The Role of Product Design in MVP Development


At the beginning of all entrepreneurial efforts stands an idea: Which product or service could conquer the market and become a new success story? 

If you as a participating design creator try to get with the latest trends and methods from the startup’s scene, you will not be able to miss the concept of the MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

And while the speed of development and functionality of the prototype are the key steps in the process, which will be discussed in-depth below, the applied product design should also not be overlooked. 

The overall business concept and client’s needs cannot be processed without reference to the visual component and therefore must be taken into account at the early stages of the product projection. Or is the identity and image of the product not so important for the MVP blueprint? Let’s find out.

What is a minimum viable product?

The abbreviation MVP signifies a product that has few milestone functions and is quickly brought onto the market without a long formulation phase. In this respect, the analog ‘minimally functional product’ also makes sense: it must meet a set need of the targeted user group and therefore receive first market authorization.

This concept became known as part of the emerging lean startup method, which goes back to entrepreneur Eric Ries. The basic idea is that a good business initiative can only result in successful products if customer requests are consistently met and incorporated into the final product by degrees. The first minimum step in the lean product development process becomes a simple prototype that needs to be further revised through market feedback.

The entire product launch is revolutionized by using an MVP attitude: the aim is to test new products directly in service with as little cost and use of resources as possible. As soon as the immediate ‘viability’ of the product is confirmed, the developers can change it based on the data obtained from the target group.

The big advantage of the corresponding Lean Startup method is that a founder can quickly get started in the market with little capital and attract potential investors on the go. This reduces the overall financial risk, which cannot be denied in any start-up project. 

However, haste gives rise to the risks of producing an unready product that is inferior to competitors and damages the enterprise itself. Even if you have clearly defined the working technology and maintained the functionality of the product, your main evaluator is the audience, who are known to love with their eyes.

Should MVP cover design development?

Let’s say you take on a promising idea and begin the countdown of a fateful launch. You have a minimum of time to create something useful, attractive, and cheap at the same time. It sounds complicated, but the problem lies in determining your priorities, or how you see your test product. 

Taking the viral example of designer Henrik Kniberg, to create a car, you need to begin with its prototype. The car can be split into wheels, body, trunk, but they do not value separately. If the purpose of the machine is to transport the user, then even the initial product should provide movement capability. 

It may be slow, inconvenient, and short-timed, but clients should be able to use it from the beginning. This can be a basic skateboard – the simplest way to move around, which over time will grow with a shell of add-ons. 

But that’s not all, because in the longboard market you will have to fight for the client’s attention with the other producers. And audience regard is a key factor in further promoting your MVP. This is where the added value of the prototype item design comes in.

Internet resources are no longer able to surprise, ecommerce platforms have lost their novelty, and a free chat application hardly can become a one-of-a-kind communication platform for the new generation of customers. 

Everything has changed and the unique success stories of the test products of Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, or Spotify are almost impossible to repeat exactly. Back at their time, a launched product could be minimally functional. Now the user is demanding more features, more value, more meaning, and we have to offer something extraordinary to surprise and gain attention. It means that when building your own ecommerce platform make sure it will shine and stand out of the pack.

How are you going to win with a dull product in 2021? You have to compete not only with crafty features, speed, and fluidity but also with product design since the end consumer has already formed an image of what the platform for watching a video or dating application should be. You can only deepen that experience or overlap it with something unique and fresh. 

This is why, when launching a new product, in addition to being fast, viable, and cost-effective, it must be as ‘attractive’ as possible. You must make an effort to provide an outstanding user experience together with a customer service strategy. And only after that, you can get relevant feedback and further impetus for improvement.

Place of product design in MVP creation

MVP is often used as an excuse for an underdeveloped offer whose design was sacrificed for a quick time to pitch. A raw prototype can be useful for validating a completely new solution, however, in most cases, companies enter mature markets with certain quality standards, therefore, testing an ineffective offer will lead to incorrect feedback data.

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for design development in MVP, as each product has unique quality and performance criteria. For example, if you are building an offer solely for the purpose of validating an idea, design and technical flaws are acceptable, as they allow you to quickly enter the market and test hypotheses. However, if a product is a final link in your business elaboration, you cannot put off picturing it until later.

Of course, the design mustn’t be perfect first. But significant design drawbacks can negatively affect the interaction: if users are annoyed or uncomfortable with testing the product, they will probably transfer that experience to the following finished item. 

Adaptive Path CEO Brandon Schauer formulated two MVP development models: the dry cake model and the cupcake model. 

Following the first concept, the teams create a basic and not very interesting product (something like a dry cake), and then gradually add functionality (cream and frosting). The essence of the second attitude is to create a small but good-looking product – a cake, which, unlike a dry cake, initially has cream and frosting. Such an offer will be in demand among consumers because it is valuable, and will allow it to stand out against the background of mediocre alternatives. 


Moreover, it is easier to work on it because all further modifications will be poured into the basic design. Otherwise, each innovation will mean a redesign, which, obviously, can simply be an unrealizable endeavor.

Sum up

Many people associate the concept of MVP with something unfinished. This is absolutely not the case. A minimum viable product is a ready-made solution, be it an application, a landing page, or a physical prototype, that solves the assigned tasks. 

The lean model should not exclude UX choices. Thus, working on a design early on will certainly bring more practical benefits.