Did you know that only 10% of startups make it past their first year of operation? That must sound daunting if you’re an entrepreneur.
But the good news is, there is one way you can control what happens to your product in the market and be a part of that 10%. That’s where the concept of minimum viable product (MVP) comes in.
An MVP is a concept that helps in the agile development of your product while focusing on customer feedback. They are crucial to making your product a success. But what makes them so? Let’s find out.
What Is a Minimum Viable Product
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with the most basic features needed to attract customers and validate a business idea early in the product development cycle. It helps you achieve more with less.
An MVP also enables you to test your product in the earlier stages of development and make any necessary changes to improve it. This can help you find issues, target your weak spots, solve all problems, and efficiently develop your product.
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Benefits of the Minimum Viable Product Approach
Adopting the MVP approach will enable you to:
- Release a new product into the market as time-efficiently as possible.
- Test your business idea with real customers before committing a substantial budget to the complete development of the product.
- Study your target audience and market and learn what resonates with them and what doesn’t.
MVP vs. MLP
If you’re an entrepreneur or software developer, you must’ve heard about MLP. The minimum lovable product (MLP) approach focuses on creating a product with just enough features to gauge the response of the target audience.
How does it differ from the MVP approach? Let’s look at several reasons:
MLP and MVP both focus on product development and customer development. However, the MVP approach focuses on creating a product that is enough to get the job done. It includes launching a product with limited features as long as the product is functional.
In contrast, the purpose of the MLP approach is to work on a version of the product that is optimized so that the users can enjoy it. It prioritizes the user experience, not merely getting the job done.
So, if you want to prioritize user satisfaction by optimizing the features of the product in the early stages of development, you might want to opt for an MLP.
2. User Experience and Engagement
MVPs are a result of synchronous development associated with product development and customer experience. Product developers also consider user input to fully develop the product.
However, MVPs might not always require creating a strong connection with the users, as the product is still in the early stages of development.
In contrast, MLPs prioritize a positive user experience and focus on engaging the customer. Developers introduce an MLP to increase user interest, usage, and loyalty while completing the product development stage.
You should go for the MVP approach if you want to gather information about user experience and engagement in the early stages of development.
3. Market Validity
Market validity is defined by how a product is associated with the market. MVPs respond to consumer demands and requirements through user feedback and responses, ensuring the product performs well in the market.
MLPs, on the other hand, study market feedback and user responses to work on a product that pleases customers.
If you’re working with a fully developed product meant to get the job done and please customers, you’ll find your answer in the MLP approach. But if you want to collect user feedback to help further develop the product, you might want to check out the MVP approach.
Minimum Viable Product and Lean Development Methodology
The MVP is a core component of the lean philosophy, which focuses on efficiency and effectiveness by executing the right actions at the right time. Let’s take a look at the lean development methodology before getting into how it’s connected to MVPs.
Lean Development Methodology
The lean methodology is the universal approach adopted to efficiently develop and test new products and services. It requires you to identify an issue or gap in the market, create a minimum viable product that solves it, and validate that solution with real users or customers.
The philosophy prioritizes saving time and focuses on reducing waste. But time is not the only resource it saves. Lean development reduces the following types of waste:
- Waiting time
Lean Development in a Minimum Viable Product
Now that you know that lean development is all about minimizing waste to maximize value, let’s look into some examples of how you can make your application lean:
- Reduce features in your minimum viable product. Your development teams don’t need to work on reading receipts in your user chatting feature. However, features like fast instant messaging are essential for your MVP.
- Keep things manageable by choosing a platform for your application. For instance, pick either iOS or Android. Later on, you can always use emulators to expand to other platforms.
- Downsize your team to cut costs and reduce waste. But make sure you pick the right team. Don’t compromise on quality assurance and testing, and allocate adequate resources to maximize efficiency.
- Convert your app from mobile to web. That’s because a mobile interface can limit product development, e.g., it won’t allow you to use push notifications offline nor sync in the background. In contrast, a responsive web app will not tie you to one platform, and you can use it on multiple devices.
Faster Minimum Viable Product Iteration Cycles with Lean Development
Lean development is a crucial contributor to faster MVP iteration cycles. How does it do so? Let’s dive into it.
1. Waste Elimination
Lean development removes all non-essential tasks so that development teams can allocate their time and resources to the tasks that truly matter, leading to faster MVP iteration cycles.
2. Continuous Improvement
Continuous improvement is another key principle of lean philosophy. It requires product development teams to reflect on their processes and explore ways to introduce more efficient development processes.
