Startups are tricky. You have a first-rate business idea, but you are not sure whether it will become a sought-after solution. Entering markets with a new product is always an adventure, but thankfully, you can reduce the risk with the help of Minimum Viable Product, or MVP.
MVP is a product that is able to demonstrate your solution, but which has a minimum set of features for that. It is usually released before the production of a fully-fledged product with the aim to test the business idea and receive feedback from people. Users’ reaction help to understand whether your solution worth further development, or you should think about something different. In this way, MVP release and preliminary validation of the idea’s viability and feasibility help businesses avoid many mistakes and save lots of money.
Building MVP in 5 Steps
- Decide which and whose problem you are solving. You should know what your future customers will reply when asked, “Why do you need this product? How does it aid you?”
- Analyze your competitors. You may be surprised that your super unique idea is not as innovative as you supposed. Forewarned is forearmed, so you will be able to wisely use all the information you obtain from learning competitors.
- Estimate the flow of users who will use your project at the current stage. Know the real statistics of the potential customers.
- Prepare the list of all the features your solution offers, and prioritize them. For MVP, you will need to implement only essential ones.
- Start building, testing and learning people’s reactions. All this should be done repeatedly.
Feel the Difference: What MVP is about
MVP is about:
- Solving the existing users’ problem while providing an innovative solution for it.
- Learning users’ feedback and seeing whether a startup has a potential.
- Minimalism and functionality rolled into one.
MVP is not about:
- Getting profit. At least not at the first stages.
- Impressing users with its visual design or sophisticated features. Its primary aim is problem solving.
- An end product carved in stone. MVP is very flexible and changeable.
As we can see, a minimum viable product is a highly valuable tool, but any tool can become ineffective if it is misused. What are the main mistakes startuppers make when handling MVPs?
Common Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them
Mistake 1. Striving for excellence. The main idea of MVP is to give customers a general information on how the upcoming product will look like, introducing its main feature. Overloading the MVP with extra features would be a waste of time and funds in case the idea appears to be unneeded in the market. It is not supposed to be a finished product, so save your energy for the future in case it is validated.
Mistake 2. Making it too simple. Yes, it may sound inconsistent with the previous point, but ignoring the “viable” aspect is as dangerous as ignoring the “minimum” one. “Minimum” doesn’t stand for “not good enough” or “half-done”. It is recommended to build a simple, but reliable and flavorful web solution instead of creating a rough-and-ready one.
Mistake 3. Ignoring the wise approach to building MVP. The best way to prepare your minimum viable product would be sticking to a cupcake model. It is illustrated in the figure above:
It demonstrates how a simple product gradually turns into a complicated one. If customers require a wheeled solution, the first MVP already satisfies their demand — but in a very simple way. Then, bit by bit, when you see that your product resonates with your clients, you advance the solution. As a result, customers enjoy “lite versions” of the vehicle at each stage of its introduction. Your final product should be the sum of the previously successful MVPs.
Mistake 4. Not being attentive enough to the feedback received. Return of experience and collection of users’ opinions are essential parts of the estimation of MVP’s success. Do not forget that you are building the solution for real users, so their real-time signals mean a lot. By them, you will understand that your idea is perfect, some part needs correction, or the whole product appeared to be not worth their attention. Monitor the feedback very closely at each step.
Mistake 5. Creating MVP when it is not actually needed. CEOs of startups make this mistake amazingly often. Having heard of the lean startup principle, many businessmen set their sights on building MVP straight away without performing a proper marketing research. As a result, they lose their time, money and efforts. In many cases, it is better to focus on the validation of a new idea and preparation of a product, which is absent on the market and which solves customers’ problem.
How did reputable companies create their MVPs?
It is important to understand whether your product needs an MVP and if yes, what kind of MVP it should be. A good example is the best sermon, so we will consider them exemplified by some famous and successful startups.
Buffer: a Landing Page
Buffer is a plain application, which allows users scheduling their posts in social media. Before building the product, Joel Gascoigne, Buffer’s founder, wanted to see if this service would be interesting for anyone. Therefore, he created a simple landing page that explained how the service would work, welcomed people to sign up and click on the button to pay. However, when the users did so, they were shown a message explaining that the product was still under development, and that they could sign up for updates. Gradually, having received enough feedback, the full-fledged website and service were created.
Dropbox: an Explainer Video
Today this cloud hosting service is extremely popular, but 10 years ago, the idea itself was innovative, so Drew Houston, the company’s founder, needed to validate it. He created a 3-minute video, in which he explained the concept of a newly baked service, and shared it to see how people would react. This was the case when a picture was worth a thousand words, so within one night the number of signups increased from 5,000 to 75,000 people — an incredible result, considering that the product itself hadn’t been built yet. Further success of the company grew incrementally.
Pebble: Pay Before You Buy
Pebble, a company that offers e-paper smartwatches, started its way by getting people pay for their product before even building it. When the investors’ funds were dried up, Eric Migicovsky addressed Kickstarter crowdfunding community for fundraising. This resulted in the colossal success of his project among the community that helped Migicovsky raise over $10 million.
It should be mentioned that the Agile methodology is considered far more effective than the traditional Waterfall method when it comes to building MVP since this approach allows getting a ready MVP quickly. Also, it is very important to select a right technological stack for this purpose. We, like many other developing parties, believe that Ruby on Rails is a very apt solution in such cases. We have good grounds to state that, which we explicated in our previous article. We have experience in creating MVPs for our clients, and we hope that this article will save you from making mistakes that may occur in connection with the issue in question. Take a note of the above-mentioned recommendations, and your business boat will have high chances to gain the sea of a big market.