How to build a minimum viable product (MVP) – A step-by-step guide
What is an MVP – Minimum viable product?
How to build a minimum viable product: An MVP (Minimum viable product) is a basic, launchable version of the product that supports minimal yet must-have features (which define its value proposition). An MVP is created with an intent to enable faster time to market, attract early adopters, and achieve product-market fit from early on.
An MVP, or a minimum viable product, is a seed point of your product. It has a minimum number of vital features that allow you to answer 3 main questions:
- Is there a need for your product?
- Does it solve the problem?
- Is it monetizable?
The term ‘minimum viable product’ itself was coined in 2001. Back then Frank Robinson, CEO at SyncDev along with entrepreneurs Steve Blank and Eric Ries worked on Customer Development and Validation and came up with such a term. MVP is the best description of a potential product that checks how the market reacts to the solution.
The MVP is considered an experiment in the context of validating business hypotheses. Testing the assumptions lets entrepreneurs know whether a business idea would be viable and profitable. It is beneficial for new companies and startups to find out where potential business opportunities exist rather than executing an isolated business model.
The best description of an MVP is probably the words of Michael Seibel, Y Combinator CEO “Hold the problem you’re solving tightly, hold the customer tightly, hold the solution you’re building loosely.”
Once the MVP is launched, initial feedback is awaited. Based on this feedback, the company will reiterate to fix the bugs and introduce new features that those early adopters suggest.
How to build a minimum viable product
Why build MVPs?
As you cannot build a house without laying the foundation, you can’t create a successful product without building an MVP. The purpose of an MVP is to start with a small use case, test it and then decide: whether you need to pivot and move in another direction or develop the idea into a product solution.
MVP Building basic goals, In a nutshell, MVP is mainly focused on:
- Making an early market entry which leads to a competitive advantage
- Testing a Products viability. Need to check whether your concept’s effective but don’t know where to start with? Minimum Viable Product development will be a way to make your ideas real and check their popularity among the customers. To gain this aim, start with making a feature list including there only the basic functionality to integrate. (Enabling early testing of the idea with actual users to check whether the product is able to solve their problems efficiently)
- Spending less money on product development. Being focused on working only with the essential product’s functionality will lead to lowering operational expenditures and saving your budget funds, as a consequence. So, working upon the question “how to develop Minimum Viable Product” is especially actual in case your budget for solution development is limited.
- Working effectively towards developing a fully-fledged product that integrates user feedback and suggestions
- Faster delivery of a product that solves one user’s problem leastwise. Working on MVP creation, your team not only minimizes time and money spending but also strives to develop a solution to customers’ problems (or at least, one of them).
Business Benefits of MVP Product Design
MVP Design is a shield and sword of any application. It can help you both spark the interest of users, or prevent your business from suffering damage. But, let’s get through each MVP advantage one at a time.
Bu building your MVP you can achieve the following advantages:
- Initial customer research
- Cost-effectiveness (Budget-Friendly)
- Possibility to attract investors
- Takes Less Time to Develop an App
- Early Testing Opportunity
Initial customer research
The sooner the product reaches end-users, the faster you will get to obtain and investigate their opinions. This way, you can study the market environment and create your MVP due to the data obtained. It is quite easy to do that because the MVP codebase is little.
On the other hand, it should be mentioned that if people get involved in your project, you will be certainly sure that the created features satisfy users’ needs, and they strive for more product updates. If something is wrong, you can scrap the project for damage reduction without great losses for your business.
Another important advantage of developing an MVP early in the new product development process is that this approach is budget-friendly. Using an MVP allows businesses to test their idea before spending their entire budgets on things that may not work.
Research shows that, in 2017, the mobile app market grew considerably.
Very few apps are actually downloaded out of many available on the play store and iOS store because of issues in their user interface and poor performance. It is advised to create an MVP as it is an easy way to enhance the mobile development strategy.
Possibility to attract investors
Finally, if you look for how to get funding for your startup, you can catch your investors’ interest by MVP. It’s important because the parties concerned don’t have to await the issue for too long.
