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.
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?
Minimum Viable Product (MVP), 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. Eric Ries defines it in the following way:
“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.”
In mobile app development, MVP is a basic version of a mobile application. MVP is a process of building a new product with core functionalities and important, minimum features, to test how the target audience would respond. Then, the building of the actual product takes place with the full set of features after a series of iterations, with feedback from early adopters.
P.S.- It is building a slice across rather one layer at a time.
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 vital question: How to develop a Minimum Viable Product?
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: building a product with a minimal budget in a given time. Having some of the high priority, but minimum 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.
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.
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.
Stats Emphasizing the Need to Build an MVP
- 29% of startups fail as they ran out of cash.
- Startups that scale properly grow 20 times faster than those that scale prematurely.
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.
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 minimum feature set, which, in turn, will help you make your app unique.
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:
Step 1: Start with 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.
Step 2: Ideate on Value Addition
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: Map Out 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: Prioritize 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.
Step 5: Launch 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: Exercise ‘B.M.L.’ — Build, Measure, Learn
Everything is part of a process: first, define the scope of work followed by moving the product 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.
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.
5 Development Mistakes to Avoid while Building an MVP
In today’s highly competitive digital commerce world, where Darwin’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’ theory befits perfectly well, business leaders are following 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 towards developing a product, the initial step is to determine whether the product is worth creating or not.
Once you have analyzed the pain on which your startup will be built, ask yourself these questions:
- Who is this for?
- What problem am I compelled to solve?
- Is my proposed idea an effective solution to the problem?
If you intend to target everyone, you will end up getting no one. Find the doors first, then start to build the key. A great looking key is of no use 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 you’ve got the problem and solution juxtaposed effectively. It’s time to start pressure-testing your 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.
Google Ventures design partner Daniel Burka says:
“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.”
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 you are ready with an MVP prototype, it’s time to validate it through testing – getting the comments and feedback from the target audience. At this stage, you have to keep in mind that ‘everyone’ is not your targeted user. So do not ask your friends or relatives for feedback until unless they are your potential customers, else, your product/service will get dumped under the pile of wrong feedback.
The Importance of Feedback in Building an MVP
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.
4. Inappropriate Development Method
“There’s a way to do it better find it.” – Thomas A. Edison
Jumping directly into the process of MVP development without prior knowledge of the correct development method of building is one of the major reasons for startups giving up the project in the middle. And this is one of the major contributing factors of the statistics – Nine out of ten startups fail.
Generally, there are two approaches for MVP product development: Agile and waterfall.
When compared to Waterfall (Traditional Method), Agile product development is far more efficient due to its potential to deliver the project at the certain time frame, offering adaptability to changing circumstances with high-quality results week after week.
5. Confusion Between Qualitative and Quantitative Feedback
“[Triangulation is an] attempt to map out, or explain more fully, the richness and complexity of human behavior by studying it from more than one standpoint.” – Cohen and Manion
Qualitative and Quantitative feedback are two ways to collect data from the target users. However, relying on one of them and neglecting the other can cause a hindrance to reach an accurate conclusion.
Both types of feedback have a different role to play and hence it is vital to hit the right balance of them to come to the conclusion that can help you to make intelligent changes.
- Qualitative feedback consists of findings that are associated with the user-friendliness of the features of the product/service. It directly assesses the usability of the system by helping developers to analyze the specific problematic UI elements.
- Quantitative feedback is in form of metrics that pinpoints whether the tasks were easy or difficult to perform. It indirectly assesses the usability of the design. Such feedback can be dependent upon the performance of user on a given task –success rates, number of errors, etc.
|1. Questions answered||Why?||How many and how much?|
|2. Goals||Both formative and summative:|
Inform design decisions
Identify usability issues and find solutions for them
Evaluate the usability of an existing site
Track usability over time
Compare the site with competitors
|3. When it is used||Anytime: during the redesign, or when you have a final working product||When you have a working product (either at the beginning or end of a design cycle)|
|4. Outcome||Findings based on the researcher’s impressions, interpretations, and prior knowledge||Statistically meaningful results that are likely to be replicated in a different study|
The ideal approach is the amalgamation of qualitative feedback with quantitative feedback – Triangulation Feedback to gather data for an overall accurate interpretation that looks at a variety of different factors.
