Fri, Sep 1 2023~7min

The Seven Deadly Sins of MVPs: Mistakes I've Made So You Don't Have To

Hey there, my friend!

So, you know that buzz that hits you when a fresh idea strikes?

I know it all too well.

My ritual? Every time an idea popped into my head, I’d dive straight into the deep end. Coding away frantically, hunting for that perfect domain (because, surely, it needs to sound cool, right?), and quite often, I would end up building solutions looking for problems. 

Passion, while beautiful, sometimes makes us skip a few beats. 

Let’s talk about what we can learn from this approach and some things you’d want to steer clear of when building your MVP.

What usually happens (The Problem):

You’re hit by an idea. A BIG one. This is THE ONE!

Like a caffeine jolt in the middle of a slow afternoon, you’re pumped up and ready to conquer. “Wait ‘till the cool kids on Twitter see this!”. And before you know it, you’re several hours deep, days or even weeks, and the world around you becomes a blur. 

“Who needs sleep, right?”, my 20 years young self would preach.

The problem? More often than not, we become so wrapped up in the allure of creation that we don’t pause to think if we should even be building it.

It’s like baking a cake without checking if you have all the ingredients, or even someone to eat the whole damn cake (other than yourself).

Been there, done that. 

And I can’t help but wonder: how many pet projects are gathering digital dust out there, never having seen the light of day?

The Underlying Issues (The Motivation & Antimotivation):

Passion and excitement are beautiful things.

A dynamic duo that’s often at the core of our most creative endeavours. They give us the drive and the energy to go beyond our limits.

But they’re also treacherous if left unchecked. 

Picture yourself wearing horse blinders. You’re tunnelled into your own world, sprinting ahead so fast that you fail to notice the cliffs or the detours. 

You’re so narrowly focused on your project that you miss the big picture.

The thrill of the chase. The love of building.

But these can overshadow the very foundational questions: 

- “Who am I building this for?” 

- “Is this solving an actual problem?” 

- “Am I just flexing my creative muscles for the sake of it?”

Trust me, I’ve found myself on this treadmill more times than I’d like to admit; often driven by the sheer joy of creation rather than genuine market need.

The Guiding Light: 7 Pitfalls to Sidestep (The Solution):

1. Shooting Before Aiming (Lack of market research):

If you’re a maker like me, the building phase is what triggers the most excitement in you. Even though it can be challenging, the technical part is our most comfortable place.

It’s coming from our inner Technician role. 

Nonetheless, if what you’re building is aimed to serve other people, you need to understand their problems and needs.

As much as it is uncomfortable, it’s fundamental to interact with your target market to build a product that people use and love.

Jumping straight into building without proper market research is like throwing darts blindfolded.

Sure, you might hit something, but chances are it won’t be the bullseye. 

The dream might be big, but without a grounded understanding of the target market, that dream can quickly dissipate.

Always, always start with understanding who you’re serving and what they really want.

2. Kitchen Sink Syndrome (Overcomplicating the Product)

I often fall into this trap and I know every other creator, maker or founder does it, especially in the beginning.

I once worked with a startup in its very early stages. We were building their platform from scratch, the inception phase. There was a 3-4 month roadmap for the MVP, a clear feature set and the iteration plan after the initial launch. 

Everything was set and I started building it.

One year later, the founders were still juggling with features, adding new ones & removing old ones (that frustrated me the most), with no active users whatsoever. 

I learnt that this has more depth to it than what we think. 

It’s fear.

I experience it too.

In the quest for perfection, it’s easy to lose sight of the MVP’s primary purpose: validate a core concept with minimal features.

Don’t make everything and the kitchen sink.

Pare it down. 

Keep your MVP lean and mean, focusing on the core problems you’re trying to solve.

3. Flying Blind (Not Defining Clear Goals and Metrics):

Picture this: you’re on a road trip, wind in your hair, favourite tunes blasting from the speakers. You’re feeling that kind of zest that makes your spirit soar. Complete freedom. 

Poof… Where the heck are you going? 

An aimless journey can be fun and sometimes quite transformative, but when it comes to product building, it’s a recipe for failure.

In the digital realm, this absence of direction can yield an MVP that’s, well, not so viable.

You end up piling on features, adding bells and whistles, with no real sense of purpose. It’s like hosting a party without sending invites; you’ve got the venue and the snacks, but who are they for?

Don’t skip planning ahead.

Having goals and metrics isn’t about curbing your creativity; it’s about focusing it.

This ensures your project won’t be just another aimless endeavour.

4. Playing Deaf (Neglecting User Feedback):

Think of your MVP as a market probe. 

You’re sending it out into the wild to gather intel. 

So when it comes back chock-full of user feedback, that’s not noise - it’s music. 

Don’t tune out what could be a symphony of insights. 

Make sure you have ways to collect feedback as soon as you ship the first iteration.

5. The Tortoise Trap (Not Prioritizing Speed):

Sure, the tortoise won the race in all our childhood cartoons, but let’s be real: the startup world isn’t a fable.

Speed is of the essence and hesitation comes with a price.

In search of perfection, it’s easy to get stuck in the development phase. 

But a perfect product that arrives late to the party is often less valuable than an imperfect one that showed up on time and mingled. 

The real world is your ultimate testing ground. It’s where theories meet reality, and where you can collect actual data.

Strive for a great product, but don’t get so bogged down in the details that you miss your window of opportunity.

Launch. Learn. Refine.

This cycle is your rapid route to a product that not only meets market needs but anticipates them.

6. The Glass Ceiling (Ignoring Scalability): 

I worked with a healthcare startup from mid-2021 to late 2022 to help them build the next version of their APIs, from scratch. The reason, the MVP they rushed out in 2020 had scalability issues.

While your MVP should be a stripped-down version of your vision, it shouldn’t cut corners on scalability.

Think of it as a one-room house with plans for an easy extension. It might be small now, but it should be built in a way that you can add more rooms later.

Build for the few now, but plan for the many later.

7. The Pretty Yet Pointless Trap (Not Investing in UX/UI):

Ever clicked away from a site because you couldn’t find what you were looking for? That’s not bad UX, that’s a missed opportunity. 

Good UX/UI isn’t just a coat of paint; it’s the brain, the heart, the guiding hand.

It shouts, “I’ve got you”, so the user doesn’t have to squint and second-guess. What your user’s thinking is actually “Don’t make me think”. 

Your users should feel like they already know how to use your product - the first time they interact with it.

Intuition is key.

Think of it this way: if your product’s a song, its UX/UI is the rhythm. 

Without it, it’s just noise. 


So there it is - the seven cardinal sins of MVPs, laid out, dissected, and hopefully demystified. 

Crafting an MVP is a delicate dance of ambition, strategy and adaptability. 

Recognizing and avoiding these 7 sins can pave a smoother path that leads you to a successful MVP.

If there’s one thing to remember is this: the MVP is not the destination - it’s the journey, and it’s all about learning, iterating, and refining as you go.