Takes Less Time to Develop an App
Building MVP can help you prioritize features and functions, necessary for your future product and plan your finances for the building process. Thanks to that, you can draw in the expenses needed to create the full-fledged product, launching it faster than competitors.
Early Testing Opportunity
Another essential benefit of a minimum viable product software is that it lets you test the whole concept of your project. If you launch the app having a lot of different features, it will be much harder to tailor it according to the needs of a particular target audience. Moreover, you will have to get rid of the unnecessary product features you have paid for.
In developing an MVP version, you work just at the small range of features. If these features are well-received by your consumers, you can offer them new ones addressing their preferences. In this case, additional functionality will be implemented without spending many funds as it could be for a full-fledged software.
How To Build An MVP step-by-step
How to build a minimum viable product
The main goal of an MVP is to develop a working product that provides immediate value, quickly, while minimizing costs. Starting with an MVP will allow you to learn more about your end-user and the market you wish to enter as you test your assumptions. An MVP will also set the stage for future iterations of development and clarify the sequential steps to take in the project – whether that’s changing directions entirely, or continuing down your set development path. In some instances, an MVP can also be used to showcase the business potential and win stakeholder buy-in. Whether you’re looking for support from internal or external investors, an MVP definitely strengthens your position, as it proves the merit of your product and secures funding for future development.
Below we outline the steps involved in creating an MVP and discuss in detail what occurs at each stage.
MVP product development doesn’t differ significantly from software product development in general. The steps are more or less the same, but the speed and goals vary.
We’ll guide you through the key stages of the MVP creation process to prepare for the pitfalls.
Define A Problem Statement
First things first, start with identifying the problem you want to solve. You may write it down and, with an MVP, check its feasibility. Validating the idea without development is crucial to saving resources and ensuring that there’s a need for your solution. Being an expert in the industry is an advantage, but you still need to learn if the problem you want to solve exists.
Conduct Market Research
Then it’s time to analyze the market. You need to conduct market research, explore competitors, identify your target audience, and, what’s more, calculate the market size. Running out of money – is a common reason why young startups fail. You should know for sure that people want to spend money on your product and their number is enough to continue.
Get a Clear Idea
To understand how to build an MVP, every business proprietor should analyze their project, replying to the following questions:
- What problems can my platform solve?
- Can it be useful for the end consumer, and how?
- Why would they use this solution?
Map Out User Journey
It is important to design your product with your users in mind. A good way to ensure that your users will have a good experience with the first iteration of your App is by mapping out user journeys. This will allow you to look at your product from the perspective of the user, beginning with opening the app to reaching an end goal, such as making a purchase. This provides insight into how you can design the app in a way that is convenient for users. In addition, defining user flow and addressing the actions users need to take in order to complete an end goal, ensures you don’t miss anything while keeping user satisfaction in mind.
Things To Consider When Creating A User Journey:
- Identify The User
Who will be using your product? It’s possible that you will have more than one category of users. For example, if you have a service appointment booking app, you may have the appointment scheduler (customer) and the service technician.
- Identify The Actions (Jobs)
The jobs are the actions that the user or users need to take in order to reach the story ending and achieve the goal. When planning your MVP, you will likely want to look at which user has the most jobs and focus on that user; however, there may be higher priorities that need to be addressed, so you may need to focus on a different user or even multiple users.
- Identify The Story Endings
For each user, there will be a story ending, which is the goal for the user (i.e. booking an appointment).
Below is an example of how we would lay out a user journey:
Create a Pain And Gain Map
Once you’ve worked out the user flow you will want to create a pain and gain map for each action. The pain and gain map allows you to identify all user pain points and the gains the user achieves when each is addressed. This tactic lets you determine where you have the greatest potential to add value. You are then able to focus your MVP in these areas while adding the less impactful ones to your product roadmap for future releases.
Define the Feature List
As we mentioned above, you can’t build a product that people need without asking them. Feedback collection is crucial at the stage of MVP product development, and you should start gathering it as soon as possible. Based on your potential customers’ responses, you should make a list of the vital features that will be added to your MVP and a roadmap based on it.
