To achieve success with minimal risk and cost in an environment where 92% of launched startups close, every project should start with a minimum viable product. In this article, we will discuss the concept, and stages of building an MVP.
Building an MVP implies finding the right balance between what the business offers to users and what users actually need. The purpose of the MVP is to test the hypothesis that the product will solve a user problem. MVPs also allow businesses to minimize errors in the development process. An MVP helps to collect high-quality feedback by targeting specific groups or user types.
To achieve success with minimal risk and cost in an environment where 92% of launched startups close, every project should start with a minimally viable product. In this article, we will discuss the concept, and stages of building an MVP.
What is an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)?
According to a study by CB Insights Research,
- the new global funding record, up 157% year-over-year;
- 29% of startups fail because they run out of cash;
- startups that scale properly grow 20 times faster than those that scale prematurely.
But many startups, rather than seeing an influx of fresh capital, shut down altogether due to a number of factors, such as increased competition, a lack of market traction, and flawed business models. While these challenges may have been manageable on their own, in many cases, they proved to be fatal when compounded with pandemic-induced pressures.
In almost half of the cases, entrepreneurs spend months or even years of work only to realize that the hypothesis was wrong and no one is interested in their product.
The concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is designed to minimize the risk of such a situation. It is applicable to the creation of any product but is more commonly used for software development and digital services.
The concept of MVP was coined and defined in 2001 by Frank Robinson and then popularized by Steve Blank and Eric Ries. Robinson defines MVP as the result of "synchronous development"— simultaneous product development and research of the target audience and its reaction to the product. An MVP is a version of a future project that collects the most actionable data about how customers interact with it, at the lowest possible cost.
Business benefits of MVP development
Thus, a minimally viable product allows you to:
- test your idea before spending their entire budgets on things that may not work;
- confirm the viability of an idea and test product hypotheses with real data;
- identify trends that can be used in the development of the full version of the product;
- reduce the risk of major financial losses if the product fails;
- reduce development costs by prioritizing important and identifying unneeded features;
- speed up bug finding and internal testing of the product;
- to gather a user base before a full-scale launch;
- occupy a market niche and attract investors before competitors do it.
MVP is created not for technology testing, but to verify in practice, whether the users need such a product, whether the hypotheses underlying the business model are correct. The main purpose of the MVP is to minimize the time and effort spent on testing the market response to the idea.
Eric Ries defines it in the following way:
Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.
- Starting with an MVP will allow you to learn more about your end-user and the market you wish to enter as you test your assumptions.
- MVP allows you to involve real users in the project as guides who help adjust the business model and basic characteristics of the future product, outline the directions of development and plan the roadmap for updates.
- Positive results at the MVP stage give the green light to develop the full version of the product.
MVP development follows a build-measure-learn process, which allows you to release a product that can be continually improved as you validate (or invalidate) assumptions, learn what users want, and build future iterations of your app that better serve your customers.
Creating an MVP: a step-by-step guide
To launch a minimally viable product, you need to go through eight preparatory steps. This part of the article presents a step-by-step process of MVP app development and describes each stage with all details.
Step 1: Start with market research
While building an MVP, it is necessary to think from the customer's perspective.
To understand that, two important questions must be asked.
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- And for whom?
Market research provides invaluable insights into customer needs. Every product is created to solve some problem, and it's not about making a profit. This requires a customer-oriented approach. What does the user need the product for?
If you articulate the answer clearly, you'll get an idea of the product's purpose and its value to the user. Conducting surveys will help you analyze the market needs and where your product is going to fit in. For example, by opening service for short-term parking space rental, you are solving the problem that all drivers face — making it easier to find a place to leave a car.
Step 2: Define the audience and identify its core
Focusing on the needs of a broad audience when designing your MVP is a misguided strategy. Narrowing your target audience allows you to target your future product more accurately. To do this you should formulate the portrait of the "ideal" user, the one who will buy your solution without hesitation and will be happy with its features.
Such a portrait usually includes information on the user's age, education level, income, habits, interests, and hobbies. These details are needed to understand how well the product suits the future user and will help later, at the stage of advertising and promotion.