3. Prioritizes Customer Needs
The third fundamental principle of lean development is “delivering value as defined by the customer.” User experience is a priority for MVPs as well, and lean development facilitates the process of understanding user needs and delivering value to them.
4. Rapid Feedback Loops
Lean development establishes rapid feedback loops with end-users and customers. It helps to speedily collect feedback regarding the released minimum viable product and analyze it. That feedback is used for the next iteration, speeding up the product development process.
5. Cross-collaborative Teams
Lean development facilitates the establishment of cross-functional teams with diverse skills and expertise. This reduces communication barriers, allowing product development teams to collaborate freely, make decisions, and speed up iterations.
Adopting the Minimum Viable Product Approach for Stakeholders
Why would stakeholders invest their resources in adopting an MVP approach and launching a premature product into the market when they could simply test their idea and launch the finished product?
There are two reasons why. Let’s get into them:
1. Resource Optimization
We’ve already talked plenty about efficiency and effectiveness. However, the contribution of MVP to resource optimization is substantial. Let’s list the number of ways it optimizes resources:
- An MVP will reduce your development costs by focusing on the most essential feature to test a product first.
- Getting early user feedback saves resources as you can allocate the resources where they matter most and work out the kinks in the product before launching it.
- The MVP approach validates the market demand by initially launching a basic product version to test the waters. This mitigates the risk by preventing significant losses.
- The MVP approach uses customer response to allocate resources, ensuring that the resources are invested in the right areas. Traction with your MVP will validate your investment and that of your stakeholders.
Also, when you use an MVP, you can preserve your financial resources because you make sure you are not excessively spending on an unproven concept.
2. Time-to-Market for Software Products
Every entrepreneur wants a shorter time-to-market for their product, and the MVP approach helps you do just that.
As an MVP focuses on the core functions of the product, you can get your product to the market quite fast. That’s because development teams can work on a smaller scope, perform quick coding, and execute faster implementations.
Moreover, as it’s just a minimal version of the product, you can iterate efficiently. You can make quick improvements based on customer feedback and save time on complex iterations.
The MVP approach also facilitates continuous deployment of the software product as the new features can be deployed to the live product environment quickly.
Plus, they enable you to test the market fit in a short time. If there is positive feedback, with the razor-sharp focus provided by an MVP, you can make faster decisions and capitalize sooner on market demand.
Balancing Minimalism with User Value in Design
Minimalism ensures that your users can easily navigate your app without having to use any specific features. However, functionality refers to the effectiveness of the product, the range of tasks it can perform, and the value it provides to the users.
A minimum viable product must be both minimal and functional. Let’s understand how you can make your product both minimal and functional:
A minimalist product design is clear and streamlined because it eliminates unnecessary elements. It communicates the message to the user directly by keeping the product simple and clean.
Every feature of your product should serve a purpose. Any feature that users may not use should be removed from a minimalist product.
A minimal design includes elements that serve a certain purpose in your overall vision. This requires you to design your product with a clear vision in mind, ensuring each feature reinforces that idea.
Minimalism focuses on usefulness and functionality instead of beauty. So, any feature or element that lacks a purpose or function should be removed from your final product.
5. Form Follows Function
The shape of your product should reinforce your vision behind creating that product. When the product form follows the purpose or intended function of creating that product, it strongly impacts the user experience.
How to Create an Minimum Viable Product That’s Simple and Functional
Now, let’s take a look at how you can create a minimum viable product that is both simple and functional:
1. Robust and Easy-to-Understand UI
The product should meet user expectations while being robust and having an easy-to-understand user interface.
If you add unnecessary features to an MVP, it overcomplicates the product and detracts from the actual purpose of user experience. However, too few features can lead to a lackluster product, limiting its usefulness.
2. User Needs and Value
Understand the needs of the user to offer them the value they need and require. Once you have done that, use the consumer feedback to refine and improve the user experience. Remember: each feature of your design should serve a purpose.
3. Test the Product
Test the utility of each feature and its impact on the general user experience to maintain the balance. Constant user testing and iterative designing through continuous development will ensure the product is functional despite having the most basic features.
How to Build a Minimum Viable Product
Let’s move on to how you can actually build a minimum viable product. It’s a s.i.m.p.l.e process with six basic steps.
1. Start with Market Research
According to CB Insights, 42% of start-ups fail because of low market demand for their products. So, research your market through surveys to understand and capitalize on the gaps in consumer demand.
Also, keep an eye on your competitors and what they’re offering to figure out what can make your product stand out. This will help you stand out from the million apps on the internet.
2. Ideate on Value Addition
Work on the value proposition of your product or service. How do you do that? All you need to do is answer the following questions:
- What value will your product offer the users?
