A lot of startups begin their business with an idea that they think people need and want. They spend months, sometimes even years, perfecting their product without ever showing the product to their target. This is the main reason of failure of most of them!
You can’t do business assuming what your users would like to do or would like to have. You need to prove that your idea is relevant to the market! This is the first rule you learn in school, but unfortunately, people forget about it or try to save money on the research part. At the end, this saving may lead you to lose much more money than you would spend on market research! Think about it as a long-term investment or a safe belt; once your idea is proven you can move forward, innovate, and get your ROI faster.
What Is MVP?
MVP stands for "minimum viable product." It has just enough features to test if it is viable in the market. What does that mean? Usually, people try to add all features they want before launching the first version of the product because they think that if they don’t, people will find their project too simple and not interesting. As for the MVP, it makes you focus on the most important features, prioritize them, and develop only the must-haves. The rest are simply nice to have, and you can work on them later on if you see that people want them. Later, your users will tell you what they want to add, so you will adapt your product to the customer needs.
This works much better than trying convincing them to try it, explaining what they can do with thousand features. Maybe you remember a situation in which you were wondering why this company had so many unnecessary features that you'd never used in your life. For you, the product was useless, and for the company, this was an investment in time and money. In fact, research shows that more than 60% of features in software products are rarely or never used. In order to avoid these situations, companies switch to Agile methodology and work with MVP first.
First of all, when you have an idea, look at your market, find similar products, and understand what is so good about them. Why do people buy them? What is their value proposition? How will you be different from them and, more importantly, better?
Identify the primary goal of your product. Use a whiteboard or any digital tool where you can draw. Define the main process and user flow. Create a list of features for each stage and prioritize them, asking the following questions:
How important is this feature for finishing the process?
How often will the feature be used?
How many users will use this feature?
How much value will the feature bring to the customer?
Define the MVP. You have your features prioritized. You see the top row on your map, which Alistair Cockburn calls Walking Skeleton. This is the smallest possible representation of a working product. This is what you should build first. This is your core product, the most important one!
Design and develop your product using the Agile methodology. Build, measure, and learn. Don’t forget that this is your MVP; once you are in the market and you succeed, you need to move forward, do UX research, and find out what people like the most, what they would like to add or improve or even delete. Always work hand-in-hand with your target; it is much more efficient and you have a high probability to succeed.
Benefits of MVP
As an entrepreneur creating web and mobile apps, it is crucial to understand how MVP affects your business.
- It helps you to find out if the clients share your vision.
- You can test your assumptions, validate the existence of demand for a product, and see how your app will gain popularity with your users before spending additional time and money adding all the features.
- It allows you to begin building up a userbase and to gain insight into what works and what does not.
- It helps you prioritize the most important factors, focusing on business value.
- If the MVP fails, you can stop development and production before wasting any more time and money on a product that will not gain traction with your consumers.
- There's lower risk of failure and higher business value.
- It prevents you from designing features that will not benefit your users and provides immediate value quickly while minimizing development costs.
- It brings the product to market sooner and gets ROI faster.
- It's an awesome way to find investors; you already have a viable product, market approval, and feedback for the future evolution.
- It helps create interest for a product even before the full version of that product is ready.
- It provides valuable improvement ideas and user feedback.
- It helps with budget allocation by giving you an idea where you should invest more to increase sales.
- It provides cost efficiency and reduces rework.
Successful Case Studies
I love success stories. They inspire me to move forward and learn from the ones who have already done it and done it absolutely right! Let’s see how companies have used their MVPs to float their product to the marketplace.
What do successful apps like Uber, Foursquare, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have in common? They all started with a product much simpler than they have today. They are mature apps now, but this is the result of years of development and large amounts of capital as well as constant user feedback and UX research. Do you remember how they started? I do.
I remember that on Instagram, you couldn’t upload the size of an actual picture; Instagram always squared it. There were no ads, no videos, no direct chat, etc. All these new features came out because of small iterations and user research. As for Foursquare, I personally love this app. I am a good food and restaurant lover and I use it every day. I remember very well how they started. Look where they are now! They launched a simple MVP without investing in design parts and secondary features. They began with a simple search for restaurants, where you could do check-ins and get gamification rewards for being active. Only after getting feedback from their users did they focus on improving the user experience design side of the product. Once they were comfortable with the basic functionality, they began adding extra features like personalized recommendations, restaurant feedback, etc.
You need to go out of the door and put your product into the hands of your users. Look at how they use it and study it, and you will be surprised with the result. What you think users will like and do in reality may be way different from your expectations. You will change your mind, you will change your plans, and things you used to think were important will melt away and be replaced by other needs and priorities. Having real users in the initial stage is key to success! You develop your product not for yourself, but for your users. Stop basing your decision on your preferences and tastes. Base your decisions on your user research results.
The key takeaway from this article is that a Minimum Viable Product allows you to start faster and smaller and iteratively develop and design a better, more polished product. Listening to your target and adapting your project to the target’s needs allows you to make the best product decisions. With every release version, the product evolves to maximize ROI and move towards a fully mature application.