Minimum Viable Product: An MVP from MDF!

Episode 37 - 25 May 2016

In the last couple of episodes, we've been looking at Minimum Viable Products. (Also known as MVPs.)

In this episode, I'm going to attempt to make one.

Out of MDF.


Wood. Check.

Saw. Check.

Drill. Check.

Glue. Check.

Let's build a Minimum Viable Product!

In the last couple of episodes, we've been looking at Minimum Viable Products.

Today I'm going to attempt to make one. Out of MDF.

Peripheral Proliferation

This is my iMac. I love this machine.

It's a pleasure to use.

But the REAL reason I love it, is that it's the first computer that's pretty enough to be allowed into the kitchen.

It looks good.

At least it did when it first arrived.

Then we added a printer.

Then an external drive. Then an another external drive.

And with them came lots and lots of wires.

My wife, Sheila, has a word for this peripheral proliferation: unacceptable.

The brief

The challenge, then, is to hide all the guff... without too much impact on the usability of the printer.

I can feel an MVP coming on!

Eric Ries - author of The Lean Startup has a good definition of MVP:

"[the] version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort."

The operative words here are: "Validated learning" and "Least effort".

Neither of these are natural for me: I'm more of a zero research, over-engineered kind of guy.

This is going to be... challenging.

My first port of call: SketchUp.

Do you know SketchUp? I really like it.

But I have to be careful not to get carried away and go too far with the design.

It's important to be... minimal.

Here's a printer and two drives.

Think the printer will go on top with the drives underneath.

Going to make a shelf big enough of the printer.

Plus a bit of extra space around the edge.

Move it into place.

And copy it.


And nothing. I have the basic measurements I need to build something.

A here it is.

Question: is this a Minimum Viable Product?

It's minimal, certainly.

But as we've talked about previously, it's the customer that decides what's viable.

The customer - that's Sheila - wasted no time in letting me know that this was NOT viable.

Not even close.

Let's call it a prototype.

Printer fits. Excellent.

Better just check that everything is useable.

Pop a spot of paper in the printer.

Ah. That's vexing.

Hadn't thought of that.

Either I'm gong to have to make the cabinet much taller...


.... get a new printer!

Never liked that old printer anyway :)

This one's about the same size, but it has paper tray. Perfect.


This is annoying.

Didn't spot that bit before I bought it.

Tried to remove the out-feed thing without success.

I'm going to have to change the design to accommodate it.

Glad I didn't lavish too much love an attention on the first prototype: it's really been sliced and diced.

It's morphed into something... really ugly.

If anything, it's less viable than it was before.

The new printer fits. Excellent.

We'll need a flap on the front.

Another issue I hadn't foreseen: the new printer has screen. And the screen is hard to see. I'll need to have a head-scratch about that.

Back to SketchUp.

This is more or less a cleaned-up version of Prototype II.

The drop-down flap is more work than I'd hoped for, annoyingly. But I'll save some time by having this lower panel fixed.

Access to the drives - and the inevitable (wiring) spaghetti - will be from the back.

Think at last I'm ready to build an MVP!

Join me next time to see how it turns out.