What is a Minimum Viable Product?
If you start out with an idea next step you really want to know first is what is Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Wondering why? Because your first goal is to prove the product you design is the product your customers desire. Otherwise, there are no reasons to build for years an idea that is unclaimed to users.
Too many developers making startups with an idea of the product, they believe customers need. Spending months, even years, polishing their own product without showing it to an audience. And they fail. And it is a fair story because they don’t speak to their own audience to determinate how much people are interested in their product.
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What is MVP?
Lately, MVP has become the popular strategy in application development fields. The original concept was coined and defined by Frank Robinson in 2001 and was popularized by Steve Blank, and Eric Ries. But nowadays each of experts has his own sight on this concept as well as the definition for it.
The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least efforts.
I have long defined the minimum viable product as the smallest possible product that has three critical characteristics:
people choose to use it or buy it;
people can figure out how to use it;
We can deliver it when we need it with the resources available – also known as valuable, usable and feasible.
the minimum feature set (sometimes called the “minimum viable product”) is:
1) a tactic to reduce wasted engineering hours (code left on the floor)
2) to get the product in the hands of early visionary customers as soon as possible.
More about MVP
Anyway, release and gathering analytics data from an MVP is surely less expensive than release end-product with full feature kit. That is why it is less risky, especially if a product would fail because of assumptions mistake. Despite that MVP also needs to make market analysis before.
In other words, MVP is the core of a future app.
So, an MVP should include only the main features that are required to provide the core idea of a future product to the users. No more. This often deploys to limited target audience also known as early adopters in the case of 3 main reasons:
- They are more likely to provide feedbacks.
- Early adopters are more forgiving and tolerant of bugs and undone things.
- Those testers are able to see the full picture of end-product from MVP prototype.
Meantime, even MVP should be attractive to your audience. Simple design and comfortable UI and UX is highly preferable because it should not be ugly even if it is just a prototype. Moreover, it will make you sure about mistakes and weaknesses of your idea, while no one leaves test because of too complex UI or poor UX.
A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a product that contains only core features set standard design and good UI/UX. It is built to prove application idea, and deploy the product to the customers to test key assumptions about interactions with it and gauge people’s reactions.
Reasons to make MVP
Unfortunately, even brilliant application idea may be unclaimed, misunderstood or ignored by customers. So, in order to save years of development before you realize that application goes wrong from early beginning – MVP is your choice.
Referring to Go-Globe statistics data we may clearly see few interesting trends:
- 74% of high growth internet startups fail because of premature scaling.
- 29% of startups shut down before released because they run out of cash.
But what is really interesting to us:
- Startups that scale properly grow about 20 times faster.
Nowadays it seems that Uber, Tweeter or Instagram have become famous and gained world popularity because of fortune of developers. Indeed all these apps rushed into our everyday lives not so fast as it looks at first sight. Nowadays, no one remembers those primitive apps that there were on an early beginning of their own story. But they managed to succeed only to gradual growth.
So, reasons your really want to make MVP before building full features application can be simply categorized like that:
- Chances to make a real test for your product idea with minimal expenses.
- Learn fast about product topicality and market requirements.
- Save time and money by avoiding development useless features.
- Present your product vision to early customers fast and clear.
- Grow slow, but confident.
How does MVP work?
So, how does MVP work in progress? Let’s take a simplified case as an example just to see it in action.
You desire to create a service that allows hotel owners to build mobile apps for their own business in a simple drag-and-drop way. It has intuitive interface and simple design. The product also contains some pre-build apps as examples. Therefore clients may include in their app many useful features:
- Calendar events.
- Push notification.
- News subscription.
- Photo galleries.
- Coupons and discount points.
- Chat system.
- Integration with social media.
- Google Maps geolocation.
- Pre-order and booking.
To monetize your product you may take money for each app built in service, or take a fee for pre-order, booking or any other features in your app. So, with such many features and opportunities you no way will fail! Or can it?
Reasons why you fail without MVP
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You charge development team, go by yourself with friends. Such a large project would take a year, or even more be built. And all that time your team would develop the app without wondering about your product needs between hotel owners. That is why with all planned features, or with only part of them you would likely fail.
- Month on developing your apps would be wasted because you discover that your audience prefers a partnership with hotel booking app as their audience is already large.
- Apps built by your product would lose in SEO to common websites.
- Some of your hard-to-develop features are unclaimed. For example, real-time chat is useless as owners prefer to communicate via emails with customers, despite sitting next to a computer all day long.
- And the worst, you might find that your audience doesn’t want to deal with the audience by themselves and maintain an app.
In this case, the main mistake was done from the very start of the startup – confidence in the idea makes it fail in the end. A year of developing process is wasted before you get the touch on such critical moments. As a result, you lose much time and go out of business.
“There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” Peter Drucker
How do things change with MVP in action?
The main idea of using MVP is finding an answer to two questions on each stage of the development process:
- What is my risk?
- How can I test my risk for the smallest cost?
Making step by step, your first risk would be the main one. Would your audience (in this case hotel owners) be ever likely to use your service in first place?
