If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.
The first thing to find out is whether the product will be able to satisfy its users’ expectations and meet your business needs. Is there any way to find this out without spending enormous lots of money, time, and resources? There is one approach that makes it possible to avoid the conventional strategy of investing money into the complete product without preliminary business idea verification. It is called “Minimum Viable Product”.
1. What is MVP?
An MVP is the smallest functioning and fastest product the company can deliver to test how the business idea survives in the real market. MVP helps companies answer one important question before launching their first product: are we on the right path or not?
The term “minimum viable product” initially was coined by Eric Ries and Steven Blank in the lean startup concept. It is a special technique that can be used to ensure future product success. Eric Ries in his book “The Lean Start-Up” defines that “The minimum viable product (further – MVP) is that version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”.
However, some people misinterpret the core idea of this technique and think that an MVP is a set of fragments of a product pushed out piece by piece. Building an MVP is about avoiding the development of products that consumers simply don’t need thanks to gathering and further research feedback from customers.
Many people believe that MVP is just a low-quality version of an application, website, or product. But they are not. MVP must show enough future benefits to attract and retain early adopters. If the quality is low, this idea may not be popular. In fact, releasing a low-quality MVP may damage the chances of an idea or concept being adopted and continuing to be popular.
1.1. What are MVP development goals?
The main 7 goals of the MVP development are:
- Test hypotheses about the product with minimal expenses;
- Enter the market as fast as possible;
- Obtain the data required to build solutions;
- Find the right solution for the right target audience;
- Collect maximum user feedback about your idea;
- Minimize risks of wrong investments;
- Safe time on development.
1.2. Top inspiring MVP examples
Dropbox started with the MVP – demo video, explaining the benefits of storing data in one place. User feedback helped the startup to 1) build the product backlog and 2) get funds and investments to do it.
Groupon promoted the services of local enterprises and provided transactions for a limited time. Since the founders were unable to build their own content management system initially, they used a WordPress blog.
To test his business ideas, founder Nick Swinmurn took photos of the shoes in the store to see if anyone would be willing to buy them without trying them first. It turns out that the idea was excellent!
At first, Buffer launched a series of landing pages. One of the landing pages simply asked people if they were interested in the product’s plans and prices and submit an email. The second asked if the user was interested in the free version or one of the two paid options. Since most people chose one of the paid plans, it became clear that Buffer had great potential.
Yahoo released an MVP website – a one-page website that contained a list of links to other websites. This was sufficient to satisfy users.
In 2004 Facebook users’ profile was simple and was a great opportunity to connect with their teammates. This feature was enough to ensure an awesome boost and turn a small project into one of the largest public technology companies in history.
2. Expected benefits: why does my project need an MVP?
2.1. Why do companies avoid building MVPs?
It is natural that some startups are skeptical about launching MVPs because they believe that a shortcut product development will be excessively costly and will not help in gathering marketing analytical information which is essential in the releasing stage. What do most companies fear?
- They think that customers would have liked the full product, and MVP which is lacking good design, full functionality, and perfect performance will turn potential customers’ backs upon them. Such companies just give up trying and abandon the vision immediately.
- Some companies are sure that the success of MVP and its contribution to further achievements are unreal because customers simply don’t know what they want. How can a company guess what its wishes are? Startups can see no profit in building up an MVP which as a result will bring no difference in the approach to the audience.
- Other companies believe that building a full product from scratch without constant changes will be faster and cheaper, so the revenue will be received more quickly because the market niche will be taken by their product, already perfect and ready to be sold.
Obviously, some of these arguments do carry weight. However, MVPs accelerate the time to market. Isn’t it the most important in the accelerated race with potential competitors?
2.2. 5 benefits of Minimum Viable Product development
It is hard to enumerate all benefits of MVP development. We mentioned only 5 key ones above. However, many startupers also name the following benefits:
- Early investments attraction, including crowdfunding
- Learning from experience
- Gaining and expanding the user base
- Avoiding big failure
3. MVP development process overview
3.1. Why is to launch of MVP not that simple?
Some people might think that building an MVP is a fast and not much effort-consuming process, but we suggest supporting the opposite statement and agreeing with Eric Reis who said that “MVP is an attempt to get startups to simplify, but it’s not itself simple”. MVP development is not much easier than building a fully packaged product because it should go through the same stages – planning, design, development, quality assurance and it requires numerous features to pay attention to:
- constant learning from previous iterations;
- analyzing data obtained from metrics;
- full target audience understanding;
- and checking people’s feedback all the time.
MVPs usually work out because their philosophy is to have conversations with potential customers again & again, over & over.
3.2. MVP development steps
This is a six-step guide to building your own MVP.
Step 1: Market research
Market research can help you identify target users and come up with ideas that meet their needs.
What has to be specified before building an MVP?
As mentioned above, the development of an MVP only looks easier and faster than building a fully completed product. The first step of an MVP creation is to define some principles, and major features of the product that will set value for it. Development specifications have to be comprehensive and clear to contribute positively to further project success. To sort out must-have functionality for the MVP, the following features have to be specified:
- Target audience. The MVP idea is clearly not to satisfy the needs of the mainstream audience. Why? If they dislike the product, the wrong feedback will be received. The target group has to be found to rely on. Members of this group should share an equal necessity in the product and have a common problem to solve.
- The problem, which the product is able to solve. It is not reasonable to develop a product without defining the range of problems it should be capable of solving. When a problem is specified, it’s easier to discuss the set of essential features to embed in the initial product version.
