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A Step-by-Step Guide to Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

How to build an MVP

The year was 1990, there was a young guy, who wished to own a particular pair of shoes. He went to a mall close to his place, but unfortunately, he was unable to find the pair.

Frustrated, he came up with an idea to sell shoes online. And that’s where it all started.

MVP was born.

Rather than conducting extensive and expensive market research, he built a basic website. Then, he approached a shoe store, clicked pictures of shoes and placed them on his site. On receiving the order, he purchased the shoes from the store and shipped them out.

Zappos build an MVP

Although he lost money on every sale, it was an incredible way to test a business idea. Once he inferred that customers are willing to purchase shoes online, he started to turn his idea into a fully functioning business.

This is how Nick Swinmurn built a company, Zappos, later acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion.

Yes, the approach that Nick followed is what we term as MVP Development in today’s time.

What is the MVP Development Process?

MVP, short for Minimum Viable Product, is exactly what it says on the label: the product in its smallest, least featureful avatar that has just the basics, and only those functionalities, that demonstrate your product.

“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 effort.” – Eric Ries

In mobile app development, MVP is a basic version of a mobile application. MVP is a process where a new product is developed with core functionalities, to test how the target audience would respond. Then, the actual product, with a full set of features, is developed after a series of iterations, with feedback from early adopters.

PS: It is building a slice across rather one layer at a time.

Minimum Viable Product Development Approach

MVP helps in testing, designing, and delivering the final product. MVP Development plays an important role in web development and designing. Several businesses have pitfalls while trying to launch a Minimum Viable Product for a mobile app or a web. That’s why it is important to understand the build process of an MVP.

Purpose of an MVP

The purpose to build an MVP is to launch a product quickly, based on your idea, with a small budget. This approach allows you to collect users’ feedback for the primary product and include it in future iterations. With the help of an MVP, one can find the right audience, pull the ideas based on experience, and save time.

Building an MVP implies finding the right balance between what your business is offering to users, and what users actually need. The purpose of the MVP is to test the hypothesis by minimizing errors. An MVP helps in collecting maximum quality feedback, by targeting specific groups, or types of users.

Business Benefits of MVP Product Development

“What if we found ourselves building something that nobody wanted? In that case what did it matter if we did it on time and on budget?” – Eric Ries

To survive in today’s cut-throat Darwinian business era, releasing a product faster and within a budget is a prerequisite for a successful new product development process. Building an MVP prior to the final product saves both time and money, along with offering the following benefits:

1. Focus on Building the Core

An MVP app focuses on one idea, and it does not include any other function. The approach of the MVP belongs to the ideology of a lean startup, which is built with a minimal budget in a given time. Having some of the main features can reduce the cost of mobile app development. The MVP allows the app to be tested, with minimal risk.

2. Early Testing Opportunity

It is good to find out from the beginning if your idea will work without investing your whole budget.

3. User Intelligence and Gathering Feedback

The MVP offers the possibility to find out your potential users’ opinion, and how they want to see your final product.

4. Allows Market Validation

An MVP helps you understand whether your app is right for your target market. It should present your brand well to the users, and show them how your project is unique as compared to others in its category.

5. Takes Less Time to Develop Your App

Less development time means lower app development costs. The faster your mobile app is launched to users, the faster you will receive feedback. This means you can work on the improvement of your app, and release an updated version quickly.

6. Budget-Friendly

This is yet another important advantage, as it avoids spending all of your resources right away, 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 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.

eBook: Controlling MVP Scope: A Practical Guide

The Need to Build an MVP

“The fundamental activity of a startup is to turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond, and then learn whether to pivot or persevere.” – Eric Ries

While starting up a business or launching a new product, have you ever invested time in the initial idea approval? If yes, then an MVP Development process is the right solution to get to work on your idea from the beginning and test it quickly for launch.

These stats explicitly show the need to build an MVP, however, let’s dig deeper and find out the reasons to build a Minimum Viable Product:

  • Creating an initial model: This gives a starting point for discussions and offers clear visual points of reference.
  • Conducting initial idea approval: This includes sharing the model with a few prospects, and testing it with genuine users, to better understand the issues you may face with your innovation.
  • Preparing to begin your journey: You have invested months improving your software idea, but to actually start building your product, you can feel it’s a big deal. An MVP prepares you to take that hike.

Design thinking, Lean UX helps to build an MVP

While building a mobile app, you must understand that the whole idea to build an MVP is divided into two main parts:

  • Business and Marketing: The first part refers to business and marketing; because of the MVP, you are now able to launch a survey to find the best marketing approaches and the advertising platforms that could be used for the advancement of your product.
  • Proof of Concept: The second part refers to the technical aspect. By building an MVP, you will be able to execute important programming and designing features, which, in turn, will help you make your app unique.

Right way to build an MVP

How to Build a Minimum Viable Product?

Queries like “How unpolished can my minimum viable product be?” trend on Quora; Hackernoon writes, “The MVP is Dead. Long Live the RAT.” Google’s autocomplete suggestion says: “MVP is dead.”

Reid Hoffman said: “If you are not embarrassed by your first product, you launched too late.”

And this quote of Hoffman allowed start-up founders, especially the first-time entrepreneurs, to focus mainly on ‘M’, and almost ignoring ‘V’. The result is a below-average product, rather than an excellent one.

For instance, startups come up with a free sub-domain website with almost no content and call it a startup. When it fails to attract visitors, they call it a failed MVP and look for a solution to the so-called MVP problem.

However, the real problem lies in the lack of understanding of the steps involved when it comes to the MVP Development process. Following are the necessary steps involved to build an MVP:

Steps to build an MVP

Step 1: Market Research

At times, it happens that ideas do not fit into the market needs. Before you initiate an idea and embark upon an MVP Development process, ensure that it fulfills the target users’ needs. Conduct surveys, because the more information you have, the more are the chances of success. Also, do not forget to keep an eye on what your competitors are offering, and how can you make your product idea stand out.

“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.” – W. Edwards Deming

A survey conducted by CB Insights revealed that the topmost reason for a startup’s failure with a 42% share is ‘lack of market need.’ In a nutshell, if your product doesn’t nail the problem, customers won’t go along with it to find a solution.

CB Insights study on why startups fail

Step 2: Express Your Idea

What value does your product offer to its users? How can it benefit them? Why would they buy your product? These are important questions to keep in mind to help better express your idea.

You should also be clear about the essential estimations of your product. As MVP implies, introducing value to the people, first outline them and build your MVP based on that.

Step 3: Consider the Design Process & User Flow

Design process is an important MVP stage.

Design the app in a way, which is convenient for users. You need to look at the app from the users’ perspective, starting from opening the app to the final process, such as making a purchase or delivery. In addition, user flow is an important aspect as it ensures you do not miss anything while keeping the future product and its user satisfaction in mind.

To define your user flow, it is necessary to define the process stages; and, for that, you need to explain the steps needed to reach the main objective. Your focus should be more on basic tasks rather than features such as finding and buying the product, managing and receiving orders. These are the goals that your end-users will have while using your product. When all these procedure stages are clearly laid out, it is time to define the features of each stage.

Step 4: List the MVP Features

At this MVP stage, list all the features that you want to incorporate into your product before you start building the MVP. Once the building process is completed, cross-check with the list of MVP features. When you have a list of features for each MVP stage, you then need to prioritize them. To prioritize the MVP features, ask yourself questions such as – What do my users want? Am I offering them something beneficial? etc.

Next, categorize all the remaining MVP features based on priority: high priority, medium priority, and low priority. When you have organized all the features, you can define their scope for the first version of the product, and move to build an MVP. If you want to see how your future product will look, you can even create an MVP’s prototype.

Remember: Steve Jobs was out of his job because of avoiding the stage of prototyping while building the Apple Lisa. The result was a disaster as it failed to achieve a favorable number of sales.

apple-lisa-failure

Step 5: Build Your MVP

Once you have decided upon the main features and have learned about the market needs, you can create your MVP. Keep in mind that an MVP is not lower quality than a final product, and still needs to fulfill your customer’s needs. Therefore, it must be easy to use, engaging, and suitable for your users.

“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

Step 6: Build, Measure, and Learn

Everything is part of a process: first, the scope of work is defined, and the product is moved to the development stage. After the completion of product development, the product needs to be tested. Quality Assurance engineers, who work to improve the quality of the product (even if the product is not released) conduct the first testing stage.

eBook: Controlling MVP Scope: A Practical Guide

It is important to realize that actually, the end-users are the ones who can tell what is lacking and what is redundant. Once you collect the feedback from the users, start improving your product, then test, learn, and measure the quality, and then test again, and the process goes on until it is finalized.

Example: The feedback from the potential users after the prototyping stage helped Nike to understand that it is hard for users to locate the CTA and hence it required to be more explicit. The feedback from prototyping prevented them to release a product that was difficult for users to engage with.

How Nike adopted the customers' feedback in MVP

Review everything thoroughly after launching the MVP, i.e. collect your client’s reaction to the release. With their feedback, you can determine the acceptability and competitiveness of your product in the market.

Measuring Success After Building an MVP

There are several approaches to give a real picture of the future success of your product, here are the most common, effective, and proven ways to measure the success of an MVP:

1. Word of Mouth

Traffic is a useful metric to predict success. Another way to track success is by interviewing potential customers. You can start by listing the problems you assume a customer is facing or might face, and ask them what they think.

2. Engagement

It enables you 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.

3. Sign-Up

Sign-ups are a feasible way to gauge user interest, and they may convert to revenue, based on the results of measuring interest in your product.

4. Better Client Appraisals Based on the Feedback

The number of downloads and launch rates shows whether users’ are interested in your app or not. The lighter your app is, the more downloads it will get.

5. Percentage of active users

Download and launch rates are not the only things used to measure the success of an MVP. You need to study users’ behavior, and regularly check the ratings of active users.

6. Client Acquisition Cost (CAC)

You must know how much it costs to get a paying customer. This helps you stay updated on whether your marketing efforts are effective, or changes need to be made.CAC = Money spent on traction channel / Number of customers acquired through the channel.

7. Number of Paying Users

Know the average revenue per user (ARPU), and keep a check on products that bring revenue. ARPU= Total income for the day and age/Number of active users

8. Client Lifetime Value (CLV)

It demonstrates how much time a user spends on the app before uninstalling, or stopping to use it.CLV= (Profit from a user *App usage duration) – Acquisition cost.

9. Churn Rate

It shows the level or percentage of people who have uninstalled or stopped using your app. Churn = Number of churn per week or month / Number of users at the beginning of the week or month.

Ways to Measure Success After Building an MVP

Minimum Viable Product Examples

Here are a few notable companies that launched MVPs successfully. This goes on to show what startups focus on when it comes to developing a key MVP feature set.

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.

This application was launched to test among users, and it gathered lots of feedback. This resulted in making the application extremely popular over the internet, it currently has over 1.3 billion active users.

FB-copy

Twitter

A widely popular social media platform, Twitter, involves a unique approach. After Apple released iTunes, a podcasting platform, Odeo, experienced tough times and they were forced to organize hackathons, trying 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, a year later it was a hit. Twitter increased its user base and became the second most popular social networking site after Facebook.

twttr-copy

Amazon

Amazon was 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, with an easy web design based on the minimum viable product, that’s all they needed to develop and establish their organization in the retail market.

amazon-copy

Groupon

Using the old concept of vouchers and discounts, with an idea of sharing and socializing, Groupon has attained new heights. Initially, Groupon was launched using WordPress, where regular PDFs were emailed to users that were already subscribed. Testing with the help of an MVP proved successful. Afterward, Groupon built its voucher system and backend, further driving it to a great achievement.

groupon-copy

Dropbox

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.

The above-mentioned MVP examples can inspire start-ups and entrepreneurs to start with MVPs, in order to make their journey a massive success.

Conclusion

By now you are ready to embark upon your first MVP Development journey. Remember it need not have to be perfect! Just follow the described steps and strategies to build an MVP for your product.

Note, MVP is an approach that empowers you to discover a lot about your users with the help of a working product, without overspending valuable time and funds. All you need is to plan your business hypothesis, identify the main MVP features, and know your target audience.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

Amit Manchanda

About the Author

Amit Manchanda is working at Net Solutions as Project Lead and has over 9 years of experience in technologies like ASP, Adobe Flex, and Android. He has been part of SME (Subject Matter Expert) Group for RIA applications. He possesses a sound understanding of technical requirement/problem analysis and resolution for providing the best solutions to clients. He is passionate about his work and enjoys interacting with his team. In his leisure time, he loves to listen to music, watch cricket, and play with his daughter.

Leave a Comment

Dr Shelley Cooper

2:13 PM, Sep 25, 2019

Great information. Very helpful suggestions. Thx!

Michelle

9:11 PM, Jun 09, 2019

Hello. Do you know how i can go about creating an MVP without any experience whatsoever?

Nuno Alexandre Marquês Flórido

3:06 AM, Apr 03, 2019

Great content! Congrats.

Michel Bürki

7:00 PM, Jan 28, 2019

Hi Amit,
I love the tips on how to SUCCESSFULLY create an MVP. I know you didn’t discuss much if any about the Customer Development part of building and experimenting with an MVP to actually find the customers problems you are trying to solve with your MVP.

I know we should build a first version as fast as possible to get instant feedback. But if we take a little bit of time to find our target users and truly understand them first, we can prove a lot of assumptions beforehand.

If you have an idea, I recommend you to start with the following process before you set out to build something nobody needs:
1. Formulate a Customer and Problemhypothesis
2. Do problem-interviews with people who fit to this hypotheses and try to falsify the problem hypothesis.
3. Iterate step 1. and 2. until you can predict the next ones answers
4. Then go ahead and present this target group a solution in a solution-interview.
5. Iterate until you are certain that this solution solves their problem.
6. And then you can build your first MVP.

What helped me most was listening to other entrepreneurs and get inspired about tactics they used to get there. One option to do this is to listen to a podcast like Nerd Entrepreneurs

John Campbell

5:55 PM, Sep 07, 2018

Great work Amit Manchanda, Keep writing this type of article in future. You cover all topics about minimum viable products.

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