MVP is one of the best tools to validate your product or startup idea without taking too much risk. This article will teach you how to build an MVP the right way. Learn what to do, what to avoid and how to test if your or startup idea is worth pursuing.
Table of Contents:
- №4: Meet with your potential customers
- Don’t wait until you have something to show
- Building an MVP is not an excuse for not meeting with your customers
- If you build it, they will… not come automatically
№5: Prioritize features
- Identify the job to get done, the core feature
- Make a list of features, sort it and prioritize it
- Put the list away and build the core feature
№6: Ship before you are ready
№7: Build it, ship it, gather feedback, learn, improve or pivot
Conclusion: How to Build an MVP…
How to Build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) the Right Way Part 1.
№4: Meet with your potential customers
Trying to build an mvp without talking to your potential customers can be a big mistake. Yes, you know what problem you want to solve. You also know who your ideal customer or user is. However, that doesn’t mean the next step to build an mvp is to start actually building it. It is often better to meet with your potential customers first.
On one hand, meeting with potential customers may seem like a logical step. You have certain assumptions about a problem you think exist. You also have some ideas on how to solve it. So, it kind of make sense to meet with people who may be your future customers, and share your assumptions, ideas and hypothesis.
On the other, meeting with potential customers right away may not seem so logical. Yes, you have some ideas you could talk about with your potential customers. You could also ask those people about the problem and get more information. The problem is that you have nothing at hand. Wouldn’t it be better to have something to show?
Don’t wait until you have something to show
Well, yes and no. Having something to show could, theoretically, help you make the most of your conversations with customers. You could demonstrate your ideas and hypothesis on the MVP you’ve already build. You could also start gathering feedback. Then, you could use that feedback to work on your MVP and improve it.
On the other hand, what if you build an MVP before you meet with your potential customers? You are risking that you will build an MVP nobody will want to use. Knowing what problem to solve and for whom is important. However, it will not guarantee you will be able to build an MVP your potential customers will actually want and like to use.
Since building an MVP can take a decent amount of time, it might be better to meet with your potential customers before you have anything tangible to show. In that case, you are not wasting your time, and other finite resources. So, think about it. What is better? Dedicating your time to build an MVP your potential customers will not want to use?
Or, meeting with your customers with empty hands, just to have a small conversation? The second option, meeting with your potential customers with empty hands, will probably be better. Unless, you are immortal and have a few zeroes on your bank account so you can dedicate next few weeks or months building something you may have to throw away.
So, don’t wait until you have something to show. Instead, take the option to meet with your potential customers as a chance to share your assumptions, hypothesis and ideas. Your time is limited. Don’t waste your time building something nobody will want to use. Talk with your customers first, and only then, get to work and build an MVP.
Building an MVP is not an excuse for not meeting with your customers
One more thing. Some people like to use building an MVP as an excuse for not meeting with your potential customers. They think, or rather like to think, that building an MVP is more important, that it is what matters the most. This is true, to some degree. You can’t build an MVP if you spend all your time talking with potential customers.
If you want to build an MVP, you will have to take the time and build it. Sooner or later, but you will have to. That said, there are two things you have to be clear about. First, your assumptions and ideas have legs. Don’t build an MVP for the sake of building it. Don’t waste your time. Share your ideas, assumptions and hypothesis and listen.
Second, make sure you are not simply trying to avoid meeting with your potential customers. For many people, meeting with potential customers is very uncomfortable. It is the last thing in the world they would want to do. They would do almost anything to avoid it. One of those things is dedicating their time to build an MVP.
The problem is that avoiding potential customers will not help you with anything. It will not help you understand the problem. It will not help you devise a better solution. It will not help you build an MVP that works better. It will probably only make it harder. Building an MVP in solitude will increase the probability it will fail.
If you build it, they will… not come automatically
Aside, to that, what will you do when you finish the work, build an MVP? Having an MVP will help you with anything on its own. You also have to get it out there. You have to find the right people and let them use your MVP, let them test it. Then, you have to gather feedback and get back to work, using that feedback to make your MVP better.
This will not be possible if you will always look for ways to avoid any contact with potential customers. No contact with customers and users, no feedback, no product. It doesn’t matter if you take care of this part of the job or if you find someone else to do it, such as a co-founder. Just make sure there is someone, and do it quickly.
Remember, people will not come to your doors, or on your website, just because you build an MVP. You have to take what you’ve built and get it out there. You have to show it to people and convince them to come and try it. Otherwise, no one will ever know you’ve built anything. So, face your fear, and discomfort, and meet with your potential customers.
№5: Prioritize features
Always prioritize the features you want to build when you plan how you will build an MVP. One of the biggest mistakes you can make, when you build an MVP, is trying to build everything and for everyone. This usually never leads anywhere. Unfortunately, it is very easy to fall into this trap, even if you focus on one problem.
Identify the job to get done, the core feature
One thing that can help you with prioritization is identifying what job your potential customers are trying to get done. What is the core feature? There is always one. So ask yourself: What one job your potential customers are trying to get done? What outcome do they want to achieve? How can your product help your customers improve their lives? What is the single-most important action that I want my users to accomplish?
When you ask these questions write down all ideas you can think of. There might dozens even hundreds of features your product could do. Even if you do your best and really focus on only one problem to solve, there will still be many other opportunities and options to expand the usefulness of your product.
