A minimum viable product (MVP) paves the way for the successful creation of many software products. An MVP lets you gauge the demand and test your idea without the risk of sinking significant resources into full development.
Let’s take a closer look at how to build an MVP that will help you launch your application.What Is an MVP?
An MVP is a version of your product, but with features pared down to reasonably minimal complexity, just enough to get initial customer feedback on which further development will depend. An MVP lets you validate your idea and tweak it so that it responds to the needs of your target audience as accurately as possible.
Remember, a well-developed MVP can’t be a buggy mess thrown together at the last possible instance—it should be a complete, usable piece of software. Think of it as a small apple tree (MVP) that you nurture and care for. In time, it gets better and bigger and yields crops that you can easily sell later.
A small and underdeveloped tree, on the other hand, will hardly bear sellable fruit. It’s the same with an MVP. You need to always aim for quality and functionality.
Building an MVP has multiple perks.
If you have limited resources for a full-fledged version of your product, creating an MVP can help your idea gain traction necessary to attract potential investors. Keep in mind, however, that it can be a double-edged sword—if your MVP is of poor quality, it might be tough to convince backers to part with their money.
Upon the release of your MVP, initial user feedback and interest will help you determine if your future product will raise enough steam to drive sales. You can then use the feedback to avoid pursuing wrong developmental avenues.
You improve what works and drop what doesn’t.
Before you dive headlong into the development of your product and commit all your resources to the project, an MVP lets you make a results-backed decision on the future profitability of your offer.
But the process of developing an MVP is pretty much the same as for any other piece of software—the difference is the number of features and their complexity. That’s where the reduction in cost lies and the relatively short time-to-market.
Because an MVP is essentially groundwork for the end product, scaling up on top of this foundation brings down development time.
With an MVP out there, you can start expanding your target audience with early adopters who will also help further promote your application.
Theoretically, you don’t need an MVP to launch your product. But if you risk all resources on building a product with a complete set of features that later bombs on the market, the losses will be much greater than if you were to ease in with an MVP.
The rule of thumb is, if you have something new to offer via your product, an MVP is necessary because it will help you check if the idea takes off. When there’s little to no competition to your product, there’s really no other way to validate the product’s business offer other than through an MVP.
An MVP can take many forms. For example, Dropbox used an explanatory video showcasing what problem the software is intended to solve and how. The product video went viral among early adopters.
DropBox’s demo. Source: YouTube
As per the Lean Startup framework, an MVP tests the business proposition of a product. So regardless of its form, it needs to be able to test the business value.
Read more on the differences between proof of concept, prototype, and MVP.
An MVP should include only the high-priority features. But the product itself should be complete, meaning no low-quality graphics, glitchy UI, or functionality crashes. I can’t stress this enough, but sometimes it happens that, so caught up in moving quickly, product owners release an unfinished application, which is a sure way to turn potential customers away, even if the idea is great.
A good MVP needs to strike the perfect balance between:
Building an MVP can generally be broken down into four steps.
This is crucial in the journey toward building a successful MVP. So your first step is to make sure your product solves a real problem that plagues your potential customers. Many times startups fail because even though their idea is brilliant, it doesn’t solve a problem that demands attention.
Start by asking around what are the existing solutions to the problem your future product will be addressing. There are many ways to go about it: during networking, on LinkedIn, via simple online search. Be creative here.
Then analyze your target audience in relation to your product:
Read our post on how to find a product/market fit for detailed information on figuring out your target audience.
Assessing the market for competition will help you check how others approach solving the problem your product addresses, and maybe reveal areas where your offer can outperform others.
Checking the competition will also take care of some of the idea validation processes—if your competition is doing something you want your app to do, you’ll know the idea works. This will eliminate the need to validate the technical aspect of your assumption, hence no reason to build a proof of concept first.
If there’s no direct competition for your product, it can either mean your idea is innovative and can take the market by storm or that there’s no demand for the product. That’s why evaluating your idea and narrowing your target audience is so important.
How to assess your competition?
User flow is simply how your customers will achieve what they want via your app. For example, your app calculates a possible time in a marathon based on predefined user values. Split what’s necessary for the user to achieve the result into simple steps. The user opens the app -> inputs their values -> gets the result and optional training plans.
Next, you can start listing out the features of your MVP. Start with those most important, which means most closely connected to solving your customers’ problems—when figuring them out, try to take your customers’ perspective.
Now pick the one that directly addresses that problem. This is the foundation of your MVP. The remaining features will be incorporated in future iterations.
Note: You can also write down most features that come to your mind and tie them in with the user flow. But it’s not a necessity, as more features, especially the ancillary ones, will surface after you get feedback from early adopters.
The whole point of an MVP is to build a basic version of your product, measure how it fares on the market and among early adopters, and improve the product based on user feedback. You then do it again and again in a loop, building a better and more valuable product with every iteration.
Once the MVP is released, all data it generates is golden—make friends with data analytics.
Usage and traffic data will reveal your customers’ behaviours, demographics, and usability issues. Once you start filling your product with features, leveraging that information will help you make accurate, data-backed decisions.
With Seat Unique, our objective was to release an MVP in the shortest time possible. Then, based on feedback and data, we iterated B2B features, helping the platform garner an increasing number of users.
Data can also help you monitor UX changes and check the viability of monetization strategies.
If the feedback and data you’re receiving suggest there’s little interest in your product or the interest tapers off after users get familiar with your app, you need to prepare for some radical changes.
The pivot step requires you to reorganize the core of the MVP. There might be a need to repeat the development process from the start to offer the users the value the first MVP lacked.
While you can significantly decrease the need for a pivot by performing due diligence as outlined above, the risk is ingrained in startup development. To decrease the costs of pivot-related changes, make sure you’re developing the MVP in a technology that allows for rapid and agile changes.
When building an MVP, it’s paramount to think of it as a learning process—you release your MVP to learn more and more about the target audience to be able to serve it better with time and subsequent releases of your product.
Confidently build your MVP
Work with experts who will push hard to understand your business and meet certain deadlines.