At this stage, you will be able to discern what features to include in your MVP, as well as what features to include on your product roadmap that is a lower priority. Below are some tools you can use to decide which features are necessary to make your MVP successful. Asking the question of what my user want vs. what my user need, can help identify and prioritize features. Keep in mind, that implementing too many user-requested features too soon can harm the user experience and take away from the overall purpose of the product. The only features you should include should be connected to your product’s overall goal.
- Opportunity Statements
Use opportunity statements to finalize what features you want to build out. At this stage in the MVP development process, you will want to create feature sentences. For our Pet Adopters that are applying to adopt animals, for example, the opportunity statement “How might we expedite the application process?” could become “Reduce application processing time by 10 percent.”
- Breakdown Features To Include In Your Product Roadmap
List the user and the specific opportunity statements, and provide a breakdown of the features to include in the product roadmap.
- Prioritization Matrix
This step helps you identify where you can make the most impact in relation to the urgency of the feature. Using a prioritization matrix, you can make the final decision on what absolutely needs to be included in your MVP, and what features can be included in later releases. Below is our recommended format for your MVP prioritization matrix.
Prototype Potential Solution
You might ask: why do I need both a prototype and a software MVP? A prototype is an early attempt to visualize a working solution, while an MVP is a bare form of the product that performs target actions. A prototype puts the design and functionalities into perspective, validates UI & UX, and lets you get early feedback for improvements that you’ll then implement in an MVP.
Steve Jobs avoided the stage of prototyping while building the Apple Lisa. As a result, the product was a catastrophe and unprofitable.
Build and Launch
After all the criteria arrangement, you can start building your MVP. So, how to create a minimum viable product that will be prosperous and attractive both for users and investors? Remember: you should strike a happy medium to receive a professional and concise product.
Your MVP shouldn’t be functionally overloaded. At the same time, it should be qualitative, with every bug fixed at its proper time to avoid failure from the very beginning. Moreover, it must attract the customers by its ease and solve their fundamental problems.
Iterate Constantly (Analyze the Feedback)
How to do MVP in such a way as to obtain positive feedback? It is essential in the process of MVP development. Using it, you can draw your own conclusions about the other features to develop or a bug search. Thus, the early users will serve both as idea creators and testers for your MVP.
With an MVP in your hands, you should iterate again and again based on the user’s reaction. Continue to collect responses and test the changes as it’s the only way to figure out how to build something that people need and love. The goal here is to make a minimum viable product software with basic features only to test the product-market fit and get significant results.
Mind that the research stage shouldn’t end when the MVP development starts. It should go in parallel.
Measuring Success After Building an MVP
There are several approaches to give a real prediction of the future success of a product. Here are the most common, effective, and proven ways to measure the success of an MVP:
Word of Mouth
Traffic is a useful metric to predict success. Another way to track success is by interviewing potential customers. Begin by listing the problems a customer is facing or is likely to face, and then ask what they think.
Engagement enables a startup to measure not only the current value of the product but also the future value. Engagement helps to improve the user experience based on feedback.
Sign-ups are a feasible way to gauge user interest. They may also convert to revenue, based on the results of measuring interest in the product.
Better Client Appraisals Based on the Feedback
The number of downloads and launch rates shows the interest of users in the app. The lighter the app is, the more downloads it will get.
Percentage of active users
Download and launch rates are not the only factors that measure the success of an MVP. It is important to study users’ behavior and regularly check the ratings of active users.
Client Acquisition Cost (CAC)
It is imperative to know how much it costs to acquire a paying customer. This helps a startup stay updated on whether their marketing efforts are effective, or if they require changes.
CAC = Money spent on traction channel / Number of customers acquired through the channel.
Number of Paying Users
Know the average revenue per user (ARPU), and keep track of products that bring revenue.
ARPU = Total income for the day and age/Number of active users
Client Lifetime Value (CLV)
CLV demonstrates how much time a user spends on the app before uninstalling or discontinuing their use of the app.
CLV = (Profit from a user *App usage duration) – Acquisition cost
Churn shows the level or percentage of people who have uninstalled or stopped using the app.
