Building a product is a risky endeavor. You’re making something new, and you’re not sure how people will respond to it. What if they don’t like it? Nobody wants to do a bunch of work only to realize that customers don’t want what they made.
Furthermore, developers are expensive. Having them work on a failed product costs money your company can’t afford to waste. And to top it off, you have no time. You have lots on your plate. You just don’t have the hours in the day needed to build a complex product.
What you need is a quick way to turn ideas into products so that they can be tested in the real world—and a way to do so without a whole lot of risk.
Thankfully, there’s a common way of doing this! Enter the minimum viable product (MVP). This is how startups get traction in the market and feedback on their products quickly and cheaply.
In this post, we’ll talk about MVPs: what they are, some examples, and how to make one. Making an MVP increases the likelihood of your startup finding product-market fit, and it decreases the time it takes you to do so.
What is a Minimum Viable Product?
An MVP is a product that has only the essential features. It’s used to make a first version of something to prove a concept or test market response. It lacks the features and polish of a mature product, but that’s OK. An MVP is meant to be bare-bones so that it can be produced faster.
Companies outside of tech make MVPs. One example is a fast-food company launching a new product. The difference between them and software companies is that they release their MVPs to an exclusive audience. The fast-food company will try a new product in one city before releasing it to a wider audience. Software MVPs differ because they are readily available to anyone with an internet connection. They can be released to the whole world at once.
So, what does a software MVP look like?
Examples of Software MVPs
Let’s say you want to build a text editor. The first thing to ask is “what does a text editor need?” After some analysis, you’d probably arrive at an answer like this: The minimum features of a text editor are to create, modify, save, and open files. Without any of those, you don’t have a working text editor.
You might someday like to add features for formatting, adding links, or highlighting syntax. But the minimum you need to have a working text editor is a way to create, modify, save, and open files. To make this MVP, you’d make a text editor with only these features.
If you wanted to build a browser, the MVP would be fetching and parsing a webpage. You’d also need back and forward buttons for navigation and a URL bar for entering URLs. Functions like saving bookmarks, adding plugins, and private browsing mode can wait for later.
Let’s use building a solitaire application as a final example. The fundamental parts of this product are coding up the rules of solitaire and adding enough graphical elements so that someone can play it. Things like saving scores and creating leaderboards are nice-to-haves. However, they’re not essential to create an MVP.
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.
Determine Your MVP’s Scope by Tailoring It to Your Audience
The first step in creating an MVP is to decide what features to include by talking to your potential users and early adopters. What problems do they have that you think you can solve? What are they asking for?
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.
If you’re selling a text editor that can connect more easily to version control tools, an additional MVP feature might be connecting to these systems. If a major selling point for your customers is highlighting features for an obscure programming language, you’d include this highlighting as part of the MVP.
Next, for the browser example, your potential users could be really concerned about privacy. As a result, you might then include a private browsing feature as part of your MVP. If you build a browser without private browsing, it might work from a technical perspective, but it doesn’t solve the problem your users expect it to solve.
Finally, for the solitaire game, imagine your prospective customers are very competitive solitaire players. They fight tooth and nail to see who can win a game the fastest. In that case, some sort of scoreboard and online profile would be necessary parts of an MVP.
Even if you haven’t yet talked much to your target market, you have a general idea of what you think they want. After all, you started this startup because you saw a gap in the market. You have a hypothesis for a product that people want to use that isn’t around. Use those insights to guide what features you select for your MVP.
When building an MVP, you want to keep things small and move fast.
Select Your Tools and How You’ll Design Your MVP
When building an MVP, you want to keep things small and move fast. Architect only enough to design the MVP’s features. Stick to tried-and-true patterns and technologies you know well.
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.
An example of the app’s design would be to have a home screen that would take you either to the area to play games or to a leaderboard that shows top scores. It would also have login and logout functionality. That’s all you’d need to get started building the MVP!
Launch Your MVP and Get Feedback From Your Audience
Once you’ve built your MVP, let people use it and collect their feedback. From that feedback, you’ll get ideas and a roadmap about how the product can be improved, or even whether you should keep working on it. The real world is weird, and people have quirks. You can’t predict how something will work. You have to put it out there and see what happens.
Your ideas for new features you might want to implement will be validated by the market. Real people will have asked for them, so you won’t be guessing.
You can then incorporate that 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.
Should You Outsource Creation of Your MVP?
Since MVPs are so simple, you don’t need a developer with specialized knowledge to build them. Besides, at this early stage in your startup, you have better things to do. It’s more important for you and your team to be selling and building 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 development firms like Net Solutions have worked with many startups like yours. They know how to deliver an MVP quickly and according to your specifications.
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, everybody wins. Click here to learn more about how Net Solutions can get your MVP up and running.
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:
- An MVP provides focus. MVPs are typically lightweight. Making an MVP requires fewer resources than making a mature product. This means they can be made faster and with fewer people.
- It saves time. Software MVPs can often be made in a few days, or a week at most. If you think development will drag on for longer than that, remove extraneous features until you reduce the development time to this time frame.
- You won’t have scope creep. You decide what to make, make it, and do no more. There’s a clear definition of what done means. That means less risk that the project will drag on for longer than expected.
Overall, there aren’t any real downsides to building an MVP. The worst-case scenario is it turns out that your MVP isn’t what users wanted, so you have to go back to the drawing board.
Even in that case, isn’t it better to discover that after building an MVP than by spending a lot of time building a more complicated product? By doing the former, you can easily recover. With the latter, you’re out of business.
In addition, you learned more about the market and about people in general. This will help you build things in the future.
Finally, 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.
An MVP Can Help Your Startup Grow Into the Other Kind of MVP
In conclusion, this post gave an overview of why MVPs are important and how to make one. Some important points to take away are
- When starting out, make an MVP instead of a mature product.
- Change MVP features based on your target customers.
- Move quickly and keep things small when building.
- Incorporate user feedback about the MVP to evolve your product.
With the knowledge and tips from this post, you have what you need to take the first step toward growing your startup!