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Wizard of OZ MVP

/ˈwɪzəd ɒv ɒz ɛm-viː-piː/

A customer validation technique, one of high-fidelity types of MVPs, whereby the product team builds an illusion of a product but with key functionality carried out by a human (or 3rd party service), in order to validate it with real customers at low-cost and high velocity. Use it for testing a specific solution hypothesis by simulating the user experience of the actual intended product as accurately as possible, but accept that the customers will be faced with a slight time delay since a human cannot react as fast as a computer.

Such an approach to MVP development is easier and cheaper to implement and helps to achieve the very goal of MVP — to collect customer feedback and verify that the customers are willing to pay for your product.

Key reservation to such approach is that:

a) there might be a chance that this function will not be automated or implemented properly

b) that the final technological solution will deviate from the tested one

c) that you will need people to do the job manually.

Considering many product development estimations are greatly underestimated, however, this is typically still a more cost-effective approach that speeds up the learning process.

Classic examples of Wizard of OZ MVPs are:

a) Zappos, who simulated online shoe store by manually purchasing shoes from nearby shops

b) Aardvark, who simulated the matching mechanism - to connect people with questions to people with expertise - by using interns

c) Cardmunch, who used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to simulate transcriptions of business cards into a readable digital format.