Strategies for Testing a Minimal Viable Product
Creating a Minimal Viable Product gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to test a product idea and assess the validity or invalidity of their business plan. The heart of the Lean Startup methodology, an MVP, is little more than a rough draft, an outline sketch of a product. However, an MVP, is, under no circumstances a half-baked product. It is instead a process through which entrepreneurs assess what their customers actually demand in their product versus what they feel that the product should do. Developing an MVP is about answering some rudimentary questions that stem from theoretical inquiry of “Should this product be built?” or “Can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?” and goes on to developing the ‘build-measure-learn’ feedback loop that tests the assumptions regarding the product by putting the rough draft in front of the users. A great number of start-ups favor the MVP approach to software development as they can communicate their product to their target audience, gather feedback fast and iterate the product according to that feedback.
Considering that the focus and aim of a Minimum Viable Product is to remain, well, ‘minimum’, sometimes companies developing such products are unlikely to give too much emphasis to testing. Since MVP’s have a limited objective performing elaborate tests on them seems like a waste of time and resources. However, at the same time, we need to note that in order to gain the validation of the customer the product has to pass from one test level to another. Thus, having a test plan for an MVP too is important.
A basic test plan could comprise both automated and manual tests. We have written in the past, how considering the fact that MVP development does not lend itself to long-term planning, dedicating time and resources to develop a strong test automation strategy seems like a waste. Given that the aim of the MVP is to build the leanest possible feature set to address the core demand of the final product that meets the user criteria the final product might turn out to be quite different from what was initially envisioned. The automated tests that were developed as a part of the test suite thus might be rendered completely useless in the event of these product iterations. So what should an MVP test strategy contain?
Writing elaborate Unit Tests for an MVP may not be required. Since the MVP is open to frequent iterations, validating that each unit of the software designed performs as it should and build the confidence in the written code is not required. However, we also cannot entirely dismiss unit testing for MVP. Running a few Unit Tests once iterations have been made to the code to see if there are some defects that emerge in product functionality and usability owing to the change in code works in favor of the product.
Along with this, it makes sense to conduct some middle-tier tests to ensure that the data is being delivered to the other tiers in the desired format. Since it is not essential to test individual components when developing an MVP, testing the module as a whole to verify the expected outlook and check the usability of the product makes better sense. A quick round of integration testing to verify and validate the end to end functionality of the connected components also helps in delivering a sound, yet basic MVP.
UI testing perhaps is the most important test for an MVP. Since UI tests check how the application works with the user and assesses if all the functionalities of the product are understandable and easy to use. It also assesses if the user can navigate seamlessly through the product without stumbling upon bugs etc. and assess the possibility of errors on various interactions that occur during the product use. Considering that the average user is more concerned about the usability of the product more than its underlying structure, UI testing of MVP becomes all the more important.
Both the developer and the user know that the MVP is a version that has been put out solely for the purpose of market validation. At the same time, you need to put out a relatively ‘sound’ product in front of your target audience to get the feedback that holds value which will eventually lead to the development of an elaborate and dependable product. To make sure that this happens, startups, entrepreneurs and other organizations looking to develop MVP’s have to put some amount of focus on testing. Taking a more global approach to testing and allocating a designated time to do so will only help in developing a product in alignment with the initial vision that might be minimum, but in no way will it be poor.