This approach boosts the chances to control the threats that can result in product failure. If both the feedback methods come to the common conclusion, then the developer will be more confident with the success of the product.
Tips to Target the Right Market while Building an MVP
“Beautiful product development in an ugly market segment simply makes no sense.” – Dan Adams
Have you ever imagined how to sell a minimum viable product of an air conditioner in Antarctica? You will definitely have trouble selling it. The same rule applies when you are on a mission to build an MVP — no matter how good it is, it will fail if you are unable to solve the other half of the equation i.e. finding the ideal target market for your MVP.
Most startups begin to build an MVP with a sweet assumption that “everyone” will rush to buy their products or sign up for their services. But soon, they become one of the references for various studies and researches, for, e.g. this one from HBR that reveals that 85% of 30,000 new product launches failed because of poor market segmentation.
1. Analyze Your Competition
It is important to dive deep into the competitor research to find out what you are up against. It’s nearly impossible to build an MVP that doesn’t already exist in the market. Maybe, you have some unique ideas in your kitty. But, honestly, you will still be a part of an existing competitive industry.
You have to figure out how to place your Minimum Viable Product within your industry, where competitors are already doing what you are trying to do.
To find this out, you will need to conduct research on your competitors. Evaluate their strong points and weaknesses. Figure out their target audience and what they are offering to them. You can go ahead with the same target market your competitors’ chose or you can concentrate on a group that your competitors might have overlooked.
Look at the image above as a reference. There are 4 basic options for any startup in successfully competing in a given industry — cost leadership, differentiation, cost focus, and differentiation focus.
2. Geographically Segment Your Customer Base
Once you are done with finding the right customer base for your MVP, the next task is to focus on geographical segmentation. It is an effective strategy used by businesses to get familiarized with the location-based attributes that comprise a specific target market. Analyzing the location of your ideal customer base can be a real game-changer while you are on your route to build an MVP.
For instance, what’s the purpose of initiating the search from Southern California if your minimum viable product is a winter jacket. The winter varies between moderate to warm at this place.
Target consumers that live in different geographic regions have different needs and cultural characteristics that can be individually targeted for better and efficient marketing. Once you become aware of the geographical location of your target customer, you can learn a lot about your MVP by finding answers to key questions:
It is evident from the picture above that there are various factors, dependent upon geographical location, which play a vital role in the success of your MVP and product development.
3. Find the Motivation Behind a Purchase
After geographically segmenting your customer base, the next task is to understand their motivation behind the purchase. It will help you perfectly balance your MVP positioning.
The easiest way to achieve this is to run a survey. Keeping your Minimum Viable Product in mind, come up with relevant questions, that circle around the points that we have discussed above. Once you are ready with your survey, you can run it in a number of ways depending upon your budget.
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.
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.
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 the interest of users in your app. The lighter your app is, the more downloads it will get.
5. Percentage of active users
Download and launch rates are not the only factors that 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 require changes.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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
Using the old concept of vouchers and discounts, with an idea of sharing and socializing, Groupon has attained new heights. Initially, Groupon came to existence using WordPress, where regular PDFs were emailed to users that were already subscribed. So, testing with the help of an MVP proved successful. Afterward, Groupon built its voucher system and backend, further driving it to a great achievement.
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.
