So, you are starting to build your product…
You think you have a great product idea. You’ve prepared a long list of features that you think might be useful. And you are about to invest an impressive amount of money in development, hoping that your product will achieve success soon after the release.
Sounds like a perfect plan, but what if you realize later that your idea doesn’t correspond with the needs of potential users? What if most of the features turn out to be redundant? What if you wasted a lot of time and money only to realize that your product isn’t something people really need?
Actually, this happens to most “awesome” product ideas. Forbes claims that more than 90% of tech startups fail without ever realizing what they did wrong.
To be among the remaining 10%, you should take tiny steps to validate every assumption through user testing, and the very first steps of this long path are called wireframe, prototype and MVP.
To explain it briefly, a wireframe is a low-fidelity black and white version of the product. It displays the pure structure of the future app or website without any distractions like colors, pictures and other content.
A prototype is a (mostly interactive) model of your future product which you can present to your first potential investors. In this case, we are mostly talking about the 3Fs (friends, family and “fools”). These people are likely to be your first investors, so take this stage seriously. These investments will allow you to build the first version of your product, the so-called MVP.
What is MVP?
MVP, or minimum viable product, is a product with just enough features to attract the early adopters. All the other features or any improvements are developed only after analyzing the feedback from early users.
Eric Ries introduces the minimum viable product as the core component of the lean startup methodology.
How can an MVP be useful?
- Attract investors
A minimum viable product is a presentation of your idea for investors. If they like what you’ve already built and what you are planning to develop, they may become your first investors. In addition to that, if your idea already attracts customers, or even paying customers - this is a strong incentive for the investor to support your business.
- Attract early adopters and get your first earnings
The sooner the product is released, the sooner it will get customers. Launching an MVP is a good way to get first users before the final version of the product is ready. Moreover, it enables you to receive initial earnings. And if the product already has some users, this is a clear sign to investors because it shows there is a demand for this solution.
- Receive feedback
One of the main benefits of the MVP is to enable you to carefully listen to your clients. They will give you real information, not just assumptions. When receiving feedback from early adopters it is important to make wise decisions based on this information.
- Proof of assumption
This is good news for you. If the customer feedback shows that your assumption was correct - perfect. The users like your product even in its primitive form. You now know that there is a market for your product idea, and you can develop it further, expanding it and adding new features.
- Pivot on time
Your product is not exactly what the users need? In this case the MVP experience allows you to slightly or radically change the direction of your business without significant loss. If the preferences of your target audience’s turn out to be different to what you expected, you have an opportunity to adjust your business.
- Fail early
Most startups postpone the release, make endless improvements, and want their product to be perfect because they are afraid of failure. Even if this sounds weird, failing early is one of the best things that can happen to you. If your idea fails at the MVP stage - good for you. You managed to save months or years of hard work, as well as thousands of dollars that you must have spent on the project without any prospects. At the same time, if you really believe in your idea, you can find another solution to impress the users and the investors.
One of the most important reasons, why you should build a minimum viable product is that it will open for you the doors to real investments. The MVP should show investors whether your product idea has a future and whether it is worth the risk.
So, if you want to impress and attract the investors - make your MVP rock.
Stages of building a minimum viable product
When building an MVP you usually have limited time and resources. You are trying to take the shortest possible path to get your product on the market. But there are several stages that are essential before starting a minimum viable product. And you should follow all of them.
Step 1. Define the problem
This is a situation when the first step can define your whole business path.
You’ve got an ingenious idea and immediately start the development. Later you recognize that the idea is great, but no one actually needs it.
To reduce the risk of failure, you should start with a problem definition. If you identify an existing problem, your solution is more likely to find many users.
Step 2. Define the target audience
Trying to target all users is another mistake. It is impossible to get everyone to use your product. Therefore, it is much easier to satisfy a certain group of people.
Build your buyer persona and make it as specific as you can. Define age, profession, education level, earnings, family, hobbies, etc. The better you know your potential customer, the better you can meet his expectations.
Step 3. Specify the minimum feature set
Here comes one of the most difficult parts of building an MVP.
When you initially thought about your product you probably identified dozens of unique features to charm your customers, but unfortunately, you’ll have to put all these ideas aside until you test your assumptions concerning the problem that your idea will solve for users.
It’s best to start with is the minimum set of core features which will bring value to the customer. Ideally you should include only one essential feature.
As an example: You assume, that your potential customers want to move faster. You want to build a car to solve this problem. To test your assumption you start with building a minimum viable product.
MVP: A skateboard.
Not MVP: Four separate wheels.
An MVP might help you to prove your assumption, and validate your product idea. If your target audience is interested in the skateboard, then you were right, they are in need of a vehicle which helps them move faster, and they are ready to pay for it.
If you offer the customer four wheels - this will not solve his problem. But a skateboard will.
Your MVP might be primitive, but if your idea provides a solution to an existing problem without neglecting the user experience, it will have users and the MVP will prove this assumption.
Step 4. Build MVP
After defining the core features for the MVP, it’s time to build the product.
The first rule is: Forget about perfection! At this stage, your only aim is to release the product as soon as possible to test your assumptions.
The sooner you get the product into your user’s hands, the better. From their feedback you’ll understand whether they are interested in this kind of a product, or whether the development is a complete waste of time and money.
