Early in the modest tweetstorm caused by last Friday’s post, I saw this tweet by @JEGrant3:
— John E. Grant (@JEGrant3) April 8, 2016
I was mystified. “MVP”? WTF?
A minimum viable product has just those core features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. The product is typically deployed to a subset of possible customers, such as early adopters that are thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information. It is a strategy targeted at avoiding building products that customers do not want, that seeks to maximize the information learned about the customer per dollar spent.
So John’s notion—although he mentioned to me that he was to some extent playing devil’s advocate—is that it was legitimate for Avvo to lauch Avvo Legal Forms with rudimentary product. Why delay launch by striving for something more comprehensive, particularly as users can be counted on to offer feedback? If busybodies like me chime in, so much the better!
This idea has since been bandied about on Twitter, with people chiming in for and against. I’m an utter stranger to lean startup, but for several reasons Avvo Legal Forms doesn’t seem to qualify as an example of MVP:
First, there’s nothing to suggest that Avvo regards the templates in Avvo Legal Forms as works in progress.
Second, the issue with Avvo Legal Forms isn’t whether the idea of legal forms is viable, or what features to add. Instead, it’s a matter of quality control, and what’s in order is a fresh start.
Third, you can expect users to point out mistakes and other shortcomings in a template, with the level of input depending on how sophisticated the users are. But Avvo Legal Forms is intended for consumers—it would be rash to expect them to drive post-launch development of Avvo’s templates.
Fourth, even if Avvo had intended to finalize Avvo Legal Forms after launch, they couldn’t have predicted that I’d show up on the scene. So it would be outlandish to imagine my input forming part of planned product development.
And fifth, I offered comments on only one template. And I only scratched the surface of substance and had essentially nothing specific to say about the language used. You can’t go far with that.
So discussing MVP has made for interesting tweeting, but I suggest that it doesn’t actually have any bearing on my comments about Avvo Legal Forms.
A variant on MVP might be a company’s launching a product with some bugs, with the idea that further delay would be more costly than customer griping. There’s nothing to suggest that that’s what happened with Avvo Legal Forms, and intentionally inflicting suboptimal legal forms on consumers wouldn’t be a good idea.