A lesson from 9ish years in and adjacent to product work.
Minimum viability is very much a product-outwards perspective: what’s the least amount of work we can do to find out whether going down this line of thinking is a business idea that’s worth being invested in. It has nothing to do with viability for users.
It’s a well worn notion that the right way to build a product is to iterate through stages of development, where at each stage you deliver something that, on it’s own, provides real incremental value by accomplishing the user's goal appreciably faster/cheaper/better than was possible before. A functional approach.
What makes a product viable for use is something that’s more usable at each stage of creation; that creates experiences of greater efficacy at every turn; that provides incremental wins that add up to something much greater—a sense of joy. [Something I’ve seen enough times to say it with a straight face.] This is distinctly not a product-out orientation—but instead a user-in orientation.
We have to make up for the pain we put users through--our stumbling attempts at building something useful, the suffering of (re)learning how to do something, breaking their workflows--with some pleasure on the other side.
Leading to questions that should be answered (see the HEART framework for thoroughness):
- What is the qualitative, subjective improvement from the perspective of the user? Does it feel better? Does it yield results of higher quality?
- What is the quantitative, objective improvement from the perspective of the user? Does it get the task done faster? Does it yield more results?
- What is the quantitative, objective improvement from the perspective of the product? Is it faster? Does it do more of what users want?