customer Research, usability testing, demand validation testing, and customer discovery tests. You’ll also be able to get certified in Lean Customer Research.

Learn about the Lean Customer Research Academy here!

Here’s to 2015!

Avoid these Mistakes..Or Your Usability Testing Results Will Be Worthless!

To drive customer engagement, a product or feature must both provide value and be easy to use. We covered demand testing in our post: “How to Validate Demand with a Prototype.” This post is about Usability testing.

While observing testing, we have noticed two common mistakes that we want to share in the interest of learning.

Common Usability Testing Mistakes:

Below are two different test structures with the same goal. Try to determine the two differences before I tell you.


The two key differences:

Did you guess the key 2 differences between the tests?

Read below to check…

How to Learn from Your Customers

Most people think that user testing is just usability testing. But usability testing is only one component of what you can learn from your customers. Lean User Testing includes:

  1. Usability testing – measuring whether a user can complete a specific action in your product
  2. Demand Validation testing – determining whether a user actually wants to use the product/feature that you are building
  3. Customer Discovery testing – determining demand from different customer segments
  4. Feature Prioritization testing – letting user actions not words determine their priority
  5. Solution Discovery testing – using the framework of conjoint analysis to let a customer’s actions determine the best solution

The below post dives deeper into all the components of Lean User Testing, including tactical process steps to execute each test.