Summary: A minimum viable product (MVP) can save your precious time, money, and effort by letting you test the market before building an actual product. It also increases the likelihood of your startup securing funding and finding product-market fit. Read on to learn what is a minimum viable product, how to build it from scratch, and what features you must include in it.
Building a product is risky. You’re making something new and don’t know how people will respond. What if they don’t like your product? Your time, effort, and money will go waste, and it’s not a couple of bucks we’re talking about. Sometimes losses are so huge that it takes years to recover.
But there’s a way to test your idea in the real world without much risk: Minimum viable product. It can help you test the waters before diving into the sea of digital product development. Most startups do the same to get initial product feedback before they go all in. It increases the likelihood of your startup finding product-market fit and decreases the time for building the product.
In this post, we’ll talk about MVPs: what they are, some examples, and how to make one to validate your idea.
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What is a Minimum Viable Product?
“A Minimum Viable Product 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.” – Eris Ries
An MVP is a product with only the essential features. A few examples will be:
- A bare-minimum version of an online food ordering app that only lets you select and order dishes from restaurants.
- An MVP of a web browser would be fetching and parsing a webpage. You’d also need back and forward buttons for navigation and a URL bar for entering URLs.
- Basic version of a video game where you can only shoot Zombies. Features like score and leaderboard can be added later.
These MVPs are not polished or mature as their purpose is only to prove a concept or test the market response.
Companies outside of tech also make MVPs. A fast-food company launching the trials of a new product is an example. However, they only release their MVPs to an exclusive audience. On the other hand, Software MVPs are readily available to anyone with an internet connection and can be released to the whole world at once.
Types of MVP
Broadly, we can categorize MVPs into two types: Low-fidelity MVP and High Fidelity MVP.
- Low-fidelity MVP: A low-fidelity MVP is a basic step to identify the demand for your idea. An example can be a paper sketch demonstrating the feature of your mobile app.
- High-fidelity MVP: A high-fidelity MVP is more advanced, and it aims to analyze how much people are willing to pay for your product. An example can be a single-feature MVP, like an online food ordering app in which you can only order food from restaurants.
Here’s a more detailed comparison between both MVP types:
|Primary Goal||Understanding customers’ problems to find an efficient solution.||Testing how much customers are willing to pay for your product.|
|Complexity level||Basic, it only requires basic or no development.||Requires complex development.|
Identifying customer challenges.
Checking whether the problem you’re trying to solve is worth your time and effort.
Finding out an efficient solution.
Engage early adopters.
Find out how much customers are willing to pay for your product.
Gather essential insights for optimizing business growth and marketing strategies.
How to build a Minimum Viable Product?
Now that we understand what an MVP is and have seen some examples, let’s look at how to create one.
Step 1: The first step in creating an MVP is to decide what features to include by talking to your potential users and early adopters. Following are the questions you must ask in this step:
- What do customers want?
- What are their pain points, and how can you solve them?
An MVP’s features change based on the needs of your audience. The same type of product can have different features based on the needs of different people.
Important Tip: When building an MVP, keep things small and move fast.
Step 2: The next step is to choose your tools and the approach to design your MVP. The tools you use to make an MVP will depend on the problem and what you’re comfortable with. Use whatever you think is best for the job.
Important Tip: Stick to tried-and-true patterns and technologies you know well. It would ensure you don’t get off track.
Step 3: Finally, launch your MVP and let people use it. From the audience feedback you receive, you’ll get ideas and a roadmap about how you can improve the product, or even whether you should keep working on it.
You can incorporate the audience feedback into the next version of the product, rinse, and repeat.
Through this cycle of building, launching, and collecting feedback, you’ll gradually evolve your product from an MVP to a mature product that solves your customer’s pain points better than anything else on the market.
Learn how to build an MVP with this step-by-step guide:
How to prioritize MVP features?
There is no rule of thumb to prioritize MVP features. However, there are a few methods you can use. Here are some of them:
1. MoSCoW matrix
In this method, we divide MVP features into four groups: must have, should have, could have, and won’t have.
- Must-have: Low-risk and necessary features.
- Should-have: Not so impactful, but still significant.
- Could-have: Nice to have features in an MVP.
- Won’t-have: Features that are not essential in an MVP but can be added later.
While choosing features for an MVP, we keep must-haves and should-have features on top priority.
2. Numerical assignment
This MVP prioritization method is also called grouping because, in it, we distribute features between three priority groups: critical priority, moderate priority, and optional priority. Each group is assigned a numerical value as below:
- Critical functions
- Moderate functions
- Optional functions
Here’s how it looks with the example of a taxi app.
3. Bubble sort technique
The bubble sort technique helps you sort features from the most to least significant. Here are the steps we follow in this method:
Step 1: Write down all the features you want in an MVP in an array.
Step 2: Compare two adjacent features and change their place in the array according to their importance.
The process will involve several iterations, and the high-priority features will move to the top with each iteration.
