Building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) II

Episode 38 - 01 Jun 1985

Wood has been cut, glued and screwed. The spray gun has made and appearance. Hardware has been fitted.

The big question is, have we learned anything useful about software development?

It's time for the BIG REVEAL!

Wood has has been cut, glued and screwed.

The spay gun has made an appearance.

Hardware has been fitted.

It's time to reveal the "MDF MVP"

Hi this is Gary.

Welcome to Development That Pays

And welcome back to the the second part of the Minimum Viable Product build.

If you missed Part 1, you should find a link on or around this video.

I don't think I need to say it, but the point of the exercise was not to encourage you to take up carpentry.

No, the point of the exercise was to, hopefully, uncover something useful about the process of creating an MVP.

Something that would be just applicable in my "day job": software engineering.

I did learn.

In ways that surprised me.

My experience of Step 6 - the final build of my MVP - was especially... weird.

Step 1

This was the 'back of a fag packet' level of design.

Compare this with other things I'd done in SketchUp,

and you'll see that I was holding back, trying to me "minimal"

Step 2

Again, so minimal by my standards.

I even went as far as missing out one of the shelves!

In terms of viable...

I knew the printer would fit - I'd taken the dimensions directly from SketchUp

But there was an 'unknown unknown'

(I'm sure you spotted it. But I didn't)

The damn paper feed!

In the language of software development: the prototype passed the "unit tests" of:

  • wide enough
  • high enough
  • deep enough.

But it failed the 'behavioural tests' of

  • "as a user, I must be able to load A4 paper"
  • "as a user, I must be able to print on A4 paper... and catch the paper as it comes out of the printer"

Step 3

I thought long and hard about how get around the paper problem...

... but I wasn't happy with any of them.

So it was out with the old (printer) and in with the new.

Think that's what the Lean community would refer to as a 'pivot'.

Step 4

This second prototype served a couple of purposes:

  • match dimensions of the new printer
  • extend the "prototyping" to include the wheels (which I did with four sticks of wood!)
  • And to check the overall height, to make sure it would fit under the table.

These were all about ensuring that the thing would be viable.

I also uncovered another "unknown unknown": the difficulty in seeing the printer's display panel.

Step 5

Spet 5 took me back to SketchUp for the final time.

Although the eagle eyed among you may have spotted that I snuck in an extra shelf. What can I say. It's not easy for me to me "Minimal"

At this point you might be thinking: 'Hold on a second, this is just prototyping?'

Yeah. I had that thought too.

I think we're okay: the ideas of 'minimal' and 'viable', I really took them to heart.

They became my 'prime directives'; I was much more focussed than usual on creating something that would be viable. And I tried (not always successfully) not to embellish.

So, yes, it's prototyping.

But it's been prototyping for an MVP, rather than for a PRODUCT,

And the two feel different.

Talking of feeling different. Time to Step 6.

Step 6

Okay. This was weird.

I've built a lot of stuff.

But this build, it was different.

It FELT different.

I once heard someone talk about operating as if you have 'one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake'.

That's how it usually feels when I'm building something.

Guess is because I'm building...

and designing...

and wondering-if-I'm-building-thing-right-thing the whole time.

Not this time.

I just got on and built it.

Just like that.

Forward gear all the way.

I suppose with a couple of prototypes behind me - and 'just' an MVP in front of me (rather than an must-be-completely-perfect-final-product) - means there's really nothing left to worry about.

It's an incredibly satisfying mode to get in to.

The Reveal

it's time for the big reveal.


It 'works' for me:

  • My disk drives are hidden away and protected.
  • The printer is fairly easy to use.
  • The grab-handle was a nice touch. It makes opening easy. But its real purpose is to give a better view of the display

And my key client - my wife, Sheila - likes it too:

  • the printer is hidden
  • The disk drives are hidden
  • Before there were nine cables in plain sight. Now there's just one.

She didn't say the word, but I know what she meant: