Developing a software product from scratch is a long, resource-intensive process. And after you’ve poured time and resources into development, 95% of new products still fail. The main reasons for that include a lack of alignment with the market’s needs and failure to understand consumer wants.
An MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, is an early version of a product. It has enough features for your audience to use, letting you observe their behaviour, validate your idea, gather useful feedback, and potentially attract early adopters. Essentially, using MVP lets you test and polish your business idea before having committed a lot of resources to it, ensuring you only move forward with a project that has merit.
MVP meaning: some historical context
Frank Robinson first coined the concept of MVPs in 2001. The idea falls under the Agile Lean methodology, and MVPs play a central role in Agile development. The core principles that surround it: developing a minimal, testable version of a product, were in use by various entrepreneurs, startups and larger corporations even then.
But it wasn’t until 2011 when Eric Ries used it in his book The Lean Startup, that the term “Minimum Viable Porduct” gained widespread popularity. Ries describes the MVP meaning in business as “the version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least amount of effort.”
As the market shifted to an increasingly consumer-centric approach, that played a huge part in the MVP approach being universally adopted. Today, we’re surrounded by examples of minimum viable products – over 70% of new companies use an MVP to launch their product.
Characteristics of a successful MVP
The concept of MVP aims to ensure a project’s success – but not all of them are created equal. There are certain minimum requirements you’ll need to meet when you develop a minimum viable product.
A successful one:
Captures the essence of your product idea
An MVP serves to showcase the core features of your product. As such, you need to create an accurate small-scale representation of your complete product. Your users can’t give you accurate feedback if they don’t understand what your end goal is.
To go with a simple analogy, if you’re developing a motorcycle, your MVP can’t be a single tire – your testers won’t gain any insight into the end product from that alone.
Is resource-light to create
Since you create an MVP to validate your idea without investing a lot of resources, it shouldn’t take a lot of money and effort. Ideally, you should be able to develop and launch it quickly, so you can start receiving feedback as soon as possible.
It’s a fine balance between including enough features to capture the product’s essence(as per above) while making the MVP development process as cost- and resource-efficient as possible.
Leaves room for iteration
An MVP should be a good starting point for future development. Ideally, you should be able to iterate upon the core features and improve the product over time, creating a final version that works for your users.
MVP development: most important aspects
There are several aspects to good MVP development – and, contrary to the name, they’re not all about creating the product itself. Let’s take a closer look at the process:
The first step of the process is bringing your idea to life. Depending on your business model, you can use an in-house development team or work with an MVP development company. The key here is to identify the core features that define your product and come up with a prototype that is stripped down, yet functional.
Once your MVP is ready, it’s time to put it at the test at the hands of your target audience. Which brings us to the next step:
Ideally, you should have a target audience in mind from the very beginning. But this is the stage where a well-defined target userbase becomes crucial. If you haven’t identified the people who will be using your product, you should do so now. You need people who align with your product’s objectives, understand its potential and want to be a part of its development.
Iterative prototyping and feedback implementation
An MVP isn’t set in stone. As your users give you feedback, it’s up to you (or your MVP development partner) to apply that feedback to the product. This is an interactive process where you continuously refine and improve the core features of your product.
As your product is being developed and tested, it’s easy to get caught up in that process and get tunnel vision. But you shouldn’t ignore the larger market. Monitor market trends, look at what your competitors are doing, and keep an eye out for a shift in consumer needs. Sometimes the market can undergo an unexpected shift, and you want to see that and adjust your strategy accordingly.
The MVP concept isn’t a universal, one-size-fits-all approach. It’s a flexible strategy that can be tweaked to suit various product development scenarios and work environments. Here are a few of the ways a multiple viable product approach can be customized:
This approach involves breaking down your product development process into manageable phases. Instead of launching a fully-featured product, you start with a basic version—your first-stage MVP. You release this initial version to your target audience and gather their feedback.
The beauty of the staged MVP is that it can enable gradual improvement and refinement. After receiving feedback and insights, you move on to the next stage, adding additional features or functionalities. This incremental development strategy ensures that each phase is built upon the lessons and data collected from the previous one. It’s a pragmatic way to evolve your product while minimizing risks and resource investments.
The concierge MVP is a clever adaptation, especially suited for service-based businesses or when you want to test user demand for specific functionalities. In a concierge MVP, you manually provide personalized services that mimic the functionality of a fully automated system.
Essentially, you have a personal assistant for each user(or group of users). While this may involve more manual effort, it’s a cost-effective way to gauge user interest and validate your ideas without building an elaborate infrastructure. It’s an excellent approach when you want to understand user needs and preferences before investing in a fully automated solution. In a concierge MVP model, users are typically aware that there are humans working behind the scenes.
Wizard of Oz MVP
The Wizard of Oz MVP is a method to test concepts where user interaction is crucial. In this scenario, you create the appearance of automation, but the tasks are actually carried out by humans working backstage. The difference between the Wizard of Oz model and the Concierge MVP is that here, users don’t usually know humans are carrying out the tasks.
It’s like the classic tale of the wizard pulling strings from behind the curtain – hence the name. Users interact with what seems like an automated system, while in reality, you’re manually orchestrating the experience. This approach helps you understand user behavior and preferences before making the commitment to a fully automated solution. It’s particularly useful for fine-tuning your product’s user interface and user experience.
The piecemeal MVP approach is resource-efficient and often used when core components of your product can be readily sourced as third-party services or products. Instead of building everything from scratch, you piece together existing tools and solutions to create your MVP. Like building a puzzle.
By leveraging external resources, you save time and resources, focusing your efforts on the unique aspects of your product that set it apart from others. This method is ideal when you want to accelerate your MVP development and get it to market swiftly.
Digital Prototyping MVP
The digital prototyping MVP takes a visual and interactive approach. Instead of developing a fully functional product, you create high-fidelity digital prototypes that simulate the look and feel of the end product. While these prototypes are not fully operational, they offer a vivid representation of the intended user experience.
Essentially, it’s a sneak peak into your product, especially useful with products that hinge on UI and UX.
Transitioning from MVP to a full product
Ideally, everything goes well, your users like your product, you have a lot of early adopters, and you want to move forward and turn your MVP into a full-fledged product. There are several main steps to doing that successfully:
Implement all user feedback
Your audience’s thoughts are one of the most valuable things an MVP gives you – use them. Make sure you’ve heard every comment, suggestion, and critique from your early users, and implement changes based on them.
Scale infrastructure for a heavier workload
When your product hits the open market, that’s going to bring move users, more interactions, and more data. MVPs are usually designed for a smaller audience – make sure your software architecture can handle an increase in demand. This may include expanding server capacity, optimising databases, and ensuring high availability.
Optimise your user experience
If your MVP wasn’t UI-centric, you might need to refine your user interface and experience before releasing it to the public. Make it as visually appealing and user-friendly as possible to create a great first impression on release.
Be sure to streamline navigation by creating intuitive menus and buttons, as well as optimise for speed and performance.
Expand feature set
Your MVP was a taste of what’s to come – now it’s time to build upon it. This is another time when all the user feedback you gathered comes into play. Focus on addressing the most requested features and functionalities based on input you’ve received. Of course, while expanding, make sure all new features align with the product’s original core value proposition.
An MVP is a crucial part of today’s development landscape for the undeniable value it brings. When implemented well, the minimum viable product approach lets you test your idea in a resource-optimal way, prioritize and flesh out features your audience is after. As a result, it helps you avoid the most common pitfalls of product development and brings you a step closer to a successful product release.