How a Low-Code Approach Can Scale to Building MVPs (Part 1)
In this report excerpt, we examine how and why entrepreneurs without coding skills are embracing low-code applications to execute their conceptual ideas.
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Editor's Note: The following is an article written for DZone's 2021 Low-Code Development Trend Report.
The current digital revolution has made it easy for users to build custom applications and get their businesses up and running in a short time. A good example is an interface built to enable the creation of applications with minimal coding. Low-code applications are increasing, with Gartner estimating low-code systems to comprise at least 60% of platforms in the next three years.
Low-code applications are changing the traditional mindset of building applications from scratch by writing code, which not only requires expertise but significant costs. Entrepreneurs without coding skills are embracing low-code applications to execute their conceptual ideas.
This brings us to our next question: What is an MVP?
What Is an MVP?
Despite more startups reaching unicorn status in 2021 compared to previous years, startups are struggling to get their ideas off the ground and launch products into the market. The low-code approach to building MVPs is giving a lifeline to most startups in areas such as hiring and adopting a low-cost strategy that attracts the attention of venture capitalists. In our series on building MVPs, we shall further explore areas including getting funding and addressing assumptions that may still be holding your startup even though numbers are looking good.
A minimum viable product is the initial product version released to the market with core features those customers use while offering feedback for product refinement. An MVP is the first step towards launching a product to the market and involves testing the waters to understand the market readiness of your concept and learning from feedback. Product development is often the goal when implementing an MVP as the startup learns from feedback and continues with iterations to improve the product and customer experience.
Entrepreneurs starting a new business face daunting challenges validating assumptions of their ideas, and an MVP enables them to test these assumptions and understand the feasibility of the product in the market. Validating the business hypothesis is of essence while using the MVP to understand the workability of the product in the real world. Airbnb is a good example of a startup that used an MVP model; the company started with a simple website page to seek market feedback about their concept of renting homes.
An MVP operates in the same way as the lean startup methodology which requires testing and experimenting based on market feedback of the product. The MVP includes the problem the product is trying to solve in the market, followed by assessing the product fit in the market and estimating the growth dimensions of the concept.
The lean startup model specifically reduces the financial risk that most entrepreneurs experience while launching their businesses. Planning is crucial to launching a startup product but unfortunately, entrepreneurs get fixated with details and lose sight of customer feedback, which is the most important element. The lean startup methodology removes this hurdle by enabling startups to bounce back from strategic mistakes made after product launch and instead focus on satisfying market demand with the best cost margins.
Research and market analysis are critical considerations when launching a startup and a minimum viable product offers these signals to entrepreneurs who make choices on the performance of the product. If the product feasibility looks good, then the startup can continue with product development, but if customer feedback is negative, then it is time to pivot to another idea.
Let us explore the attributes of a low-code MVP.
This is an excerpt from DZone's 2021 Low-Code Development Trend Report.
Read the Report
Attributes of a Low-Code MVP
Business hypothesis validation is the first characteristic of a minimum viable product and involves the entrepreneur testing and understanding the feasibility of the product in the market. Let's face it, many entrepreneurs often think that their ideas are hotshots in the market and overestimate their ideas without testing them with real customers. Your ideas about the product concept could differ from the expectations of the market and an MVP is a good tool to enable the startup to refine its concept and check loopholes that could lead to product failure with customers.
The second attribute of a low-code MVP is no need for subject matter expertise. In the past, building a business meant hiring a technical engineer to create code systems and get operations moving. Things have changed in the current digital environment with low-code MVPs allowing entrepreneurs to launch digital operations without the need for technical expertise.
Thirdly, the minimum viable product is less costly and gives the startup time to test waters with a comprehensive market analysis. Building and launching a startup is a costly process and despite incurring the cost, there is no guarantee that the product will succeed. With an MVP model, you can gather market data about your product sooner, which will allow you to quickly pivot and avoid additional costs.
Questions To Ask When Building an MVP
The first question the startup should ask should focus on product user readiness. Is the market ready for my product concept? This question is vital and assists you in getting the facts and gauging the readiness of the market to start using the product. For example, a startup building a wearable medical device should first understand the readiness of customers to carry around their gadget for tracking health patterns. Maybe the customers show interest in carrying the device and maybe customers think carrying the device around is hectic. This question points to the feasibility of the product prior to release.
The second question an entrepreneur should ask when using the MVP to launch their idea should be about the market interest. Is the market interested in my product in the first place? What if there is no interest in my product? What information have I gathered from customers about my product?
User insights involve learning from the feedback and gauging the applicability of the product concept in the market. Maybe the users have said the product does not seem like a good fit for them. Maybe the customers never want to use the product again. Lastly, the customers could offer good feedback about the product. Either way, user insight is critical for startups using the MVP model and communicates to them about the reception of the product in the market.
The last question to ask is about the scope of scaling the product. What is the scope of scaling my product in the market? This question requires an assessment of the growth patterns of the startup and figuring out the projections of the concept once the product is up and running in the market.
What will expanding the product further after launch look like? From my experience as an angel investor and advisor to startups, startup founders assume that if the market loves the product, then the rest will be smooth-sailing. Three months down the line, the product will need more innovation, refinement, and even pivoting to new ideas to make the product shine in the market. The product cannot remain the same given that competitors are also polishing their products to win customers. The startup founder and co-founders need to understand the customer journey and continue adapting to these changes by reinventing the product. The scope is more like anticipating the market once operations gain momentum and preparing for new experiences.
MVP Business Use Cases
Dropbox is a cloud storage company whose story resonates with our discussion on the MVP model. The founders of Dropbox used videos during the early days of the startup where the video educated users about their service by taking them through the process. Dropbox understood the interest of customers regarding cloud storage and soon scaled operations by improving the product.
Buffer is a social media automation software whose concept came as a surprise to many during the launch of the business in the market. Rather than going full-throttle on releasing the full product, the company built a landing page, which gave them an idea of customer traffic and interest in their software product.
MVP Building Tools
WordPress is a common tool used to build a low-code MVP because of its features including themes, templates, and plugins, which create a quality platform for your business. Most websites operate on WordPress because of the benefits that come with it including the ability to integrate e-commerce plugins, adding user accounts, and SEO capabilities. The good news is that building a low-code MVP requires less technical skills and WordPress is the best partner for this job.
Webflow is another tool you can use to build your low-code MVP. Webflow comes with a robust content management system that enables those with no coding skills to develop, adjust, and even publish digital content. Webflow users have a better experience when it comes to structuring their content compared to other software platforms that have less flexibility for users.
Now that we have explored MVP business use cases and tools for building a minimum viable product, let us turn our attention to the cycle of building an MVP. In part two, we will explore the MVP building process. Stay tuned!
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