Minimum Viable Experience

30 Dec
December 30, 2012

We talk a lot in product development about the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – a product with a minimum set of features that allows people to familarise themselves with it, provide feedback, and a platform to iterate on. The important part of it is that the MVP is at such a point that people will continue to use it. It’s about the value it provides.

It’s important that we don’t limit this kind of minimum viability thinking to just products. We need to apply it to experiences as well.

Let me give you an example.


My son is mad for Lego. We got so much of it for Christmas we are still putting it all together.

So imagine his excitement when we discovered a coffee shop in Lygon St Melbourne that was adorned with Lego branding in the front window. Is it possible that I could have a coffee while he built? Sounded awesome!

So we parked the car and headed on in. Quickly, it became fairly obvious that not all was what it seemed from the front door. What we had instead appeared to be a shop that sold Lego that you could also buy a coffee at.

Lining the walls were a selection of the smaller Lego sets, scaling right up to the massive Star Wars branded fighters and Death Star models.

Not an open set in sight (unless they were already put together and on display). No Lego dimpled table tops for the kids to build on. No high chairs for smaller kids. Just more and more Lego to buy. And a coffee machine.

Now, being that what you can see from the outside is a Lego sign, tables with sugar on them and the coffee machine, any normal adult would assume that this is a cafe where kids can play with Lego. To consider it a retail store to buy the product in, but you can also get a coffee at just seems at odds with each other.

The Minimum Viable Experience

When we asked about sets to play with and high chairs, they said they had neither, but that they were great ideas that they would get to eventually.

Eventually. The problem with eventually, as opposed to a definitive timeframe, is that now that I know what the experience is, I won’t be back.

When considering the minimum viable experience, consider what people might perceive that experience to be. Does what you are offering live up to that?

If it’s not 100% where you want it to be, when will it get there?

It’s important that your vision for the future is obvious when it comes to the experience you want people to have, for you and for your customers. You need to keep them on the journey while you fine tune it. If they are not, then they abandon you before the vision can become reality.

Photo – Jez Page

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  • Raz Chorev

    Ben, it’s a great topic for discussion. But I think it was the misleading of the front window that caused your confusion (expectation mismanagement on the shop owner side), and not the shop concept. 
    I haven’t been to that particular shop, but I’ve seen many retail outlets with a coffee machine. In many cases, there isn’t a proper barista in sight, and one of the shop attendants may be willing to make you a coffee, if you repeatedly ask for it.
    I have had also had some experience with a local coffee shop in Sydney (closed shortly after opening), which offered a “kids corner”,  with Lego, and other games for kids of all ages.. the owner of the shop didn’t like kids, and demanded that the parents will tidy up after their kids, and put things away… 
    Again, it was a case of expectation mismanagement – the parents took their kids with to have some “time off”, but didn’t actually get it. AND to top it all, it was the most expensive coffee in the area, to pay for “incidentals”.

    • @Raz Chorev Good point Raz, my expectation of the experience was set from the front window (although that said, I’m still disappointed with the concept), but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. The expectation of what you get when you walk in was mismanaged.
      Thanks for reading!