TL;DR: The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is dead. They built it, but it turns out no-one came. Successful products start with a Minimum Desirable Product (MDP). And the difference that one letter makes is crucial. Unlike an MVP, an MDP is built on an already-proven need. In a world where one in four users abandons your app after just one use, the need for a delightful User Experience (UX) has never been more important.

The Problem with the Minimum Viable Product.

The MVP approach is a business-focused one. You’ve got a goal – it could be efficiency or revenue – and you have an idea of what the solution could be. So you pose the question that so many have before: “What’s the simplest product I can build to test my hypothesis?”

This is a test.

The draw of this approach is that it lets you build a product to test quickly at a minimal cost. But the problem with the MVP approach is that it’s based on assumption, not understanding.

Without that understanding, you’re relying on assumed value. In a world where a third of users will immediately abandon an app if they don’t find it valuable, that assumption can end up costing you users down-the-line. In an effort to reduce risk upfront, you end up reducing your Return on Investment (ROI).

This is something that even big companies get this wrong. Let’s look at Ikea as an example.

When Big Companies Get it Wrong

Ikea’s first foray into the world of mobile was an app version of its catalogue. It universally criticised. The uninstall rate was sky-high and a series of disappointed reviews were left on the app store.

Why? Because they started with an MVP.

Someone, somewhere said, “We need to drive revenue and app version of our catalogue would be a great way to do that.” They then built the simplest version of this they could and took it straight into user-testing.

But this meant that they were asking users to review the app based on Ikea’s solution, not on a problem or goal they had. So it’s no surprise that feedback came relatively positive to say, “Yes, I’m able to browse the Ikea catalogue on-the-go.” Any criticisms or suggestions were then based on that assumed user journey, not the one users would necessarily follow.

Introducing the Minimum Desirable Product Approach

Unlike the MVP approach, the Minimum Desirable Approach (MDP) focuses on value first, not business goals. It’s completely user-centric. An MDP prioritises delighting your users, helping them to achieve their goal or to solve their problem as quickly and easily as possible.

By launching with a high-value proposition, you engage users from the very first time they open your app. It reduces app abandonment and increases your ROI. 

A Lesson Learnt: MDP in Action

For its next foray into mobile, Ikea switched tactics. Instead of starting with an assumed solution, they started with user research. And it was during this research that they found a problem users were having.

Customers were having trouble visualising what furniture would look like in their home. This was a major blocker. Because other than measuring size, customers were either forced to rely on guesswork or visiting their nearest store to see the item in person. 

This was a big blocker and key drop-off point in the customer journey. Ikea knew that it had it wrong the first time and that they had a lot to do to win over their mobile customers. So instead of starting with a solution again and working backwards, Ikea started with a job story.

“When I’m shopping, I want to preview what items of furniture look like so I can find something that enhances my home instead of clashing with its style.”

So the company developed Place, an app that lets users preview Ikea’s full catalogue in their own homes without ever leaving the house. The app uses Augmented Reality (AR) technology to improve the furniture-buying experience for customers.

Texture, fabric, lighting and shadows all respond to the room through “world tracking.” No manual, no catalogue, no smart glasses. Users can just pull out their phone, scan their room and start placing 3D Ikea furniture at a scale with 98% accuracy.

After launching, Ikea Place shot to the second-highest-ranking ARKit app. It now has a 4.5-star rating with over 2,000 reviews, showing how important it is to prioritise value for users over ticking business goal boxes.

Final Thoughts.

Work backwards from a solution or business goal and you’ll end up solving a problem that doesn’t exist. By starting with understanding and not an assumption, you’ll be able to build the best product. This is the best way to ensure a return on your investment, providing value for both your business and your users.

Up next: 3 Steps to Developing a Minimum Desirable Product (MDP).