In the world of software development, MVP doesn’t mean Most Valuable Player, but rather Minimum Viable Product. It is a critical concept for startups, entrepreneurs, and even established companies seeking innovation.
There are inherent risks in developing a product. What if your product fails to resonate with the audience? Your resources, time, and financial investment will be lost, sometimes taking years to recoup if things go awry.
This is where Minimum Viable Product development comes in. It serves as a valuable tool for cautiously testing the waters before diving headfirst into the vast realm of digital product development. Many startups adopt this approach to gather early feedback on their product before fully committing to development. Employing an MVP enhances the probability of your startup discovering a product-market fit while expediting the product development timeline.
In this blog post, we will explore the concept of an MVP, some examples, and offer a step-by-step guide on effectively creating one.
What is Minimum Viable Product (MVP) development?
An MVP is a product with the absolute core features it needs to attract early customers who can validate the idea and provide real feedback. This feedback is crucial for the future of the project. An MVP is not about creating a product from the get-go; instead, it is about building the simplest version that solves a specific problem or fulfills a core need. It is all about early validation and learning.
The term was popularized by Eric Ries, founder of the Lean Startup methodology, which is a systematic approach to developing and launching new products or businesses with a strong focus on efficiency, experimentation, and customer feedback. On his website, he explains:
“The Lean Startup provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups and get a desired product to customers’ hands faster.
Too many startups begin with an idea for a product that they think people want. They then spend months, sometimes years, perfecting that product without ever showing the product, even in a very rudimentary form, to the prospective customer. When they fail to reach broad uptake from customers, it is often because they never spoke to prospective customers and determined whether or not the product was interesting. When customers ultimately communicate, through their indifference, that they don’t care about the idea, the startup fails.
A core component of Lean Startup methodology is the build-measure-learn feedback loop. The first step is figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product (MVP) to begin the process of learning as quickly as possible. Once the MVP is established, a startup can work on tuning the engine.”
A startup can make two types of decisions based on what it learns from the MVP:
Pivot: When the data indicates that the current strategy isn’t yielding favorable results or there’s a better opportunity, the startup can change its direction.
Persevere: When the data reflects positive user engagement and market potential, the startup can continue to refine and expand the product.
In essence, the Lean Startup methodology promotes a scientific and customer-centric approach to entrepreneurship. It encourages the elimination of inefficiencies in the product development process by avoiding the creation of features or products that customers simply do not want or need. By leveraging an MVP and learning from genuine user interactions, startups can mitigate risks, make well-informed choices, and enhance their opportunity of establishing a prosperous and sustainable business.
The key elements of an MVP include:
- Core features: Include only the essential features that address the primary pain points or needs of your target audience.
- Basic functionality: Ensure that the product works as intended, even if it lacks advanced features or refinements.
- Fast development: Focus on rapid development to get your product launched as quickly as possible.
- Learning and iteration: Use the MVP as a learning tool, gathering user feedback and insights to make informed decisions for future development.
Apps that had humble beginnings
Have you ever used a
buggy beta version of an app that later turned into something amazing? Chances are it was an MVP. Here are three popular apps that started out as MVPs:
Facebook, a globally recognized success story (thanks in part to the film), initially began as a web directory of photos and names of college students. After its initial success, it expanded to all universities in North America by 2004 and became available to users worldwide in September 2006.
Even in its MVP phase, Facebook already possessed the fundamental features that would transform it into a worldwide social media phenomenon: user profiles and groups. Remarkably, these features, along with its iconic blue color scheme, continue to define the Facebook experience today.
Amazon.com, now one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms, had its humble beginnings as an MVP focused solely on selling books online. Jeff Bezos embarked on this entrepreneurial journey with a minimalist approach, quitting his job and operating out of his garage. He personally purchased books from a local store and made trips to the post office to fulfill orders for early customers. This approach (often referred to as the ‘Wizard of Oz’ approach) involves temporary manual operation of the backend that users are unaware of. Within months, Amazon gained popularity, and just two years later, it became a publicly traded company. Today, it stands as a retail behemoth with a staggering market capitalisation of $1.448 trillion.
Right from the outset, Amazon emphasized customer satisfaction, introducing innovative features such as customer reviews and product recommendations, which played a pivotal role in its expansion beyond books.
Uber, the renowned ride-hailing and transportation company, started as an MVP with the name UberCab. The idea came to the founders when they had trouble finding a taxi in Paris. To validate their idea, UberCab was launched as a limited pilot program, available only to a select group of users and operating with a small pool of drivers and vehicles.
Uber is the quintessential example of a single-feature MVP. Although simple, the Uber MVP allowed the founders to validate their idea and, building on this foundation, they eventually introduced additional features such as fare estimation and in-app ride tracking.
