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Is the Minimum Actually Viable?

Know the linchpin for your next product launch—feedback from first-time users.

Words by Kari Dean McCarthy

Some teams wait years for Apple to release the iOS dev tools their app needs to truly compete with iPhone’s native apps. Once that happens, it’s a really big deal — not only to the app’s dev team, but to product owners, who then face the universal truth of all launches:

Minimum Viable Product may be philosophical corporate jargon, but figuring out what yours is — that’s damn hard.

Be it app or device, the crux of MVP is always the same: build what matters most, and let usage determine what’s next. Many product managers don’t reach beyond the walls of their company, or friends and family, to discover what’s essential.

To find out if a new product is useful enough to keep people interested long enough for iterations and new functionalities, product leaders need answers from first-time users. Fresh hands, after all, just might think your app should have baked in the oven a little bit longer.

For fresh users, fast timelines and in-the-moment reaction, mobile research allows a product team enough time for critical adjustments that make a measurable impact that before a product goes mainstream.

Even when you have years of experience in the mobile space, it’s still a challenge to identify what truly is the “minimum viable.” Feedback from potential users can inform your design decisions.

The Right Audience

Continuing with our iPhone app example, we all know Apple allows a very limited set of beta participants, so every tester counts.

Lots of people may be interested in helping you, but they usually have a very personal tie to your company. The true believers see your product through a tinted lens. They’ll either be super hard or super easy on you. You have to step outside the inner circle to get an honest look. Your goal is to remove as much bias as possible.

When you access the vast population of mobile users, the best mobile tools can quickly screen and filter an audience of dozens or even hundreds qualified participants — delivering a mix of people who fit the profile of your potential product enthusiast.

The Right Inputs

Capturing visuals at critical moments adds crucial context to understanding. For example, when dscout research participants (we call them scouts) hit “high” moments of delight, or “low” moments of frustration and confusion while using a new product, they submit a screenshot and explanation via their dscout app.

Product managers find these moments invaluable for relaying feedback to their team. Different people can refer to the same thing in a multitude of different ways, so it’s crucial to get an accurate view of what they’re seeing and talking about. What did they mean when they referenced the sidebar? Was it this? That? Or something else?

It’s hard for anyone to interpret what bothers or frustrates another; it’s a lot easier when they show you.

People also get stuck when they have to try too hard to convey their circumstances. When we can actually see it on their device, we troubleshoot a lot more easily, and can detangle what actually frustrated them. When they can simply say, “This is the screen,” or, “This is not rendering properly,” that’s fodder for an aha moment in the engineering room.

The Right Speed

When expediency and turnaround times are crucial to making changes for a global rollout, real-time access to research feedback matters. Receiving responses and images in context, you learn quickly if a course correction or extra functionality are needed.

Fast validation also enables you to move forward and solidify your V1 plan, and to make your product better in small, but really valuable ways.

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