Churn = Number of churns per week or month / Number of users at the beginning of the week or month
Examples of MVP – Minimum viable product
Here are a few notable companies that launched MVPs successfully. These examples go on to show what startups focus on when it comes to developing a key MVP feature set.
Before launching Dropbox, the co-founder and CEO Drew Houston was aware that there were tons of existing cloud-storage startups. Therefore, he decided to create an effective MVP based on the video, explaining how to use the application. The video played a crucial role in reaching out to the right audience, as it received a large number of views and comments. Dropbox even received 70k email addresses from potential users in a single day, which gave the company a green light to launch the product.
Amazon started to sell books online by challenging the Barnes and Nobles, of the world who were largely stuck in the ‘bricks and mortar’ age. Originally designed in 1994 to focus on books at a low price, their easy web design based on the minimum viable product was all they needed to develop and establish their organization in the retail market.
The widely popular social media platform, Twitter, involves a unique approach. After Apple released iTunes, Odeo, a podcasting platform, experienced tough times. They organized hackathons to figure out what to do next. During one of their hackathons, they came up with an idea to create an SMS-based platform.
It was initially known as “twttr”, and was a product for internal use only. However, employees were spending several dollars on SMS to post to the platform, in order to test it among users. Finally, Twitter was released to the public in 2006 and a year later it was a hit. Twitter increased its user base and became the second most popular social networking site after Facebook.
When Facebook was launched, an MVP was done just to connect students of schools and colleges all together via messaging. The idea was just to connect friends through a social platform, and organize gatherings. Facebook, in its early days, was built on the basic model of an MVP containing the needed functionality to fulfill its goal.
Using the old concept of vouchers and discounts combined with the idea of sharing and socializing, Groupon has attained new heights. Initially, Groupon came into existence using WordPress, where regular PDFs were emailed to users that were already subscribed. In this case, testing with the help of an MVP proved successful. Afterward, Groupon built its voucher system and backend, further driving it to a great achievement.
This history dates back to 2007 when two San-Francisco men wanted to establish their business, being on a tight budget. Once, there was a design conference in their town, so they decided to rent out the top floor of their apartment to visitors with no rooms at the hotels.
How to develop a minimum viable product in this situation? They made up a basic landing page with their housing pictures on it. Three primary clients came first and rented the rooms during the conference.
The entrepreneurs defined their target audience and confirmed their concept viability thanks to communication with guests and the MVP marketplace. As a result, the Airbnb platform for short-term housing rent appeared.
Today Airbnb is a commercially successful project that earned $887 million profit in the first quarter of 2021. Visitors reserved 64.4 million nights and experiences, which is 13% more than last year.
Wasting time on useless products that the target audience wouldn’t accept? That’s what Joel Gascoigne thought about when he developed Buffer. He decided to build “a super minimal product”; that’s why, instead of product development, he prepared a webpage containing a product description, and some plans for subscription and shared it on Twitter.
After efforts to subscribe, the customers obtained an email statement about the product’s unavailability and offered to monitor the building process. This way, the question of how to create MVP obtained a wise solution. The subscription page assisted Joel in setting up a connection with the target users and making a base of subscribers for the upcoming product. Moreover, he understood the share of traffic that is ready to pay.
MVP design mistakes to avoid while building your MVP
In today’s highly competitive digital commerce world, Darwin’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’ theory offers a fitting description. Business leaders are following the MVP development process to test the worth of their product without constant outflow of money or time.
However, to build a successful MVP, it is important to dodge a few development pitfalls that can result in an epic business failure.
1. Choosing the Wrong Problem to Solve
Before spending months of effort on designing a product, the initial step is to determine whether the product is worth creating or not.
Once a business has analyzed the pain on which their startup will be built, they should ask themselves these questions:
- Who is this for?
- What problem will this product solve?
- Is the proposed idea an effective solution to that problem?
If they intend to target everyone, they will end up getting no one. Find the doors first, then start to build the key. A great-looking key is not useful if it can’t open the right door.
