If you are a business owner or a project manager, you have probably heard the phrase "minimum viable product" many times already - but do you know what it is and how to make use of it? It is called "minimum" for a reason - and in this article, we will delve into the MVP concept and introduce readers to some of its benefits.
What is the Minimum Viable Product?
Launching new software or any other output of your work can be stressful and challenging. There's always this fear that something will not work out, or that the product will turn out to be unviable.
Whatever business model you use, you will likely feel anxious whenever you release something new - but with the MVP approach, it might become a little less upsetting.
MVP in the Lean Startup Methodology
The term "minimum viable product" itself was created by Frank Robinson back in 2001 and popularised by Eric Ries in his book "The Lean Startup". It has become a central concept of the lean startup methodology. It is now used by developers and managers alike.
“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 effort.”﹣Eric Ries
In other words, the minimum viable product is a rendition of a product that has just the basic features, enough to be usable. Early customers should be able to use it to provide much-needed user feedback. It is very important for future product development, as it helps to avoid lengthy and unnecessary work on the product. The method aims to prevent creating products that customers are not interested in and to spend the least amount of money possible. According to CB Insights, the top three reasons for startup failure are:
- running out of budget - 38%
- not understanding the market - 35%
- competitors being more successful - 20%
These threats can be avoided with an MVP. When you know what your target market is like, how to wisely spend your resources, and what your competitors are doing, you can use it to your advantage.
Releasing an MVP in accordance with the Lean Startup approach is a kind of development technique, as receiving feedback on your minimum viable item (of any kind) can help you choose what changes to make before releasing a final version.
Importance of feedback on your minimum viable products
As I mentioned before, MVP is a product that will be further developed in the future, you do not have to worry that something is missing from it, as it can be added later by the developers. Releasing the product early can be beneficial, as users will let you know what should be changed and it will give you an idea of what your future customers expect from you and your product.
How to build a Minimum Viable Product?
Now that you know what an MVP is, you likely want to learn how to use it to your advantage. Do you want to know what purpose can it serve in your IT business?
It might not be easy to come up with a perfect plan on the first try. You might have a great idea that you want to put into reality as soon as possible, and you want it to be just perfect. The minimum viable product idea, though, is not focused on the finished and polished product - instead, it is all about the early stages. As I mentioned before, most MVPs are designed to have just enough basic functions to be tested by early customers.
Answer the basic question: How do you want your product to help your potential clients, and what features are required for it to function?
If you have the answer to that question, you already have a good base for your MVP. You know what the first version of your software (or any other kind of product) needs, so now you can draft the plan based on your business goals and on your knowledge of target users.
Keep your own goals in mind when creating an MVP as well, do not focus exclusively on what the end users want. You have to know what are you trying to achieve, and what is the importance of the product for your business development.
Step One: Find the purpose of your MVP
As was already stated, the primary idea behind the minimum viable product approach is to minimize the time and effort put into finding out how the market will react to your idea, while also using as little money as possible. What information do you require to best develop your business ideas in the nearest future? If you want to test business hypotheses about how your new product will be received, define it as your main goal. If you are more interested in learning more about the customer, it is also a good purpose for an MVP creation. If the viability of the functionalities chosen for the test version is what interests you the most, focus on it and create your MVP with that in mind.
Step Two: Do the research into the market need
You cannot possibly create a good, working MVP if you have no idea what the target market is like. Let your product team and the marketing staff research who the potential customer is. To produce any kind of successful product, you must first understand who you are creating it for. For MVP it is not different, and many startups fail because they do not do enough research into their market. Make sure your company does not meet the same fate.
Step Three: Assess your value proposition
Your minimum viable product (MVP) has to fit the value proposition of your project - and to make sure you know what to promise to both stakeholders and future buyers, you need to know what it is that will satisfy their needs. Ask yourself: does it create value that will help your business grow? Does it offer any benefits to early adopters?
Build your value proposition based on who is the target user, what problems they have and how is your product going to fix them. Tell the reader what your solution provides that the other ones can't. Let them know that your MVP will give them a taste of the final product.
Step Four: Decide on the core features of your minimum marketable product
Now you have to get to work on the minimum viable product (MVP) itself. It's time to build the functional early-stage version of your software. Make sure it has enough features to make it work properly, and do it fast. According to the Lean Startup methodology, wasting time means wasting money, so make sure your developers know what the deadline is. The development process for the MVP should take the absolute minimum of time possible. Whatever your business model and development approach is, this step has to be done quickly.