It might be managing personal finances, getting healthy, loosing weight, getting in shape, sharing personal experiences with friends and family, sharing data with people, staying in touch with people, learning a language, increasing sales, increasing brand awareness, discovering new people, activities, places, etc.
The problem is that not all features are core features. All features you can think of are not equally important, especially in the context of the problem you want to solve, and the product you want to build. Your goal is to find that one job to be done, that one core feature, your product must be able to get done.
This is important. There is always only ONE job to be done, only ONE core feature. Never more. Yes, it will be hard to choose only one, to resist the temptation to add some more. However, it is necessary if you want to build an MVP the right way. Trying to pack your MVP with many features can quickly backfire.
What can happen if you add more features? First, it will take you more time to build the MVP. Second, related to the first, more time to build also means more time before you get any feedback. Third, it will be harder to test what works and what your customers really want. The more features you add the more variables you also have to watch and test.
The fourth problem is that you can get buried under an avalanche of issues. More features usually also makes more space for bugs and issues. This can make it much harder to maintain your product, not to mention improving it. It is for these, and other, reasons it is usually better to stay very lean, focus on one job to get done, one core feature.
Make a list of features, sort it and prioritize it
So, before you get to work and build your MVP take that list of features you created. Next, divide your list of features into three columns: “core”, “must-have”, “nice-to-have” and “ignore”. As the next step, find the one core feature the most. It is often also the one that solves the problem the most. Put this feature into the “core” column.
Take a look at the rest of your list. Now, ask yourself: which of these features are important, and why. Knowing the “why” is necessary. If you don’t know why you think some feature is important means that feature is not really that important. Those features without any solid “why” belong to the “ignore” column.
Those features you are left with are often the most difficult to process. What you need to do is select which features are “must-have” and which are “nice-to-have”. The “must-have” features are usually complimentary to the core feature. They help, directly or indirectly, to get that one specific job done. They are also used often.
On the other hand, the “nice-to-have” features are there just to make your, already happy, customers happier. These features usually don’t really help get that one specific job done. They are often just something to make the overall experience better. In short, they are not the reason your customers “hired” your product.
The last step is prioritizing all features on your list. One approach you can try is to mark all features either as “high priority” or “low priority”. If you have just two or three features this can do the work. Otherwise, the result can be confusing. When you have two or more “high priority” features which one is higher in priority?
There is another approach. Count the features you have on your list. Then, assign specific number to each feature. This number will specify the priority, the smallest (1) being the highest priority and the biggest being the lowest. Make sure to use every number only once. The result will be list of features ordered by specific and unique priority.
Put the list away and build the core feature
When you are done with your list put it away. All those features are not important for now. There will be plenty of time to focus on them. Now, you have to focus on that one core feature. When you decide to build an MVP you don’t build everything you want right away. That would still mean spending more time than necessary before you test anything.
At this moment, focus only on building that one core feature. Nothing more. Build it, test it with real customers and gather feedback. You have to make sure your customers want to use your MVP. Unless you know this, building any other features is pointless. Why add features if you don’t know the core idea resonates? That doesn’t make any sense.
So, until you build and test the core feature put your list of feature away. Focus on getting your MVP out there. This is what’s important, to get it into people’s hands so they can try it. Only then will you know if it makes sense to proceed with your idea and add something.
№6: Ship before you are ready
Using building MVP as an excuse for not meeting with customers was one mistake you have to avoid. Another one is waiting until you are ready, waiting for the perfect time or until your MVP is perfect. Anyone who ever tried to build an MVP will agree that this never happens. You will never be ready. Your MVP will never be perfect. There will never be a perfect time.
Waiting for any of these things will most likely lead to one thing: wasted time. The longer you wait the more time it will take until you test your idea, until you get any feedback. Also, the longer you wait the more likely someone else will come up with some similar idea and get it out faster than you.
So, don’t wait for the perfect moment. Don’t wait until your MVP is perfect. Don’t wait until you are ready. Build an MVP that will do that one specific job, and is stable enough at least for testing, and ship it. Ship it before you are ready. There will be plenty of time to fix any bugs later.
№7: Build it, ship it, gather feedback, learn, improve or pivot and repeat
You are not done when you build an MVP and ship it. If your MVP get traction, you are never done. You are just getting started. Next, you will gather feedback from your customers and users. You will learn from this feedback and use it to fix and improve your product. And, you will ship new version. Next? You repeat this loop over and over again.
This is how product development and startups work, in a nutshell. You build something and you ship it to customers and gather feedback. If your customers want to use your product you keep working on it, making it better and shipping new versions. If not, you can try something else. This is also called making a pivot.
This is it. This is how great products are made. It is a never-ending cycle of building, learning and shipping. You start and build an MVP. If it resonates you follow the cycle. If not, you can try something else, slightly or completely. So, go, build it, ship it, gather feedback, learn, improve or pivot and repeat.
Conclusion: How to Build an MVP…
There is something you have to be clear about. When you decide to build an MVP, you are also making the decision about your future. It may take few days, weeks or months to build an MVP. However, you may continue working on it for the next few years, even decades.
So, make sure this is something you actually want. Make sure you are building something you want to dedicate years of your life to. Also, make sure you like the people for whom you are building that product for. You will are going to spend a lot of time with them. So, you had better like them and their company.
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Originally published at Alex Devero Blog.