And remember, if the users like your minimum viable product with all its imperfections, the full version of the product is much more likely to charm the whole world.
Step 5. Test MVP
After your minimum viable product is finished, get it into the hands of potential customers. Remember one of the first steps, the target audience definition? Find people who match your buyer persona and ask them to test your MVP.
If you did everything right (defining the problem, the target audience and the minimum features set) you’ll receive relevant feedback. This will be your clear guide as to what to do next.
You should take the customer feedback seriously.
- It will show you whether your idea is worth investing in or not;
- It will prove that you defined the target audience correctly;
- It will give you a clear vision of how to develop your product further;
- It will reveal which features your product needs, and which features ot does not need.
These are reliable facts, not just assumptions.
You may be afraid of receiving negative comments about your product, but in this business there is one thing to remember: Negative feedback is better than no feedback.
Step 6. Improve your minimum viable product
After receiving reliable feedback from your first users it’s time to take advantage of this information.
So, you know what your users like and what they don’t like. Now you can improve the good features, remove the bad ones and add something new to see whether or not it will work.
Working in circles
Further work with MVP development is like running in circles. You build a product, get feedback, analyze it and build again to get new feedback.
The whole idea of building the minimum viable product focuses on developing the product according to the needs and preferences of real users. This helps to ensure that there will be an audience who uses, loves and is ready to pay for your product.
MVP mistakes and misunderstandings
Some startups misunderstand the lean approach. We’d like to prevent you from making some of the most common mistakes when deciding to work on an MVP:
- Too many features
As the name implies, an MVP should really contain the minimum functionality. You’ll have to forget the dogma about the product perfection. Your aim is not to release a high-end product. Instead, your aim is to show the potential of your idea to users and/or investors. So don’t waste time improving or adding extra features. Launch it now!
- Poor product quality
Some entrepreneurs use the MVP concept as an excuse to release a low-quality product. This is a bad idea. The minimum viable product should include as little functionality as possible, but still solve the problem for its users, offering them a good UI/UX.
At all stages of your product development, focus on delivering value!
- An MVP release is the end station
No, no, no! An MVP is only the first step in understanding the needs and preferences of your clients. After this first step, prepare for a long run before you reach the finish line. Get ready for hard work to improve, add and discard features.
- The price of the MVP is the price for the final product
As we’ve already explained, MVP is only the beginning of the long development process. Improving the product, adding new features and resolving other issues will take time and will cost money. You have to budget for much more expense if you want to make your product superb.
- An MVP can’t generate income
Actually, it can! Depending on the services you offer, you can expect to receive initial earnings even after the launch of a minimum viable product. However, this is not an excuse to stop because an MVP is a proof that the idea is valuable. By improving the product you can count on more loyal customers, trustworthy feedbacks and a higher income.
- Hiring very expensive developers for MVP
As a startup at the MVP stage, you are likely to be short of money, but you will want to work with the best professionals and hire a well-known development company. So, most likely you’ll run out of money sooner than expected. So, be realistic and answer the following questions:
Is it crucial for you to see the developer sitting in your office? Are you ready to work with foreigners if they offer a good service based on price and quality with a professional level of English? By comparing different options you can choose the best and most reasonable one.
Outsourcing may enable you to save up to 70% on the cost of building an MVP . However it is crucial to only engage outsourcers that already have relevant experience in developing MVPs. This is your guarantee of high quality and achieving realistic deadlines.
How much does an MVP development cost?
This is probably the most frequently asked question. Of course, it is impossible to give an exact number, as this will vary significantly depending on the type of app and the complexity of the features.
A very basic MVP application can be developed in around 300 hours. This is a couple of months for one developer, or significantly less, if you hire a team. If your product idea requires more complex features or integrations, count on around 1000 - 1400 hours to develop the minimum viable product.
The cost of the product will depend on the rates of the developer you hire. A programmer in the US will cost you around $100 per hour. Therefore, the minimum price for an MVP will be $30,000, while the maximum could exceed $100,000.
In order not to spend your whole budget in the first few weeks, take a look at the Eastern European outsourcing market. The prices there vary between $25 and $55 per hour.
So, take a close look at your budget and think carefully about the developers you are going to hire. Working with very expensive developers could be a bad idea, especially at this stage. You should try to achieve as much as possible while you are low on funds.
So, what is a minimum viable product all about?
Every great idea is in danger of failing. Following the MVP model can allow you to minimize these risks. The main idea of an MVP is to release the product with a set of core features as soon as possible. It is a good presentation of your product idea for the potential investors, and at the same time, it will bring you the first customers and very likely the first earnings.
Customer feedback at this stage is more important than you’d think. It shows you whether you’ve chosen the right path, and whether your assumptions concerning the product and the market are correct.
Moreover, an MVP helps to make the right decisions based on real customer feedback. Every improvement you make is connected to customer comments. You add the features they need, improve the existing features according to the target audience expectations, and make your service more customer oriented.
An MVP is one of your first steps towards a successful business, and you should take this step wisely. Don’t overestimate your budget and hire expensive developers from the very beginning. Consider outsourcing your product development to get more work done for the same money.
Contact us for a detailed estimation of your minimum viable product development. It’s free!