An “MVP” Website is an Ongoing Experiment

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product that is developed quickly and placed in the market with the intention of learning consumer wants and revising the products to meet those wants.

An “MVP” website isn’t meticulously developed until it is perceived to be perfect; it is developed with the intention of seeing how people interact with it so that it can be changed.  Developers collect data on how people interact with the site and revise the site accordingly.

The primary benefit of developing an MVP website is that one doesn’t run the risk of meticulously developing a website only to find that it doesn’t accomplish what the owner wants. An MVP website is developed quickly and inexpensively and elements are placed in response to what the developer learns about its user. This differs drastically from the traditional process of developing a website, launching it, and not changing it until an overhaul is requested after some period of time.

Born from the Lean Startup

The Lean Startup is a methodology born from the lessons of lean manufacturing and agile product development. It offers a marked departure from the traditional “stage-gate” method developing software. The author, Eric Ries, developed the Lean Startup as a way to eliminate waste from the software development process and avoid spending time developing features that no one wanted. The Lean Startup methodology has proven itself invaluable and has been used in unexpected industries, such as the development of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

How an MVP Website is Built

The web design project begins by building a site quickly and inexpensively. Upon launching, the owner begins to test a number of hypotheses that he uses to develop the website.  He may begin with a hypothesis such as “users will purchase more widgets from our site if we use a super simple header with a search bar” and split test the feature on the site.

One version would feature the search bar and the other could feature something like a coupon. The developers run an a/b test run and the results determine whether to place the bar or the coupon in the header.

The process of split testing various elements of the website continues and the developers focus on developing a “work-in-progess” website rather than spending all of the project’s resources in the initial design phase.

Some Common Features

  1. The site is often built with some sort of pagebuilder such as Divi. This allows the team to easily and quickly make changes to the website. Some criticize these pagebuilders as “bloated,” but that criticism is largely unwarranted.  These themes can be optimized to load quite quickly and the agility that they offer the website owner outweigh any drawbacks that their detractors point out.
  2. There is a robust tool to collect user dataHotjar is widely used service, as is CrazyEgg.
  3. The site uses tools and methods to split test headlines, forms, landing pages, and copy.  There are tons of software that are covered in this article: https://kinsta.com/blog/wordpress-ab-testing-tools/

The Benefits of an MVP Website

  1. Actual user data guides the design process, not gut feelings or what a designer likes
  2. The site is built rapidly and launched.  Precious time is not wasted guessing what people will respond to.
  3. It allows a site to “fail fast”—if  no one wants or needs what the website offers, the developer can learn this without spending a fortune

The Drawbacks of an MVP Website

  1. You only have one chance to make a first impression; if the MVP website is particularly underdeveloped, it could damage the brand in the eyes of consumers
  2. It is hard to gain buy-in from decision makers that are accustomed to waterfall methodologies. It may be difficult to convince your boss to put up a “work-in-progress.”

Do You Use the Lean Startup Methodology in Web Design?

I’d love to hear about the MVP websites that you have developed. Leave your comments below!

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