Delivering a Successful Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Website: What to Prioritise
Learn how to deliver a successful MVP website by prioritising the most important elements of your redesign.
Published: 05 Feb 2021
7 minutes read
Traditional B2B website design often means building a “complete” website over the course of months or years, and launching it at the end as a finished product, with no allowance for amends or alternatives.
And it’s the worst.
That’s why companies are opting for a different approach. Launching sooner, improving later. It sounds quite scary, but the results speak for themselves. The minimum viable product (MVP) website isn’t meticulously designed and scrutinised until it reaches ‘perfection’; instead it’s built with the intention of changing as time goes on. This means no investment in lengthy website projects, only to be stung when it doesn’t pay off - but a quick launch of a functioning site that only gets better over time.
Sounds a dream, right? It is. But in order to achieve success with an MVP website, you need to learn how to be a little ruthless when it comes to your design choices - and we’ll show you how.
The MVP website: what is it & why do we use it?
In product design, the minimum viable product (MVP) refers to a product that has just enough functionality and features to be used, and fulfil user needs. The MVP website is essentially the same - it includes only the most essential features and functionality to allow users to visit and use the site, and satisfy early user needs.
Because of this, the MVP website is technically unfinished. But before you panic - this isn’t a bad thing. Using the Growth-Driven Design (GDD) methodology, an MVP website allows you to launch a well designed, highly functioning website quickly, and use live performance ‘updates’ to inform further decision making, and development on the site. The site then becomes informed by real data, and is therefore more effective and valuable for users.
The MVP website is one of the most useful aspects of any website we design at Axon Garside. It’s also the most challenging. Like anything else in a web design project, it can go wrong, and you may invest time and money in something that ultimately fails.
The most daunting aspect of the MVP website is the fact that it’s a live site that users can access. This means if there are problems, users will notice. But it also means problems can be addressed early, and fixed - so swings and roundabouts, on that one.
Overall, the benefits of the MVP website clearly outweigh the downsides:
- You can estimate the budget more realistically, as you understand which elements are being made live first, and work from there.
- MVP websites have a short development time, and can be launched in as little as 60 days. This means the remainder of the project can be spent experimenting and improving.
- It’s the best foundation for any add-ons or upgrades you want for the site, and can help identify issues early on in the development.
- If you’re a new company, it can help you metaphorically “dip your toe in” as it helps you navigate a new market without the pressure of building a complete website.
However, in order to make your MVP website a success, it involves very careful consideration, planning and strict decision making - starting with narrowing down your goals and expectations, and prioritising the most important items for the site.
How should the MVP website be built?
An MVP website will be made live as part of the launchpad phase of a Growth-Driven Design (GDD) project, and therefore it should have:
- Clearly defined strategies (for both across the site and on individual pages) and goals for individual elements
- Well fleshed-out user personas and journeys that inform how the site is built, and address user challenges.
- A strict list of defined items that will launch first - more on this shortly.
In addition to this, the MVP website should:
- Be well designed enough to function and provide an excellent user experience inline with the above (so don’t worry if you don’t quite have every piece of content ready to go at this stage).
- Target at least 1 of your core user personas, and solve at least 1 of their core challenges - so you’re able to test your proposed solution.
- Be scoped in a way that is relatively easy to develop and quick to launch - getting the site live so you can use data is a priority.
It’s essential that your MVP website is launched with the above in mind - remember, the goal is to get a functioning website live that you can then build on using real data and user interactions.
TOP TIP #1: Keep it simple
When it comes to launching your MVP site, simplicity is key. Not so simple that the design doesn’t look good, or there are no interesting features on the site, but enough to start building a reasonable audience and gathering data from how they use the site. It should have conversion opportunity features such as landing pages or forms for this reason - but otherwise, minimal functionality to meet user needs and expectations is best.
TOP TIP #2: Keep it moving
The emphasis on speed should be there, but not at the expense of quality. That’s why it’s important to get only the most essential features and functionality complete and live first - done well, but without an expectation that the entire site will be perfect right away.
Launching an MVP website can be challenging, mainly because keeping it “simple” and doing it “quickly” mean different things to different people. There’s a risk of striving too much for perfection right away, or too many opinions being voiced that ultimately delays the project - which you really don’t want.
Bringing us to our next, and final point.
How “minimum” should the MVP website be?
It’s a fair question. When it comes to defining and scoping your MVP website, it can be difficult. Understanding what needs to be put live first, or what will have the most impact and value can put a great deal of pressure on a project team - which you also don’t want.
I’ve already established that the MVP website should be two things: simple and quick-moving.
But in order for you to achieve this, you need to know exactly what the minimum requirements will be for your site to achieve its goals. To do this, you need to prioritise.
Before that, however, you need to figure out what you actually need data-wise for the MVP site to be useful - for example, you may need 100 form submissions on a landing page in order to get a reasonable amount of data. This should inform the design.
Then, you must create the user journey that recognises customer needs, and how your site can help them. Consider each and every action a user may need to take to reach their goal and how your website can guide them to their destination.
TOP TIP #3: Bear in mind ANY inconveniences or issues that could throw users off their journey, and keep these as a record for when the site goes live, so you can experiment and improve effectively.
Once you’ve done this, you need to prioritise all the features and functionalities from your item wishlist (all the things you have determined need to be on your new site) that will best meet the goals and user needs you have outlined.
Your main objective is to solve any problems that your user persona may have, so begin with the most urgent - and find any item(s) that will resolve it. Because the problem you’ve highlighted is the most urgent, the item you choose becomes a priority to be built into the MVP website. Repeat this entire process with all your items, and you’ll soon figure out which elements need to be on the new site, which can be added at a later stage, and which you don’t actually need at all.
We’d recommend assessing your wishlist based on the 20/80 method - which is where you identify 20% of the items that can deliver 80% of the desired value for users. For example, if you like the idea of having a certain module on the site, but it’s not essential for the initial launch, this item stays in the remaining list of items to be actioned after the initial launch.
This method is also known as MoSCoW, and it’s one of the most effective when trying to launch an MVP website. It helps you organise your items into absolute must-haves for the MVP, and will facilitate better decision making about the site further down the line. When used in group discussions, this method also ensures every member of the project is on the same page, while giving clarity on what are actually the most essential parts of your site. Then, you can launch an MVP site successfully knowing that you’ve prioritised that which best meets the needs of your users.
Learn how to prioritise the moving parts of your website with our free, downloadable MoSCoW template & user journey planner.