Here’s an example of the bubble sort prioritization approach:
4. Effort and impact prioritization
The effort and impact MVP feature prioritization technique lets you prioritize MVP features by analyzing the effort required to implement them and their impact on the product. Then, we represent the analysis result in a matrix and prioritize the features accordingly.
In this method, we judge the value of each feature in two ways: the value it will bring to your user personas and the value it will bring to your company. We judge the complexity of implementation by operational costs, development hours, and risks involved.
5. Feature buckets
In this MVP feature prioritization technique, we categorize features into the following three categories:
- Customer Requests: Features that users are specifically asking for.
- Metric Movers: Features that enhance app metrics like user engagement, customer satisfaction, and revenue.
- Delights: Minor features that make your app attractive.
Based on this categorization, you can decide which features you want to keep in your MVP and which you simply want to park for later.
6. Kano Model
The Kano model is a user-oriented approach to prioritizing MVP features. It relies on the following metrics:
- Threshold: Features that users expect and your app needs to function.
- Performance: These features are not mandatory but can enhance your app’s performance.
- Excitement: Features that users don’t expect. Having them in your app is a plus point as it generates excitement.
A good MVP maintains a balance between threshold, performance, and excitement features – and eliminates everything that evokes dissatisfaction and indifference.
Important Tip: To successfully apply this model, you need to run customer surveys and conduct research. You can apply the Kano model for feature prioritization only after you have factual findings.
7. Relative weighting prioritization
This MVP prioritization technique combines the Kano model and MosCow matrix approach to determine the value of each MVP feature. We calculate the value of each feature numerically to help the development team understand how important each feature is. We consider the following factors in relative weighting prioritization:
- Benefit: Advantages of implementing the MVP feature.
- Penalty: The negative impact of not implementing the MVP feature.
- Cost: The cost of developing the feature.
- Risk: Potential challenges of developing the feature.
Here’s the formula to calculate the value of each feature:
(Penalty Score + Benefit Score)/(Risk score + Cost Score).
Each feature receives a score from 1 to 9, with 9 being the highest priority and 1 being the lowest.
Note: You need active participation from the client and the development team to implement this feature.
8. User story mapping
User-story mapping is one of the most popular and efficient techniques for prioritizing MVP features, as it involves all the product stakeholders. Together they envision how the supposed user will navigate through their app.
In this method, we start by defining user goals and then split the action into sub-steps. For example, if the user is to book a hotel room, the sub-steps will be: searching for a hotel, submitting user details, and securing the room by completing the payment.
Then, we write each sub-step as a story:
“As a user (user type), I want to (step name), so that (value).“
Then, teams map user stories according to their goals and significance. This way, you can identify which product features you should include in the MVP and which you should keep for the following product release.
Benefits of minimum viable products
If you weren’t already convinced that you should first build an MVP and see how your audience reacts before pulling out all the stops, here are some benefits of MVPs:
1. You can save your precious time and money
Building a fully-fledged product requires time and money. Sometimes it even takes years and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not everyone has so many resources to spare. It is also not wise because your time and effort can go to waste if the idea is unsuccessful.
On the hand, you can launch an MVP much faster. It only takes a couple of weeks and only requires a fraction of the budget for developing the product. This way, you can test your idea without spending much money and time. If the MVP works, you get a base to build your product. If it doesn’t, you don’t lose much. In short, it’s a win-win situation.
2. You can easily attract investors
“Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who implement them are priceless.” – Mary Kay Ash
An idea alone has no value. To attract investors, you also need to showcase that customers are willing to pay for it.
An MVP is the best way to showcase the brilliance of your idea and the market demand for it. With an MVP, investors can see your product in action, and hence it would be easier to convince them that your product will be a success.
Important Tip: Accompany your MVP with a business plan and marketing strategy to increase your chances of securing funding.
3. User-centered development
Users care a little about perks at the early stages of an app. They want a simple solution to their problems.
With an MVP, you can lay the foundation for an app that focuses on end-user needs.
Then, based on the feedback you receive on the MVP, you can enhance it to add perks and features to make it attractive. It is a wise move as making changes to an MVP requires fewer resources than overhauling a big, complex mobile app.
4. You can test your idea early
Imagine you spent a year building an app and launched it in the market only to realize it is not what users wanted. Your money and the time you spent on development will go to waste. The loss will be so huge that you may not recover from it.
On the other hand, if you spent a month building an MVP and launched it to realize there’s no demand for it, the losses will not be huge. You haven’t spent much time and money on its development and can always improve it before releasing the final product.
That’s why testing an MVP is much easier than testing a fully-fledged mobile app.
5. Faster time to market
The less time a product needs for development, the faster you can release it to the market and start winning customers. Hence, building an MVP is much better than spending your time and effort in a fully-fledged product.
6. Gather user feedback faster
No feedback is more valuable than the one you receive from real users. It helps you listen to your customers and build a product the way they want it without any guesswork.
One of the fastest ways to gather user feedback is to build an MVP. It takes much less time for development and helps you connect with actual customers sooner and gather the information that can help you improve it.
In short, an MVP puts you one step further along the road to transforming your scrappy startup into a stable, scalable business! Overall, there aren’t any real downsides to building an MVP.
Examples of minimum viable product
Here are a few top MVP examples that paved the way for successful products by focusing on customers’ needs and their key feature set:
In 1999, Nick Swinmurn felt there might be a potential for selling shoes online. But first, he had to test his idea.
Now, Nick did something smart instead of building a fully-functioning eCommerce store like most entrepreneurs. He registered Shoesite.com and uploaded photos of the shoes he wanted to sell on it.
Whenever a customer placed an order, Nick buy the shoes from a conventional store and shipped them. Ultimately, Shoesite.com became Zappos and Amazon bought it for $1.2 billion in 2009. An incredible achievement for a company that started with zero inventory, isn’t it?
Garret Camp and Travis Kalanick had the idea to pair drivers willing to take passengers with people who wanted a ride at an affordable price.
To test this idea, they played smartly, and instead of fully-fledged mobile app development, they started with something simple. An MVP version called UberCab. It only worked on iPhones or via SMS and was only available in San Francisco. However, it was enough to prove that the idea had a market potential. The data they acquired from this MVP helped Uber test market risks and become one of the most valued companies in San Francisco.
Before launching the app for scheduling social media posts, Buffer launched a series of landing pages. The first landing page asked people to submit their email if they wanted to know about the plans and pricing of the product.
On the second landing page, they asked users if they wanted to try a free version or one of two paid options. Surprisingly, most people were willing to opt for paid plans, and Buffer knew their product had market potential. Today, it’s one of the most reliable platforms for planning and scheduling social media posts.
“The aim of this two-page MVP was to check whether people would even consider using the app. I simply tweeted the link and asked people what they thought of the idea. After a few people used it to give me their email and I got some useful feedback via email and Twitter, I considered it ‘validated.’ In the words of Eric Ries, I had my first ‘validated learning’ about customers. It was time to gain a little more validated learning.” Joel Gascoigne, Founder of Buffer
In 2006, no one was willing to pay for streaming music as they could easily access it on websites like The Pirate Bay and LimeWire for free. That’s when Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon had the radical idea of creating a free music streaming service and using ads to generate revenue. But first, they had to test their idea because many other music streaming startups were launched and killed.
So, Ek and Lorentzon did something smart. They created an MVP in the form of a desktop app that offers only one core feature, music streaming. Then, they added the option for customers to pay a monthly fee for an ad-free experience. As they realized the idea had potential, they started enhancing it further. Today, it has a market worth $18.70 billion.
In 2008, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were struggling to pay for the rent of their San Francisco loft apartment. So, they wondered if there was a market for people who wanted to rent their homes.
They didn’t follow a traditional entrepreneurial route of building a fully functional website and signing agreements with partners and homeowners to test their idea. Instead, they created a simple MVP which was a basic website showing photos of their apartment.
To their surprise, nearby conference attendees showed interest in renting out rooms. Based on this finding, they founded Airbnb in 2008 and used the earned revenue to make Airbnb what it is today.
Today, AngelList is a popular job and investment platform. But it started by using just the team’s contacts, and all the first connections took place via email. The execution was small, but it showed the idea worked, and it helped AngelList grow into the more prominent platform it is today.
Should you outsource the creation of your MVP?
Since MVPs are so simple, you don’t need a developer with specialized knowledge to build them. Besides, you have better things to do at this early stage of your startup. You and your team must sell and build relationships to bring money into the company. And if you don’t yet have any developers on your team, you might not even be able to build the product.
Because of these factors, it can be helpful for your company to hire out the development of your MVP. Good MVP development companies like Net Solutions have worked with many startups like yours. They know how to deliver an MVP quickly and according to your specifications.
Everybody wins when you let firms like Net Solutions help you by doing what they do best so you can do what’s most important for your business. Click here to learn more about how Net Solutions can get your MVP up and running.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much should an MVP cost?
An MVP should ideally cost from $15,000 to $50,000. But the MVP cost may be higher or lower, depending on the scope of work, team, and contract type. We have also written a detailed blog to explore the answer to this question. You can read it here.
How to test an MVP?
There are many ways to test an MVP against critical premises. You can interview your customers, conduct surveys, create explainer videos showcasing your MVPs’ functionality and gauge your reaction to them, or create digital or paper prototypes. There are also several other MVP testing methods that you can read in this blog.
What is the difference between MVP and BVP?
Unlike a minimum viable product (MVP) that goes through multiple iterations without being sure if customers will buy the product, a billable viable product (BVP) lets you understand if the product is worth the time and effort in a short period. Hence, most startups they days prefer a BVP over an MVP.
What is a minimum viable product in SAFe?
In the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) approach, a minimum viable product is the minimal version of the product we used to prove or disprove the epic hypothesis.
Lay the foundation for a successful product.
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