Just like an itch you need to scratch, adding features to your MVP may be too tempting for you to resist. Although you know additional features cost you time, energy, and money… you keep adding them.
And one feature calls for another one: a search bar calls for ‘filters’… that calls for ‘categories’… that calls for ‘favorites’… and so on…
But, why is it so difficult to stop?
The Wrong Benchmark
Probably, you already know that MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product and that it’s a way to validate the assumptions of your product idea.
But, there’s a big chance you’re focusing too much on the word product and ignoring the word minimum.
So, you’re comparing your MVP to other mature products you see in the market.
And that’s when the temptation comes…
First, you think about your customers. You’re simply concerned that if they don’t see all the “obvious” features they are used to seeing in other products, they’ll ignore you.
Second, you think about everyone else. You’re afraid of building a product that doesn’t do basic tasks (that other famous products do). What would people think if they ask you about a search bar and you said ‘No, it doesn’t have one.’?! Arrgh… Embarrassing…
So, in order to be sure people will love your product, you add more features to it (as many as you believe are required from a “respected” product).
Whew… Now, you feel ready to explain everything your “product” can do. It’s complete; It’s holistic.
Playing “Holistic” Can Kill Your Startup
In fact, a holistic MVP is the biggest enemy in your startup’s early stage.
When you try to build an MVP that does everything, you end up increasing the friction, lowering its value, and reducing your runway.
What happens when you add a feature to your MVP?
If it’s not significantly helping to kill the problem, it’s just causing distraction.
It’s another button… another screen… another checkbox… another step your first customers must go through in order to solve their big problem.
And the longer the time your customers must invest to learn about your product, the higher the risk of them leaving. Simply, because it’s too overwhelming for them to use it.
Committing to more features also harms your ability to create value.
The more resources you allocate to peripheral features, the fewer resources you have for features that will actually solve the core problem.
For instance, let’s suppose you’re automating a customer’s process by using AI. When you’re working on non-related features, you’re not working on improving the algorithm.
More features may also be delusional. When your product does a bunch of things, you feel more confident about it. So, a ton of features tend to blur your understanding of the main problem.
But the truth is: your first customers will care more about an effective product than a holistic one. They have a huge migraine, and they want a pill to kill it. Giving them something that marginally relieves their pain, but is easy to swallow won’t make them crazy about it.
Finally, including more features will impact your startup’s runway—the time your startup can survive with its current cash.
So, every time you decide to add a non-essential feature to your MVP, you’re reducing the amount of cash to be used in essential tasks such as iterations or pivots.
The fewer iterations or pivots you can do, the higher your chances of failing.
P.S.: easily plan the cash of your early-stage startup by checking this post and downloading my free model.
Escape The Trap By Focusing On The Core Problem
So, it’s not about the number of features you include in your MVP, but the impact you’re trying to produce with them.
The secret is to focus your creation/decision process on solving the main problem.
Hence, every time you think about a new feature, ask yourself whether it’ll radically boost the core value proposition of your product or not. If not, postpone it (unless the lack of it prevents customers from using the core features).
For instance, if your product focuses on saving your customer’s time, each feature you include should produce significant value in that sense.
It’s the famous difference between the “must-have” vs. the “nice-to-have” features.
So, for the next features of your MVP, consider how they contribute to increasing your solution’s effectiveness in solving the core problem.
P.S.: In order to identify what the core problem is, I recommend you do customer interviews. Check these posts: