MVP: An Entrepreneur’s Tool

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product's initial users.

A minimum viable product has a bare-bones design. It’s then tested on the market to see if it has the potential to succeed. To perform this initial testing, the product only needs the most essential functionality. Anything beyond major functionality is not included. The MVP version is a tool to help determine the product’s potential. The MVP method can be used to develop any product, including mobile apps and websites.

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
– Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn

Why MVP?

An MVP helps you get early data that confirms users’ interest in your product. Positive results at the MVP phase give the green light to develop the full version.

By creating and testing a minimum viable product, you can:

  1. Save time and resources by making sure you’re investing in a project that’s likely to be successful.
  2. Check whether the product is appealing to potential users.
  3. Find out which trends you can take advantage of when developing the full version of the product.
  4. Aсquire a potential user base and find early adopters.
  5. Save time and money on developing the final product.
  6. Attract investors earlier.

Stages of an MVP

Stage 1: Identifying a Market Need

“Be stubborn on vision but flexible on details”
– Jeff Bezos

The truth is that not everyone is willing to buy what you are selling. So, while confidence is a huge advantage you still need to learn if there is a market need for your product. Identify your target audience, conduct market research and provide focus group testing. You want to know for sure who you are selling your product to and whether or not they want to spend money on it.

Stage 2: Conceptualizing the Product

“Make every detail perfect and limit the number details to perfect.”
– Jack Dorsey, Square

At this stage, you have to conceptualize your idea just enough to receive meaningful customer feedback. It may be a one-page website or a Powerpoint presentation — test your concept’s problem/solution fit with potential customers.

Stage 3: Building the Product Roadmap

Once you’ve conceptualized the idea, it’s time to build a product roadmap. Basically, it is a strategic plan of your product development which contains all the key stages, plans, and business objectives. Why do you want to launch your product? Who is your target audience? Where do you start? Include these and other details regarding timing, product vision, and metrics into the roadmap.

Stage 4: Developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Releasing it to Users

Then you have to focus on MVP development. Make it really basic, just the features you would need to test the product/market fit and get significant results. The goal is to collect user feedback about the product in general and understand what users like most about it. In the actual MVP development process, we start talking about the type of MVP you want to build, the technology you intend to use, and the way you plan to design it.

Finalizing the Type of MVP – Mobile/Website; Desktop/SaaS; Android/iOS

Finalizing the type of MVP you want to build is the first thing you need to do, so that you can focus on developing it for that particular platform. There are different types of MVPs, such as no-product MVP, concierge MVP, software-based MVP, etc. Speaking of software-based MVPs, you can further have a mobile or website MVP, a desktop application or a cloud application, etc. Diving deeper, if you decide to go with a mobile application, you can choose to build an app for Android or iOS, depending on your target audience’s tendencies.

Choosing the Technology

Say you have opted for a website application, which is cloud-based, like an e-commerce solution. Now the question arises, what technology do you use to build the application. You have a lot of options available – WordPress, Magento, Laravel, Joomla, Drupal, etc. The choices are overwhelming, but there are ways in which you can narrow down your options.

At this point, you have your niche audience in mind as well as the scope available for your product. Based on the estimated scope of the product, choose a platform that is robust and scalable. This will give your actual product room to grow. Finding the right technology for developing the MVP can be difficult for non-technical startupreneurs, in which case you can take the help of a technical advisor to understand all the pros and cons of the various platforms with respect to your product.

Also, don’t be worried if you are not sure of the technology right from the beginning. The platform you choose for your actual product can be different from the one you use for your MVP. For instance, say you build your e-commerce MVP using WordPress+WooCommerce but decide to deploy the actual product using Magento. That’s fine. The only reason for taking technology into account at this point is that developing your main product from your MVP is easier if you have a functional design ready on the same platform in the first place.

Prototype Development

After finalizing the technology stack, you can start coding your MVP. Now whether you do it yourself, hire a freelancer, or outsource your MVP development, there are three things you need to ensure – excellent code quality, focused product development, and strict timelines. Maintaining these parameters for your MVP is a must because that is going to be the foundation of your product.

Frontend and User Experience Design

As for the back-end so for the front-end! The point of building an MVP is two-fold; one, you have a ready module of your idea to show your investors, two, you get real-time feedback about the advantages and drawbacks of your product as you start testing it amongst beta users.

To this end, you need an MVP that has well-designed frontend wireframes and a good user experience. We’re not saying it needs to be extremely rich at the moment, but nevertheless, it should be functional and intuitive from the beginning itself.

Beta Testing

Once your prototype is ready, investing in a few rounds of beta testing is always a good idea. This helps you get first-hand insights into how potential customers will react to your product and the problems they might face. Beta testing is an iterative process, which can be repeated until you build a complete, fully functional minimum viable product that you pitch to your investors.

Stage 5: Iterating Based on User Feedback

“When we create stuff, we do it because we listen to the customer, get their inputs and also throw in what we’d like to see, too. We cook up new products. You never really know if people will love them as much as you do.”
– Steve Jobs

Following the previous step, you should iterate again and again based on the user reaction. Take feedback from the last iteration and implement the necessary changes to the product. Continue to collect qualitative responses and test the product again. MVP project management requires improving the product until you get a perfect loveable version of it.

Great examples of MVPs

Foursquare: The company’s MVP contained check-ins and awards in the form of badges. After assessing initial user reactions, the developers started to expand the product, adding recommendations and city guides. Today, Foursquare unites 50 million people who have checked in over 8 billion times.

Instagram: Initially, the MVP was focused on photo filters only. Users could take pictures, apply one of the suggested filters, and save their photos in an album on their device. Users liked the application. It has since been updated to include videos, geolocation, tagging, hashtags, and integration with other social networks.

Amazon: In 1990, Jeff Bezos made a list of products that could be sold online at the time. His very first list included 20 categories. Later, he selected only five: books, CDs, videos, computer hardware, and software. He launched a simple website with a catalog of books. Once a customer ordered a book, Bezos bought it from a distributor and shipped it. Over the years, the website scaled and grew. Today, Amazon offers many more products and is one of the world’s largest retailers.

Facebook: The popular social network started as The facebook. The idea for the MVP was to connect students in the same class or college. The facebook let users post messages to boards. All other features were added after the success of the MVP.

Airbnb: Living in a loft apartment, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky had a hard time paying their rent. They came up with an idea for providing accommodation to those coming to San Francisco. They launched a simple website, posted a few photos of their place, and got three guests. Today, the startup has $2.6 billion in yearly revenue.

This was the MVP of the DropBox

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