- How will your product benefit your customers?
- Why would a customer buy your product?
- What will make a consumer choose your product over others in the market?
The basic approach to determining the value of your product is outlining the users and starting from there. In other words, build your MVP based on user needs.
3. Map Out User Flow
Your application or product’s design must prioritize the users’ convenience. So, from the app homepage to its use, look at each stage from the user’s perspective.
UX and UI can make or break an app experience. Plus, when you define your user flow, you determine the process stages.
4. Prioritize Minimum Viable Product Features
At this point, you have to prioritize all the features the MVP will support. Each feature you choose should align with the needs of your users and offer something beneficial to them — something they’ve been looking for.
Once you’ve covered the essential features, categorize all the remaining features based on the following:
- High priority
- Medium priority
- Low priority
After that’s done, arrange these features priority-wise in the product backlog.
5. Launch Minimum Viable Product
Now that you know about market needs and how you can meet them, you can create your MVP. It doesn’t need to have all the features you’re planning to provide, but it should meet the basic needs of your customers.
In fact, your MVP should be:
- Easy to use
- Suitable for the target audience
6. Build, Measure, Learn
You’ve defined the scope, designed the product, and developed the MVP. Now, it’s time to test it. Here’s what to do:
- Make sure your quality assurance engineers test the quality of the product before releasing it into the market. You don’t want to launch a buggy product.
- Once it’s approved, launch your MVP.
- After the deployment, review the analytics and take note of every response and feedback. Analyze all app-related comments to understand what you can improve, what falls flat, and what you can add to your app.
Essential Features to Include in an Minimum Viable Product
While saying you should prioritize MVP features is all well and good, let’s talk in-depth about what you should pay attention to when creating your MVP:
1. Find Out Your Product’s Value Proposition
Your product must have a core benefit or value proposition that will help you set yourself apart from your competition. You can find it by:
- Identifying the issue that your product is solving.
- Defining your solution.
- Understanding the added value your product offers over your competition.
2. Prioritize Your Early Adopters
Your early adopters include the customers who have a major pain point that is being addressed by your product. These people are most likely to love your product, so focus on what they value the most and fulfill their needs to ensure customer satisfaction.
3. Use the MoSCoW Method
The MoSCoW technique helps you categorize your features into four categories:
- Must-haves – These are the essential features you can’t miss out on. Ask yourself this question: would your app work or fulfill its purpose if feature X was removed? If the answer is no, this is definitely a must-have feature.
- Should-haves – These features are essential for your product and add value to it but aren’t critical for its functioning.
- Could-haves – These features enhance the quality of your product but aren’t necessary.
- Won’t-haves – They’re completely irrelevant to your MVP and don’t need to be included at all.
Once you’ve categorized your features, you can easily determine which ones to keep and which ones to leave out.
4. Test and Iterate
After you’ve created your MVP and introduced it to your early adopters, the next step is to get feedback. So, design the test, either qualitative or quantitative, based on the type of product. Make sure to add questions about specific features that set you apart from the competition.
Then, use the incoming data to review your product development processes, learn from your mistakes, add the features you seem to have missed, and repeat the process until your final product is ready.
Minimum Viable Product Examples
Let’s look at three MVP examples that show how this approach has helped start-ups succeed.
Equipped with a brilliant idea and limited capital, the founders of Airbnb validated their business idea by using their own apartments. They worked on the business idea of an online short-term, peer-to-peer rental housing.
In fact, the MVP for Airbnb was a minimalist website and three airbeds. They used this MVP to get a shorter time-to-market and launched their first version in 10 months. Now, Airbnb is worth $88.81 billion.
Foursquare is a location-based social network. It also began as a one-feature MVP, which only offered check-ins and gamification awards. Once they got positive user feedback, they added more features like recommendations and city guides.
Using the MVP approach, Foursquare has become a comprehensive city guide valued at almost $390 million.
Uber started as “UberCab” in 2009, was available only in San Francisco, and worked only via SMS or on iPhones. Its MVP validated the business idea of a cost-effective ride-sharing service.
Now, Uber is active in almost 80 countries across the globe, with an estimated value of about $68 billion.
Why Minimum Viable Product Is the Roadmap to Success
The MVP approach guarantees that your product will make it in today’s extremely saturated market. It’s the perfect solution for product development and customer experience because it can help you learn what your customers want before you build your product.
This is your cue to invest in a new business or product idea. Just as Airbnb and Uber weren’t always the giants they’re today, your start-up can also reach heights of success using the MVP approach. The MVP isn’t just a tool; it’s a game-changer.