You probably imagine your software as a finished, advanced product with all functionalities. Fully developed, it hits the market and achieves great success. But wouldn’t be better to make sure it has a chance of this success before investing the time and resources to build a final version? The way to do this is the Minimum Viable Product. So, what is MVP, and do you need it?
Minimal Viable Product - definition
MVP is a version of the product that does not yet reflect its final shape, but already has all the functionalities to meet the basic needs of the customer. It is supposed to be an experiment that will check the market demand for the product and help to refine it.
The concept of MVP was created in 2001 by Frank Robinson and popularized by Eric Ries, creator of the Lean Startup methodology. In his definition, MVP is “[the] version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”.
Thus, the main reason for creating MVPs is to get feedback from users quickly, before the final version of the product is built. However, for them to be valuable, the product must already be functional enough and reliable. Otherwise, what you learn will not apply to the final version of the product (which will be too different from the MVP) or users will mostly report that the software just isn’t working.
The MVP is, therefore, like a car that already drives properly (i.e. meets a basic customer need), but does not yet have a refined design, all amenities, and target performance.
The benefits of creating MVP
- Demand analysis and risk reduction
By conducting market research, you could only roughly find out if consumers needed a product like yours. It was a bit of a guesswork because only after users contacted a working product, the market will verify to what extent your idea made sense. If customers evaluate it positively, it is worth investing in further development. If not, you can always forget about the project and save on programming work and marketing actions.
- Building a better product
As we said before, when you release your MVP, you will collect feedback from the users. It will be a type of large-scale research, the effects of which will be more valuable than the prototype tests because it concerns an already partially finished product and not only, for example, a mock-up.
The gained knowledge will allow you to refine the product - introduce new functionalities and improve the existing ones or the interface.
- A chance to find an investor
Startups usually have limited funds to build their product. It is much easier to convince the investor to get involved in the project if you present to him not only an idea or a mock-up but an already working product.
The investor will test the product, and the very fact of the existence of the MVP will prove that we have the competencies needed to create the final version. This is a better basis for making an investment decision than just plans, declarations, and mock-ups.
- Accelerate the Process
When you launch an MVP, you’ll quickly learn what your customers think about it. You will not only create a better product later but do it faster than if you had to hand it over to users until the software was completely refined. It is a chance to save months of hesitating and polishing the product. You will have to make further action because you have already made the first step in reaching out to your customers.
- Gaining the first customers
By giving your MVP to users for testing, you will arouse their interest in the product. Being able to present their opinions to you, they will feel like their co-creators. Thanks to this interaction, they will be more engaged and perhaps be willing to buy the final version of the product and recommend it to others.
How to build a Minimum Viable Product?
If you are planning to create an MVP, you already have an idea for an application. However, even the best idea is not enough to think about starting the work. You need to consider it in terms of the needs of a potential user and the shape of your market environment.
For this purpose, create personas of future recipients. They are designed characters defined by such features as demographic data, interests, desires, or problems with which they grapple.
You also need market research. Based on surveys and careful research (e.g. in social media and discussion forums or using internet monitoring tools) you will find out what your potential customers need.
You also should know what solutions already exist in the market. Perhaps the competition has already created a similar product? Or maybe you will notice flaws and shortcomings in the solutions available on the market that your software could fill?
MVP is a great product testing tool. Before you create it, however, find out what it should look like to maximize the chance of success. Modifying a finished software is far more difficult and expensive than changing a prototype. Test the mock-up on a group of users belonging to your target.
If you do not have a large budget, you can conduct online tests by recruiting users via social media. Also, invite friends to your office to check the usability of the prototype. Gather the testers’ comments (you can ask them questions or invite them to perform specific tasks) and on this basis refine the prototype.
- Determining Necessary Functions
While you can (but do not have to) include all the functionalities you intend to equip your application within the prototype, the MVP must only comprise the most important ones.
Prioritize functionalities by setting those without which the product can’t be useful. You can rely on your prototype research. If the prototype contained all functionalities planned in the application, observe which testers used it most often. You will add those with a lower priority later.
- MVP development
MVP “M” means “Minimal” - remember that. Don’t strive for perfection and make the job done quickly (try to avoid mistakes, of course - it’s a “Viable” product, after all).
The sooner you release your product to the market, the sooner you will get feedback from users, and you will improve the software to work on the final version. And if it turns out that there is no demand for the product, you will save on development costs.
- Marketing & Testing
Once you’ve created your MVP, think about how to reach potential users. Use social media or a Google Ads campaign to get testers. You can also try to get blog entries or recommendations from influencers.
Opinions of bloggers and influencers and comments on their posts are one type of test. You will see how people who are interested in your industry react to the product and how they comment on it. Perhaps you will learn valuable lessons from these statements.
Part of the tests is also collecting statistical data. Observe the number of installations/uninstallations and analyze error prompts. If your software works online, watch how it deals with the load and, above all, what the user behavior is on the site.
In addition, use surveys. Ask users for feedback by questionnaires. Most often, they will be happy to answer your questions, feeling that they play an important role in working on the final product.
A Minimum Viable Product is a good way to test your solution at the initial stage of its existence. By releasing it to the market, you will collect valuable feedback from users. On this basis, you could develop a product that will better meet the consumers’ needs. And if it turns out that they don’t need your product, you won’t have to invest in further development.
These and more advantages of MVP make it worth considering its creation as the first goal you set for development. This will speed up the work and make you focus on the key benefits of the target. You will add everything that will be an additional value to the product after the evaluation of the MVP reception.