Step Five: Use the various elements of the MVP development technique
The scope of MVP is much bigger than just releasing a test version of your new product. You can take many other actions to ensure your success and better evaluate your chances to thrive in the market.
You can, for example, make a SWOT analysis or analyse the competitor's products. If you have enough time, map the user flow and think about the potential customer's journey. Remember that to release an MVP you still have to conduct A/B tests. You cannot just release a product that has not been checked for errors.
Step Six: Gather customer feedback from the product's initial users
You have taken almost all of the necessary steps already and know how to define a minimum-viable product, congratulations! Now, after releasing the product to the early adopters, you can wait for their reviews. You are able to collect user feedback on your product and use it in future to work on its further development. Your customers are who the product is aimed for, so it is their opinion that is the most important here. Determine what they think of your minimum viable product - are they satisfied with its current form? Is there anything they would like to add or remove from it? If your business released another version of the product, would they buy it?
Minimum Viable Product: Examples of its advantages
- You need to focus on important features only.
- Less money is spent than on a full-fledged product.
- You can see if your minimum viable item fits the market need.
- You can verify the matter of your business idea.
- The target audience can give you useful feedback before you release the final product.
- Early adopters can see the product's future benefits.
Tips and tricks for your MVP business ideas
As many developers and managers use the minimum viable product concept when working on a project, there are a lot of experts that have their own, individual MVP approaches. It's not exactly a copy-and-paste process, there is just enough space to make it fit your concept and your company's philosophy. Even though the core principles are the same for all businesses, there are some things you can do to make yours unique. For example, Hung Nguyen from the Smallpdf company recommends new startups to work on weekly sprints rather than monthly or quarterly to better understand the ongoing process.
Create a visually appealing landing page
An old saying asks us not to judge a book on its cover, but the truth is people attribute a lot to visual appeal. Even the choice of colours can affect how the product itself is received - the marketing efforts should not end with setting up Google Analytics or working on SEO. The landing page will be your MVP's business card of sorts. A coherent and aesthetically pleasing website design can make the impression of a polished product.
Craft a beautiful UI for a great first impression
The visual design of the UI of your minimum viable product (MVP) can change a lot in its reception by potential customers. An attractive design catches the user's attention, while also building an image of a creative company that puts effort into details. Take a look at some minimum viable product examples on the Internet and study what their UIs looked like.
No time for creating? Buy ready-made templates!
We have already talked about making a nice, pretty landing page. But what if you have no time or resources for that? Designing all the website elements can be very time-consuming and is not always the best option, especially when you're in a hurry to release your MVP as soon as possible. However, there are a lot of creators online who sell page templates, icons, stock images and other useful content that can help you set the informative side of your MVP project faster. Of course, it means more money spent, but on the other hand, it gives you the much-needed time to focus on more important features.
Visualisation methods are your friends
Use a priority matrix (also called The MoSCoW Matrix) to choose the basic features. The matrix is a popular method that helps you choose what should be prioritised. It is divided into four sections: must-haves (the most essential part for the MVP), should-haves (less necessary but still important, could-haves (nice to add, but not necessary) and won't-haves (those features that do not need to be there at all). It might be easier for you to choose what to implement in your MVP when you see it written down and separated into those four squares.
Choose the right platform for your product
In modern times, people use all kinds of devices to access the Internet - from mobile phones and PCs to smart TVs. But honestly, does your MVP need to be present and visible on all the platforms? Do some research into what channels would your potential customers come from and invest your time and money in those channels only - for example, there is no point in making content for smart TVs if it can bring barely 0.1% of total customers.
Do not wait for the "right time" for the release
Your company should absolutely not wait for the "right moment" to launch your MVP. It could take ages until that moment arrives, and your product can become obsolete or will require updating at this point. Avoid waiting for a perfect time to come and capture the market as soon as possible, as you might miss the opportunity while lingering!
What comes after Minimum Viable Product?
It is apparent that releasing an MVP means a higher chance of success for the final product. You develop it from a draft phase of a hypothesis to working, albeit not yet full, version. Then, after receiving the feedback needed, you can work on polishing it to make it perfect.
Having a core prototype is very important, as the feedback you get on it can determine the future fate of the product. Consider MVP development to be a learning experience, since you may gain valuable knowledge about both your potential clients and your product. The minimum viable product (MVP) strategy may be used in any business model and can assist any organisation in producing a fantastic end product.