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Ask HN: MVP for validating intended customers - what is too far?
2 points by elliottcarlson on Dec 25, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 2 comments
So I understand the reasoning to MVP things - especially getting validation on your idea. I have heard of people accepting credit cards however not storing, nor charging customers but just getting a proof of intent to purchase on their product - thus offering validation on the idea.

Personally I don't agree with this approach - and that's not even approaching the potential legality of it. What does HN think? Where should you draw the line with an MVP when attempting to validate your product?

An MVP is a Minimum Viable Product. Not processing an order is not viable and there's no product. The line for the Minimum Viable Product is drawn exactly at the point where customers pay for it and receive their product. It's completely market-driven and depends on the industry.

Testing interest with fake sites is wasting people's time and I don't think it's ethical. Plus, it doesn't collect very much information. To gauge interest, it's better to give something in exchange for something from them. You give me an e-mail address, I'll tell you when you can sign up (early!) You pre-order for $5 and you'll be one of the first to receive, etc. (or in the case of crowdfunding, which is a great way to test interest, you'll get the product and help make it possible.) You spread my link on Twitter, I'll bump you up in the beta queue.

The only fake credit-card acceptance I don't mind is to respond to a click to purchase before they've entered information with "sorry, this isn't available to purchase." It's honest, it doesn't waste the visitor's time and it provides a bit of information. It's still better to collect an e-mail address in exchange for useful updates, though.

I always thought of the MVP as the most stripped down version of what you are trying to build that people are willing to pay for or use. I wouldn't confuse it with a landing page with a signup form.

Let's say I'm building an app that will make web design so easy all you have to do is scan a handwritten page and it generates a complete website. You can even sketch out crude design ideas and it will translate them into CSS. Fold the paper in half and scan it and it'll make a mobile site.

Well that's going to take some doing, so before I get too deep into it, I want to test the waters. I'll start with just the basics. Scan a stack of typewritten pages, and I'll generate a WordPress XML file with one post per scanned page. That's my MVP, because I think that's good enough for someone to pay $5 for. I don't feel bad about taking payments because people are getting something for their money. If I get a big response, I'll have the confidence to move forward, and a pool of users requesting features. If all I hear are crickets, well that's useful too.

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