As you can see, MVPs come from any platform or methodology. Entrepreneurs can use whatever resources are available to them, as long as the MVP principles are adhered to.
Why build an MVP?
Taking your concept from ideation to reality, even in a scaled-down version, serves as an effective means to assess the market, gather early feedback, initiate revenue generation, or pique investor interest. Consider MVP app development as the sweet spot between return on investment (ROI) and risk reduction, offering numerous advantages:
Developing a fully-fledged product demands substantial time and financial resources, often spanning years and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Such an investment is not feasible for everyone, and an unsuccessful idea can lead to significant losses.
In contrast, an MVP can be launched much more swiftly, often within a few weeks, and at a fraction of the cost required for a full-scale product. By developing a simplified version, you minimize both the financial commitment and time expenditure, thereby reducing risk. If the MVP proves successful, it becomes a foundation for further product development. If not, the loss is minimal. It is a win-win situation.
Imagine devoting an entire year to building an app, only to discover that it doesn’t align with user preferences. The impact could be devastating. On the other hand, dedicating a month to crafting an MVP and discovering a lack of demand poses considerably smaller losses. Since you haven’t heavily invested in its development, you can iteratively improve it before final release.
Compared to a full-scale project, MVP development is more cost-effective, making it an ideal approach for startups and small businesses. Testing an MVP is notably simpler than testing a fully-fledged app, offering a golden opportunity to evaluate your concept in a real market, gain insight into market demand and understand user behavior.
In the early stages of an app, users are not very concerned about the perks it offers. They want a simple solution to their problems. With an MVP, you can lay the groundwork for an app that focuses on end-user needs.
Then, based on the feedback you get on the MVP, you can enhance it by adding perks and features to make it attractive. It is a smart move because making changes to an MVP requires fewer resources than overhauling a large, complex app. Early user feedback helps you identify and address issues, resulting in a better final product.
Faster time to market
You should consider an MVP if you are in a hurry to launch. The less time it takes to build a product, the sooner you can get it to market and start attracting customers. MVPs can be developed relatively fast, so you can get your idea to market as quickly as possible to stay ahead of the competition.
Transforming your idea into reality is an impressive way to attract investors and receive funding. An idea alone has relatively no value. To attract investors, you also need to showcase that customers are willing to pay for it.
An MVP is the best way to demonstrate the brilliance of your idea and the market demand for it. With an MVP, investors can see your product in action, making it easier to convince them that your product will be a success.
How to build a Minimum Viable Product
Now that we understand what an MVP is and have seen some examples, let’s look at how to create one.
Step 1. Define your idea and audience
Start by defining your idea and identifying your target audience. What problem does your product solve and who will benefit? Conduct surveys or focus groups to better understand the needs of your target audience. Look at what the competitor is doing. Use all of this data to your advantage and set clear objectives to guide the development of your MVP – aim to create something that is equal parts learnable, feasible and usable.
Also consider writing a value proposition statement, which is a concise statement that communicates the value of your product. You can then center the development of your MVP around this core concept.
This is one of the most important steps, but we know how hard it can be to get your idea down on paper!
Chat to us if you need expert assistance.
Step 2. Identify core features
Determine the absolute minimum features required to deliver value to your users. Forget the fluff and focus on fundamentals. Make a list of must-have and nice-to-have features, then narrow down the features that are absolutely essential for your MVP and prioritize development of those features.
This step includes product specifications based on your idea, as well as market research to identify key pain points, and determine the critical components that will differentiate your MVP from the competition.
Step 3. Develop the MVP
Choose your tools and the approach for your MVP. The tools you use to develop an MVP will depend on the problem and what you’re comfortable with. Use whatever technologies you think are best for the job, and consider rapid development frameworks and methodologies like Agile or Scrum, to create your product’s functionality and design.
Step 4. Launch and gather feedback
Once your MVP is functional, release it to a select group of users. Try to drum up as much interaction as possible. The more users you have, the more data you collect, the more you can improve your idea.
Step 5. Iterate, improve and repeat
Analyze all feedback, paying attention to pain points, suggestions, and any issues that arise. Use the feedback to iterate on your MVP. Address the identified problems, refine the user experience, and add new features based on user needs.
Continue this cycle of testing, gathering feedback, and improving your MVP until you reach a point where you’re confident in its market viability. Your product will evolve to the point where it addresses your clients’ pain points better than anything else on the market.
Minimum Viable Product development is a strategic approach to product development that allows you to validate your business idea with minimal risk. By focusing on the essentials, testing in a real market, and iterating based on user feedback, you can refine your product and set yourself up for success in the competitive market. Remember, it is not about being perfect from the start; it is about taking the first step towards innovation.
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