Written by Rick Mans

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The Maximum Viable Product

This post appeared earlier on ProgrammableWeb.

You might know the term  Minimum Viable Product (MVP), it is a term which was popularised by Eric Ries, author of the book the Lean Startup. A MVP is a product with minimum features, though with enough features to collect feedback from the users of the product. A MVP provides you with the opportunity to validate the assumptions you made early on.

Even though there is something as a Minimum Viable Product, hardly ever somebody is defining a Maximum Viable Product. Product are not complete when there is  no feature left to add. Products are complete when there is no feature left to be removed (inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupery). The Maximum Viable Product (MaVP) is a product with the maximum amount of features it should have to support the user in achieving a certain goal and before it starts to become confusing for the user what he has to do with the product to achieve the goal. It removes the false promise that more features will increase usage and thus product-love. However more features doesn’t always convert into a better overall user experience nor is increased usage an indicator for a better experience.

In order to achieve a MaVP it is important to have a good vision, to be stubborn, but maybe as equal important and API. The API enables you to focus on the MaVP, while you provide others with the opportunity to extend your product in different ways, without falling for the feature trap (adding endless amounts of features and configuration options). Your product will have a consistent and most likely great user experience, while others, who are extending your product via the API, are able to create also a great user experience in their solution.

As soon as you are starting to build and option or configuration screen, think of it if it really necessary to have it all. What you might need is an overview of what third parties have done with your API and what implementations you are endorsing. You might even want to include an appmarket in which people can find plugins or apps for your product which can be included directly in your product to enrich the experience. However even that might be just too much for your MaVP, since it could dilute the overall user experience.

Therefore keep focused on your product, remove features when you can and make sure your API is in sync with the functionality offered in your product. You can create the user experience, however you need the API in the end to make things really scale and to increase user adoption.