(Photo: Wired UK)

Minimum Products

A little while, when I started working on some new projects, I kept hearing the term MVP – or Minimum Viable Product. It was a term I was familiar with, but never really thought too much about. It made sense… get something built quickly and put it out in the world to test it. It’s a kind-of “life in beta” approach: get stuff into users hands, to see what works and what people like.

But every time I heard someone say MVP, my heart sank. I’d watch project managers make sure milestones were met, and see plenty of testing to understand what features users responded to. And, sadly, I’d envision results that felt like Microsoft productivity tools or enterprise software. It was going to be functional and utilitarian, but not very exciting… a little bleak. And I’d wonder, why are we putting in so much effort into make something so bleak?

A friend introduced me to an alternate term: Minimum Awesome Product, or MAP. It may, at first, sound a little cheerlead-y. But I think it captures a truth: that in a crowded marketplace, if you can’t capture your audience’s attention they’re not going to use your product.

After doing a bit of investigating, I saw that, as an approach, MAP is gaining traction. Flipboard’s Evan Doll discussed how they use it to develop products that exceed customer expectations. Startup Blender’s Adam Berrey agrees, “viable” isn’t very compelling. “Using a merely viable product is like visiting someone in an intensive care unit. They’re alive, but not fun to spend time with.”

Apple may not actually say “MAP,” but Inc’s Mark Kawano writes about how Apple regularly will push product deadlines so that they’re able to release something that will excite their customers. He believes that there’s a shift away from MVP because it can too easily become “moving too quickly” – never the best way to make something great. Even Facebook has apparently stopped using its internal slogan “Move fast and break things.”

(Photo: Wired UK)

(Photo: Wired UK)

The Apple Watch is a great example of an MAP. It has some aspect of Minimum – it’s still a work in progress & we don’t really know what use-cases will make it compelling for daily life. But it also has plenty of Awesome… the heartbeat, drawing chat, etc. are features that capture the imagination. The original iPhone was no different – it didn’t have all the features we have come to expect from today’s models, but its combination of phone, internet, and music was new and exciting.

Awesome is a way to get customers excited. A product that excites customers will be adopted faster, get better word of mouth, and have higher satisfaction. And excited customers will be more likely to adopt new behaviors around the product. Awesome encourages success.

Awesome also acknowledges the incredible amount of work that’s goes into a projects. It builds pride in the making — and unifies the team in creating something great.

Like all terms, it has the potential to be overused. This New York Magazine article is a great read about how trendy tech words like “delightful” and “frictionless” have been rendered meaningless.

But changing terminology can make a big difference in the culture. Using MAP in product development may help move the mindset from internal development cycles to a user-centered model. And that’s important.