This concept was first defined as part of the lean startup methodology and is popular far beyond Silicon Valley, being increasingly applied in a wide variety of economic areas (entrepreneurship).
What does the term “minimum viable product” mean? We can define it in the following way:
Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in software development is an earlier simplest working version of the product, which has the minimum necessary functionality to meet customer needs.
The approach implies the software development where a new app appears to have only those features, which are enough to satisfy its first users’ basic needs. It is a concept from Lean Startup method.
The main value and purpose of building a minimum viable product for business is that it allows to do market research for customer demand and get feedback from real users spending a minimum of time and resources. It becomes possible to regularly upgrade the product to meet the real user needs at the stage of development. Thus, to provide them with what they really want to get.
The difference between an MVP and a Proof of Concept and prototype is that an MVP is not just an idea validation or just a visualization of what a product may look like but is its first operational version in use.
Three key features of a minimum viable product:
- its sufficient value makes people want to use it
- the potential benefit to early users is substantial enough and able to retain them
- using it, you can receive feedback to comprehend its further development direction.
You can start working on any IT project with an MVP, be it a mobile app, website, corporate application, or even a game.
MVP Goals and Process Features
Any software development project starts with a concept, but chaos happens already at the stage of brainstorming. You think, you can introduce a function, add one more, and then come up with a couple of other ideas, as well as adopt some interesting ideas from your competitors’ projects…
The bottom line is that it is necessary to focus first. Form a simple concept and understand what is worth starting in the first place. Most often, this is literally one or two functions that solve specific problems. Also called in IT slang as “killing features”.
Here is an example of MVP for bookmarks startup. Let’s say we have an idea of a web service in which users can store links to various sites and articles as bookmarks. Its functionality can be quite extensive:
- creating bookmark collections by topic;
- saving the page content within the service, in case it is deleted;
- favorites selection;
- authorization through social networks;
- backup in the Cloud (DropBox or Google Drive);
- collection export;
- notes adding option;
- client application for desktop and mobile OS.
Now, imagine that you start working on all these things at the same time, and plan the launch only after all functions complete implementation. It can take months and even years for development.
A much better solution is to highlight the key function, implement it and immediately show the first release to the potential audience. In our case, this will be the ability to save the bookmarks, and that is our minimum viable product. Thus, it can take just a few weeks from the idea to the first release!
Sure, all other functions listed are very important too, but the priority is precisely the goal to enter the market. To create an MVP and launch the project right away is a much better solution than trying to add a few more add-ons, delaying the release, and then watching how a similar product is already being launched by one of the competitors.
That is to say, an MVP is a process. You define the hypothesis, check it fast and make the necessary changes based on the feedback received. Then, you start this cycle over. Here is how this approach is seen in Spotify:
Inspiring Examples of Minimum Viable Products
Let us make a short flashback and recall how the founders of world-famous companies used this approach in practice.
To promote Dropbox, the founder built a simple landing page where he posted a video explaining the value offer and provided a contact form for those willing to try the future product and leave their email address. The matter is that the product itself did not even exist at that point.
AirBnB MVP. In AirBnB’s case, the MVP looked like a simple website allowing users to book a room with an air mattress and breakfast. The future company founders were lending extra space in the living room of the apartment they rented themselves.
Zappos MVP. The founder of the Zappos online store built a website where he published pictures of different shoe models. He got an online order, went to a store, bought the necessary pair, and sent it to the customer. This way he tested the viability of his idea without spending money on renting a warehouse or purchasing products.
Uber MVP. In the original Uber version, the app could only connect customers to drivers. It was the very simplicity that attracted the audience. So, when the creators tested the idea in real-world conditions, they added all other functions like a family profile, travel planning, and the possibility to split fares.
How to Develop a Good MVP? A Step By Step Checklist
Before you get started, you need to prepare. So that, you and your team not to be moving at an impressive speed, but in the wrong direction.
Here are some tips to help you to create a MVP:
1. Use Agile’s flexible methodologies, such as Scrum or Kanban. They will allow you to improve the product, adjusting it to the customer preferences.
2. Analyze the market. Find similar products and figure out their value. Then, think what you can do differently and much better.
3. Define the project’s main idea, and then the function that expresses it best. Starting from this, remove all the secondary options, they can wait
4. Build a customer journey map. At this stage, think of what steps your customers have to take to use the service. This route should be short, comprehensible, and convenient.
5. Set a time limit, this should be a period of a month or two, which will allow you to even more meaningfully approach the prioritization process.
6. Choose the fastest way. Hypothesis testing can be carried out in different ways, and your task is to choose the fastest one.
7. Think through the iteration process. Feedback from users is needed to make the product better. And you must be ready to make changes at a quick pace.
8. Test your minimum viable product. Start with internal testing (employees, focus group, etc.). If everything goes well, you can present it to the target audience and start collecting feedback from real users.
Start from a simple problem solution, then, develop it, gradually solving larger tasks. Always keep in mind the main issue that needs to be solved. The final product is the sum of previous successful MVP implementations.
Let’s sum up the results
Even a small project can cost a lot and eventually require a number of resources to be implemented. If it is not successful, you will lose money, time and, in the end of the day, will be disappointed. That’s why it’s worth using a minimum viable product as a quick way to test any idea.
The earlier you find errors in your assumptions, the less time you spend on useless, unnecessary things. The only condition to be followed is that MVP should transmit your idea as accurately as possible so that you would be confident that users understood the concept you wanted to convey.
It is risky to build a permanent development team at an MVP stage. You can significantly increase development speed and reduce costs if you outsource this task. We have considerable experience in this area, write to us, and we will help you build the initial version of your product.