After cracking the right target audience, if the answer to the second question is positive and a confident ‘Yes’ for the third, then the business has the problem and solution juxtaposed effectively. It’s time to start pressure-testing their idea.
2. Skipping the Prototype Phase
Prototyping is the conversation you have with your ideas. – Tom Wujec
Imagine building a car without referring to a visual model. It is quite impossible, right? Jumping straightway to the development process without defining the requirements is just as difficult.
A vital part of product development is the evolution of the idea from a unique concept to a fully working product or service. Between the idea, and the full-fledged product lies the prototype that focuses on the ‘How’ part of the product.
Consider prototyping as an MVP to build an MVP: not a fully functional version, but a version to help visualize the user experience of the Minimum viable product.
The ideal prototype should be of Goldilocks quality. If the quality is too low, people won’t believe the prototype is a real product. If the quality is too high, you’ll be working all night, and you won’t finish. You need Goldilocks quality. Not too high, not too low, but just right. – Daniel Burka, Google Ventures Design Partner</span
3. Targeting the Wrong Segment of Persona
The main reason why products fail is because they don’t meet customers’ needs in a way that is better than other alternatives. – Dan Olsen
Once a business is ready with an MVP prototype, it’s time to validate it through testing. At this stage, it is necessary to acquire comments and feedback from the target audience. It is important to keep in mind that everyone is not the targeted user.
Do not ask friends or relatives to be involved in this stage unless they are potential customers. It is important to avoid irrelevant feedback that could lead to the product/service getting dumped for the wrong reasons.
4. Lack of iterations
Creating an MVP, you defined a problem, and it’s great. However, you should also find solution alternatives: how to sell something that can be bought in an affordable manner.
This can be understood by research. So, you should find out the buyer persona your product will be targeted to, describe a situation you should assist in with your product, as well as compare the used helpful alternative with a solution you’re going to develop. Such kind of a study will help you set the priorities and create an MVP that would be a well-planned and sustainable one.
However, keep in mind that communication with customers, sketching, brainstorming sessions, and so on shouldn’t be neglected during the above-described research. Otherwise, the absence of one will harm your product.
5. Lack of feedback
How to build a Minimum Viable Product that would be attractive and in demand for customers? You can never understand the users’ needs and pain points without asking for their opinion and obtaining replies. What should you remember while collecting customers’ feedback?
- Your solution cannot be a so-called “magic bullet”. So, working upon it, you should understand how to create an MVP for a particular market segment.
- Don’t hesitate to ask what you need to gather the early customers’ feedback. At the same time, don’t overload them with surveys and question blanks for not to irritate them.
How to find a perfect balance between the last two activities while creating MVP and gathering feedback? For example, you can divide customers into smaller focus groups preparing different questions for each of them. Don’t forget to reward your users for the given responses concerning your MVP implementation: a month (or more) of your app’s free use is one of the proper variants to do so.
6. Incorrect priorities
Before you stop the car, you should know why you do it, and how. The same thing is with the MVP built. Moreover, the absence of the goals defined, or focusing on the wrong problem solution will lead to negative consequences, such as your product wouldn’t attract customers or even passing the concept testing.
To solve this problem, you should first formulate your product concept as accurately as possible. This way, you’ll have an understanding of what issue you’re going to solve creating an MVP, and what solution the defined problem will need.
Defining the details of the future solution, answer the following questions:
- How relevant your problem is?
- How does the market solve it?
- What functionality will make your app unique among the others?
Before Wrapping up, you may want to see the following video from Micheal Seibel to.
- you haven’t built an MVP yet
- you’re trying to figure out which features to put in your MVP
- you’re building an MVP but don’t have anyone using it yet
- your MVP is taking longer than expected to launch
Though it looks huge, an MVP is just step #1 in your startup journey. It lets you validate the idea cheap and fast, get feedback from real users, and have valid proof that your idea works for stakeholders and investors.
We guided you through the process of how to build an MVP and highlighted the importance of the problem definition, market research, prototyping, and feedback collection.
ٍEnd for How to build a minimum viable product article. hope it will help you through your journey.
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