Test your idea first
So, your first MVP would be a mockup of your mobile app idea. Make a small research with your audience to find their own needs in your products and requests in features. Moreover, find out about what problem in your product may appear in future. Gather as much info as possible:
- Does your audience have really requested on your product service?
- Have they already used such kind of things and how can you make it better, or why it fails for them.
- Make it clear if they really understand benefits you provide. Or find out why they think things do not look like you see them.
- Get know about their problems and provide them with solutions via your product.
- If your audience has no interest in your service find out why.
In the best case, you will make a good basis for your app and be sure it will succeed in the end. In the worst case you will find out that people don’t need such kind of solutions so you may go by two ways:
- Change your product idea so it fits audience requests.
- Close your startup before it even starts and saves your time and money.
For example, in your research, similar type but for websites. That is not what you want to hear, but it is still good news. In a cost of few weeks, you savor find out that hotel owners aren’t really interested in a mobile app for their business. But they are most likely to have a service of six months of development. Moreover, now you may change the idea to fit request – make websites, not apps.
Test changes you made
Even if you decide to change your product idea from drag-and-drop service app builder to similar website builder it is still too early to jump into the development process. Make your next MVP to find out on:
- What is the risk of your new idea?
Get all your information that you gather from previous research and make all changes you need. Your next MVP would fit most audience request about website builder service. But it still needs one more research to further clarify any inaccuracies you may meet in the development process.
- Have your audience request on your service?
- Have they websites already? Will they prefer to change it by using your product?
- How much would they pay for your service?
In this case, you may find that your audience prefers a website to a mobile app, but they are not going to change the existing one. Or they don’t want to pay much for such kind of service. Sadly, but it is common that people say they want to see, but don’t say they will pay for it (because they want to see it as free-to-use).
But while you provide strong benefits to your audience you may make people willing to pay for your product. So by using your MVP some of them launch their own websites and provide you with payment. Contact your clients as much as it needs and supports them as much as possible. Learn about their request and slowly update your product to meet new requirement of your current and potential clients.
- Don’t afraid that things don’t scale.
- Afraid if the thing scales too much and you can’t support your growth.
Not each start up may survive rapid scale. If it scales too much it can’t break all your things. New users would meet problems and bugs you have no time to solve, while your current clients would ask to help solve their problems. So, before you go from small startups to large ones it is better to make the next MVP.
Find out your challenges
At this point get known about your product features possibility to support a scalable growth of an audience. Don’t make things big if you can’t support them. Meantime, find out how to take part of the world market.
- What your clients are willing to discover about your product features and benefits at first place.
- How it solves your audience problems.
- Why they want to pay for it.
For this case, MVP would be a simple good looking landing page with all answers clients want to find about your product. To drive app traffic you may buy ads for a few hundred dollars on Google and social media.
In this case, if visitors don’t provide you with their emails, they aren’t willing to pay you either. It’s better to find out problems here, before launching massive marketing campaign with a wrong thesis. Or to change your application strategy, then rewriting codebase in future.
This is the core idea of MVP process. Before coming to developing something make sure to find out answers to two questions:
- What is my risk?
- How can I test my risk for the smallest cost?
MVP provides obvious benefits like saving your time and money due to avoiding development useless features or wrong ideas. But it also has others that we should talk about.
Make money earlier
Provide your audience with a vision of your end-product as early as it will succeed. Provide users with useful innovation functionally kit and promise more solutions in feature. It is cheaper than developing the full-featured product but still will show market viability and create fund business to invest more into development.
Moreover, if you plan to find funding from stakeholders within your company or from other investors – you get strong arguments in your hands.
Flexibility of evolving
While MVP just shows core features any other additional ones you plan to add in future may be dropped, or changed to fit best audience needs. You also may get extra information about what you may add in future. Or just about how your things work and where it’s going in a wrong way.
While full-product develops by years, in the end, it may cost too much to be attractive to clients. On the other hand, MVP costs less, so as the initial price it also may cost less. Look at this case like that:
- You provide core features in order to test your ideas.
- People still give you money while making tons of useful data duo feedback.
It creates fund basis and information to update and make your app better. It also provides you with control over product growth and buff user experience with every update.
A few examples of MVP
Before even going into developing process Dropbox team make 3 minutes video about it. This video explains how dropbox works by showing its whole using process. It explains all main features and benefits it provides to the users. As a result, it provides start up with 70,000 sign up users for over a day.
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Spotify launched in 2009 as a landing page that contained only the single feature – music streaming experience. It provided them with a chance to test market variables in limited beta. And it gave them time to make annoyances with music industry licensing concerns.
Gaming industry MVPs
MVP for most application categories is really something new. It has become a common trend in game development industry for years. Game demos become available most as the full game is ready. So-called “alpha-tests” and “beta-tests” are used mostly for gathering information and trends among the players. But “Early access” is a clear example of MVP. It is developed long before the full game is done and is likely to have a price already.
MVP is a good chance to check your risks, test your ideas and hypotheses before funding into product development. While it is not free, it is still a way cheaper than finding critical mistakes when the product is done but does not meet market’s needs and trends.
It is a wise option to save both time and money and find a way to make success on the market.