4 Tips to Move from Minimum Viable Product to Full-Scale Product
“You know that old saw about a plane flying from California to Hawaii being off course 99% of the time — but constantly correcting? The same is true of successful startups — except they may start out heading toward Alaska.” – Evan Williams
It is the same story that repeats time and again. Initially, a team comes up with an idea to launch a startup. Next, they invest some time and money on the MVP development process, arguing which features to include in and which to leave out while building an MVP. Finally, the MVP gets launched in the market and if everything moves as per the plan, the startup comes up with a stable and mature product.
So what’s wrong with this fairy-tale success story? In reality, over 90% of them fail.
So, why do many startups still fail?
Because they don’t understand that MVP is not just a product that is worked upon for 2-3 months and then launched. A considerable amount of effort goes into the process even after the launch of an MVP. Once you are done with launching an MVP, the list of the to-do tasks is long.
1. Collect Feedback
Up till your MVP launch, you built an MVP that was based upon features, which you thought were important, with respect to users in mind. But as soon as your MVP lands on the market, you have a piece of better advice to follow – the direction shown by the potential customers using your MVP.
Your job is to collect the ‘real data’ after launching your MVP to the market and discover why potential customers bought your product or why they didn’t.
By tracking the metrics or user behaviors critical to engine growth, you can measure and learn from user interactions and decide from there as to which features to improve, add, or delete.
2. Prepare to Scale
In the world of startups, there seems to be an agreement on the fact that to build an MVP, an important aspect of technical scalability can be avoided. All startups worry about testing their assumptions, validating the same in the market, and gaining huge traction. The factor of scalability comes as a concern at the later stage.
Unfortunately, this blind belief has led to some brutal startup failures. A home-service startup, ‘TaskBob’, that had raised around $5.7 million funding in 2014, had to shut down in the year 2017 as it was unable to scale up and generate profits.
Always be prepared and optimistic, there is always a chance of your MVP catching up quickly and the signups rolling in.
For instance, Dropbox decided not to launch any product at all as an MVP. Rather, they came up with a simple explainer video about what the product does.
his video actually worked and helped them increase the beta signup from 5000 to 75000 overnight. But the real question is if they were ready to entertain such a huge number of users.
Rajiv Eranki, head of server engineering at Dropbox explained in a RAMP Conference presentation that the Dropbox team made use of Python for virtually everything.
It means that the whole platform “could get to 40 million users without having to write thousands of lines of C code.”
3. Get Your Pricing Right
During MVP development or even after the launch of an MVP, startups mostly choose to defer the ‘pricing quotient’ because they think that their product is not ready yet. They argue with a definition of an MVP as to how you can possibly charge for a product that is ‘minimal.’
But the point is that even if the product is still in the MVP stage, but you have addressed the top pain-points of the customers and followed a customer development process, you are set to go on a journey of success. A minimum viable product is not the synonym of a half-baked or a buggy product.
Buffer, for example, identified this winning strategy. First, they analyzed the demand for their product with a basic MVP (a landing page) amongst the potential customers.
Once their landing page started gaining traffic, they instantly added one more page that carried the pricing plans to their signup process. As a result, they analyzed the demand for the product as well as found an optimal monetization approach.
4. Don’t Shy Away from Marketing
As discussed, MVP is not a final product, but a package in an early stage of product development. However, once your MVP gets launched in the market, you should be ready with your marketing strategy to let the world know that your product is finally live.
It is better to start with the promotion of your product as soon as you launch your MVP. However, there is a difference between marketing your MVP and marketing your final product.
Mint, a personal finance app is a true example of how they utilized a perfect marketing medium right from their MVP launch stage to witness the light of success in the future.
The marketing plan of Aaron Patzer, the founder of the Mint app was “Whatever we can do, basically, for cheap or for free.” And the channel they chose to market their product was Content Marketing. They began with a personal finance blog to build an audience for Mint.
Eventually, the app hit a milestone of 1,000,000 users in just a span of two years since its launch.
By simply placing an email subscription form at the end of each article, the startup accrued about 20,000-30,000 emails from potential customers in just around 9 months, while their app was still in the development phase.
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.