MVP vs MVE vs MAP: What is The Best Approach to Starting Your Own Business

If you Google “MVP is dead” you will get over ten thousand results. But if you look a little bit deeper, you will see that instead of an MVP, we should now be using an MVE or MAP, which seem to just be some other abbreviations with a vaguely similar meaning.

Yet, let’s not mourn the MVP before its time, as, in fact, it is quite alive and well. What we need to do, though, is reinterpret its concept to see its true meaning and purpose. And while we are at it, let’s also tackle the two other three-letter abbreviations that seem to inhabit the same niche as the MVP.

If we want to compare MVP vs MAP vs MVE, we need to first learn what each of them is and how they should be used. All of these concepts belong to the Lean Startup methodology, however, there are certain differences.

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What is an MVP?

Let’s start with the MVP, as the oldest and the best-known of the three. MVP, which stands for Minimum Viable Product, is one of the fundamental concepts of lean development. An MVP can be the basis of the Build-Measure-Learn loop, a technique of testing a product idea before building the complete product.

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Image credit: Mindtools

The Build-Measure-Learn loop tests the product hypothesis by building a small product, measuring the results it brings, and learning from them. In the next iteration, the initial product can be either developed and updated, if the results were positive, or changed to a different idea, if the results proved to be negative.

Usually, the MVP is a product built with the minimum feature scope at the minimum cost possible. Often, an MVP is released when there is no product at all. It can be a landing page with a subscription form, a manual service behind the scenes, or even a video describing the future product. Its main purpose is to get users’ feedback. Therefore, the main benefits of building an MVP for a startup are:

  • Quick feedback. An MVP is built within the shortest time possible and starts generating data right after launch.
  • Ability to make a decision early-on in the project. An MVP shows whether your product idea has demand or not, allowing you to decide to either push on or change direction while you still have not yet invested too much.
  • Base for future product development. When planning your MVP, note the features you discarded for this version of the product. You may add them later if you still think they are appropriate. At the same time, your users may suggest features they would like to see in a complete product.

At the same time, MVP creation has certain pitfalls that we would like to warn you against:

  • Making a poor product. The word “minimum” in MVP does not mean bad, buggy or barely usable. “Minimum” means that the scope should be stripped of anything extra, but whatever features remain should be done in an intuitive and user-friendly way.
  • Building a product to sell. While it is called a “product”, the purpose of an MVP is not to be sold. On the contrary, its purpose is to bring results and increase learning. If your MVP is not accepted by users, this is a good result too. It means that you have got your idea wrong, but at least you haven't invested a fortune into it.
  • Difficulty in defining the minimum. Often, you want your first product to be as beautiful as it can be, and you are reluctant to throw away all the nice features you've thought of. As a result, you spend too much time and money, and, even more damaging, lose focus on the core features. The rule of thumb when defining the scope of your MVP is “can we launch without this or not?” This should be your main criterion, and you can add all the bells and whistles later when your idea is validated.

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What is an MVE?

Our analysis of the MVP brings us logically to another member of the Lean Startup family – the MVE, or the Minimum Viable Experience. In short, an MVE is an MVP done right. In building an MVE, the focus is shifted from the features to the customer’s experience.

The MVE also serves the Build-Measure-Learn purpose, but, in this case, you are aiming to build a minimum usable product that gives your users an easy and intuitive experience. The idea is that customers do not care about your analytics, nor the features that you so carefully selected for your MVP. What they care about is the way they experience your product or service.

When building an MVE, select the features that form a complete user experience and make sure that they work as close to perfectly as possible. The features should create a full user journey, achieving the main goal of the product. When you choose the features, consider what customers may expect in a product of this kind and what they consider essential. Ideally, every goal that customers may wish to achieve should have a corresponding feature.

For example, if you are planning an Uber-like taxi service, your MVE should enable the complete flow of booking a ride and paying for it. It doesn't matter if you're calling the drivers on the phone behind the scenes – your customers won't know. At the same time, your MVE may lack social sharing functions, profile customization, and a loyalty program. These features are not critical for the business goal and can be added later.

If, in the same example of a taxi service, you fail to include a booking confirmation feature, your MVE is going to fail. It may seem that you have built your product around the core feature – the booking engine – but the customer experience will be incomplete. You can hardly expect people to like the service when they never know whether their ride is confirmed or not.

The pros and cons of the MVE are mostly the same as those of the MVP. The main thing is to create an experience and learn from the customers’ feedback about it.

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What is an MAP?

This is another concept that is used in the Lean Development methodology. The abbreviation stands for Minimum Awesome Product, and is also worth considering if you want to test your product hypothesis.

“Awesome” means just that – a product that customers will call awesome. An MAP is what customers expect from products in 2018.

MAP is an evolution of MVP and a way of preventing your MVP from being too “minimal”. Nowadays, users are already very UX-savvy, and are unwilling to explore a website with black Times New Roman over a white background and one “Subscribe” button. However, this does not mean you should go to the other extreme and load your MVP with lots of fancy animations, images, videos, and other special effects.

An MAP is an MVP considered from the point of view of today’s expectations of “minimal”. A small example: when building an MVP for a local tourist application, you can include a link to Booking.com, offering hotels in your region. You can format it as a text link or a clickable Booking.com logo. Which of the two will be more impressive to your users? That’s an MAP for you.

The main distinction of an MAP when compared to an MVP and MAP is that the MAP may have a slightly wider set of features, and consider UI and UX design as well. When selecting the scope of your MAP, think of what users are accustomed to finding in applications of the same type. A better UI design may make the user believe that the application is more effective than one with a “barebones” design. Also, consider the way your competitors design their products. Yours should not look meager in comparison.

Of course, the MAP approach may turn out to be somewhat more expensive, but the result is going to be worth it. At the end of the day, in 2018, users are not what they were ten or twenty years ago.

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When to use which?

Unfortunately, there is no answer to this question, as, in fact, all three concepts that we have talked about are variations of the same thing – a product developed at a minimal cost to validate an idea. Deep down, the MVE and MAP are also MVPs, but made in the context of customers’ current expectations and preferences.

If you opt to create an MVP in the form of a landing page or a video, you can hardly include a complete customer experience in it, but you can make it awesome. Create a striking landing page that can bring you lots of leads and will be bookmarked in your users’ browsers.

If you decide to test your idea with a “Wizard of Oz” or “Concierge” model, it should be a combination of an MVE and an MAP. Your users should find a complete experience and an awesome design.

The only case when you can go easy on the “awesome” is when you have absolutely no competition. When you are about to launch something that has never been offered before, your MVP can be equal to your MAP and be as minimal as you find practical. It will be your idea that is going to attract customers, and the design can wait until later. At the same time, we strongly advise you against black Times New Roman on a white background.

No matter which approach you choose, the main thing is learning from the results. Do not feel disappointed or discouraged if your first product is rejected by users. You have learned early in the game, and that’s the whole point of the “minimum product” model. Analyze the results and move on – either to modify your initial concept according to users’ expectations, or to discard it altogether and pursue a completely different path. Your experiment has saved you a lot of time, effort, and money that would be better spent on another project.

If you have an application idea and want to test it, we can help you build your minimum product. Our business analytics experts can assist you in putting together the scope and interpreting the results that your product yields. Our development team will deliver your MVP or MVE in the most cost-effective way and, of course, make it awesome. We will be glad to cooperate with you on breathing life into your idea.

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