The process of describing features the MVP should possess should be smooth and distinct. For example, when you create a booking app, the core function is obvious – to provide booking. It has to be implemented in the MVP. The rest (perfect design, chatbots, etc.) is additional functions and can be done later. There’s no need in putting emphasis on extra features in the initial version.
Sometimes the principles of right prioritization are being neglected, and in the end, the company faces a poor-quality MVP unable to do what it was planned for. It happens because companies concentrate on delivering as many features as possible forgetting that all of them will be sooner or later morphed into a final product.
Step 2: Outline your thoughts and choose MVP type
An MVP is not an MVP, no one will buy it. You must outline how your product will provide value to customers.
Types of MVPs
The most common types of MVPs include the following formats. As you can see, software prototypes are not the only way to test your business idea.
- Landing pages
- Product designs
- Demo videos
- Software prototypes
- Concierge MVP
- Wizard of Oz
Step 3: Design
Suppose you are the end-user of the proposed product or service. What do you want to see?
Step 4: Determine the functionality
After determining the design process, you may have many features that cannot be completed or are not included in the MVP. You need to prioritize them and determine which features will become part of your project.
How to prioritize MVP features?
When identifying MVP features gets problematic, there should be a prioritization technique at hand. There are dozens available, but the MoSCoW method has proved to be the most efficient. What is the essence of this method? According to the scheme, all the product features regardless of their size, can be divided into 4 groups considering their value and relevance:
- Should Have
- Could Have
- Would Like but won’t have
MVPs are about the development of Must-Have features.
Step 5: Build
Always strive to make the manufacturing quality not lower than the quality of the final product. Prioritize ease of use, applicability, and intuitiveness when developing.
Step 6. Measure and learn and repeat
That’s one of the key ideas behind the MVP development framework. You should measure users’ feedback, learn from your mistakes and repeat everything will you make a perfect product.
What is a Feedback / Build-Measure-Learn loop?
The MVP development turns into a cycle which is called a Build-Measure-Learn Loop. The core idea of the concept is a focus on the mix of customers and experiments feedback, measuring and researching results, changes making, and delivery. Schematically, this idea can be illustrated in the following way:
In a more simplified form, the idea of a feedback loop takes the following appearance:
3.3. 10 common mistakes made in MVP development
- Overrating your business idea.
- Not making and listening to market research and feedback.
- Making a product that users don’t want to buy.
- Not building an MVP.
- Starting the development with the wrong development team.
- Trying to be too perfect.
- Defining wrongly core features and functions.
- Ignoring users’ feedback.
- Not promoting your MVP.
- Not making fast changes.
4. How much does MVP software development cost?
It is hard to say one number that will make MVP development cost. The price of building MVPs for startups varies based on a variety of factors, such as:
- Type of MVP you chose;
- Complexity of MVP;
- Dev team (its expertise, location, hourly rate);
- Speed of implementation;
From our experience, the development (only planning, design, and development, without marketing costs) may range from 2-5K for some landing, prototype, etc to 25-50K for software MVP of a complex SaaS application, for example.
5. Need help developing an MVP for your idea?
There are 5 main reasons for developing your MVP with SumatoSoft:
- We have helped dozens of startups to launch their MVPs and grow them into successful products. See our case studies here.
- We concentrate our efforts on the functionality, features, and approaches that will bring value to your business and your end-users.
- We are agile and know how to build this Build-Measure-Learn process effectively.
- We have a very thorough process of talent hiring. We check their hard and soft skills and test and train them for recent technologies knowledge. We don’t hire the cheapest candidates, but the best ones.
- Our developers and project managers speak English (some even speak German, Polish and Spanish), so the communication process is easy and comfortable.
Get in touch with us and we’ll prove to you that we know how to build MVPs that will change the market.
The key ideas to keep in mind when planning and developing an MVP are the following:
- MVP is not an MVP before it sells. It must bring enough value to users.
- It focuses more on the process, not the product.
- MVP is not a product with the least number of elements, but a core function sufficient to attract early adopters.
- MVP is based on the lean startup concept and implies the iterative process of building – measuring – learning cycle until the product fully meets the market demand.
- MVP is built to avoid developing useless and unnecessary products.
What is a good MVP?
As we have seen the definition of Eric Ries and its popularity, a good MVP product is a viable and accessible asset. The minimum features with high value provide users with a good MVP.
What does MVP mean in business?
The meaning of Minumum Viable Product in the business is a development technique when a new product with simple features and the core idea is sufficient to attract the interest of customers allows the team to collect feedback.
How long will it take to build an MVP?
The time of MVP development depends on the scale of your business idea and the type of MVP you chose to use to test it. Usually, MVP development should take from a couple of weeks to a couple of months maximum.
Is MVP a prototype?
The prototype is just a demonstration of the way how the application is technically and visually feasible. If you show the prototype to the potential customer and get feedback, the prototype can become an MVP. If you build a prototype and never show it to any customers, you usually don’t think of it as an MVP.
Minimum viable product and proof of concept
The proof of concept, just like prototyping, is different from the minimum viable product. The proof-of-concept tests a business idea if it can be implemented. No customer involvement is presupposed. MVP concept means that you start selling your product.
Is the survey an MVP?
Sometimes surveys and focus groups are considered to be MVPs. However, they should be designed in a special way so that you’re able to find out about 1) the need and problems of users and 2) their desire to pay for your potential service.