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The importance of UI & UX in an MVP world

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Minimal Viable Product (MVP). These three words suffer untold abuse and misrepresentation.

The same can be said for user interface and user experience. What do those terms truly mean, and more importantly what is their relationship to MVP?

Let’s start with accurately defining what an MVP is. I love an analogy, and one involving transport (skateboard, scooter, motorbike and car) springs to mind. If you need transportation a car provides the greatest benefit, but it takes the longest to make. A skateboard is much easier, but it lacks features. However, it's better than nothing. Henrick Kniberg expands on the idea here

But the one that has really stood out for me is the doughnut. So, here’s the story.

If your ambition is to sell a range of tasty doughnuts with a variety of different toppings, then what would your MVP look like?

Quite simply, it would be a standard glazed ring doughnut. None of that delicious Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup filling. Not yet, anyway.

You see, it doesn’t matter if your caramel glaze topping is good or not if the core product, the doughnut, doesn’t work.

So, get your doughnut recipe right first. Test it. Put it out on the market, and once validated that your doughnut does, in fact, stand out as a better doughnut, start to iterate and experiment with toppings. By speaking to your customers, you’ll find which toppings or fillings to do first.

Now how does user interface apply? 

Well, imagine if you had the best tasting doughnut, but it looked like a lump of dog mess. It won’t matter how good it tastes, you're going to spend far too much time convincing people to try it.

There's always room for innovation. Perhaps a square doughnut could work? But ensure that that product looks like a doughnut. You wouldn’t try to make a carrot look like a tomato.

What about user experience?

Would you put your doughnut in blister packaging? No. Would you serve it from a ridiculous height that where people have to stretch to reach it? No.

You'll want to make sure that it's super easy for the customer to get the doughnut so they can take that first sumptuous bite in the fastest manner possible. Doing so will ensure a frictionless experience for your customers. One which will become familiar and, if the doughnut is great, coming back time and time again for more.

So what?

There has to be a point to this right? Simply put, it’s that the term MVP is often used as an excuse to create a poor user experience, or to make sacrifices on the user interface.

A minimal viable product should involve putting your best foot forward, with a view to developing new features in the future, not immediately spending the next iteration fixing the interface or the user experience.