Step 3: Map out user flow
The design process is an important MVP stage. A user flow is the order of steps a user takes to reach his goal, such as purchasing a product or finding and renting a parking space.
To define user flow it is necessary to define the processes (stages) in using the app/product. Always make the convenience of users the priority while designing the processes and user flow. Construct the MVP using a very simple user flow without adding any unnecessary features. The focus should be made mainly on basic tasks such as finding and buying the product or managing and receiving orders rather than features.
By thinking through how the user interacts with the future application, you will understand at what stage additional information should be provided, where a cue should be added, and how to optimally design the interface.
Step 4: Identify the main features to implement and calculate the volume of MVP
No matter how large a project in your mind, you need to list and prioritize features for the MVP. When building a Minimum Viable Product, preference is given to those that are directly related to the main purpose of the future product.
Introducing additional features into the prototype will only confuse users and reduce the validity of the business idea research results. They can be added only after the MVP has been deployed, and the initial feedback has been collected and analyzed.
This step helps you identify where you can make the most impact in relation to the urgency of the feature. Categorize the features into different lists: high priority, medium priority, low priority, etc., and decide which ones to use in your first version i.e. the MVP. Using a prioritization matrix, you can make the final decision on what absolutely needs to be included in your MVP, and what features can be included in later releases. Below is our recommended format for your MVP prioritization matrix.
Let’s take a look at some examples of MVP features depending on their types.
eCommerce MVP app development
- Payment options
- Product, category, subcategory pages
- Online shopping cart
- Order history
- Product information and parameters
Educational MVP software development
- Course page
- Audio and video streaming
- Progress measuring
Food delivery MVP development
- Order list management
- Payment with a credit card
- Search for restaurants and foods
- View restaurant profile and menu
- Cart management
- Notifications about order status
- Tasks and their status
- Balance dashboard
Social network MVP features
- Create posts
- Like and comment posts
- Manage friends
- Report content or users
- Event-based notifications
Taxi booking app development
- Accept or decline booking requests
- Status updates
- Orders history
- Passenger rating
- Ride requesting
- Pickup locations and driver tracking
- Fate calculator
- In-app payment
- Booking history
- Drivers reviews and rating
Healthcare MVP software development
- Scheduling appointments
- In-app payment
- Access to medical records
- Checking and downloading tests results
- Live chat with doctors
- Schedule management
- Test reports uploading
- Chats with patients
- Chats with other doctors
- Patient management
Step 5: Launch the MVP
Once the scope, order, and direction of work have been determined, you can begin to develop a minimum viable product.
1) Choose the right methodology
How the development process is structured will largely determine the outcome. For the MVP, it is fundamentally important to use one of the iterative approaches to development. Kanban/Agile/Scrum/Lean — all of them allow you to organize regular updates, improve the product "on the fly", as the feedback comes. The choice of a particular methodology depends on the preferences of the development team and the specifics of a particular project.
Note: the stage is reasonable only if the design is a competitive advantage, otherwise it’s better to use default themes and focus on the MVP functionality.
Sketches, usually created in free-hand format, are a great solution to present your idea to investors or to start a crowdfunding process.
Mockups and wireframes provide a more detailed representation of the future product with the location of system elements, navigation method among screens, and other product features. It’s a great approach if you want to test some really innovative features that will change the behavior pattern for users.
3) Development (coding)
At this stage, the development of an MVP happens. Time is a crucial factor at this stage. The faster you develop a software-based MVP and deliver it to the market, the better.
An MVP product requires regular testing throughout development.
Alpha testing is done internally by the testing team, but beta testing will require outside help. It is good if these are people from among the future users. The main task of testing will be a technical improvement of the MVP. Before release, the product must work without bugs, so that problems of a technical nature do not prevent users from evaluating its functionality.
The beta testing period lasts around 1-2 weeks. Measure the key indicators and understand the changes required. According to feedback received from beta testing, make changes accordingly in the next version.
Step 6: Build. Measure. Learn. Repeat
For the project team, the work has just begun. From the moment of launch, feedback has to be collected, stored, and analyzed, from statistics to data on user behavior and feedback.
The Build-Measure-Learn (BML) technique comes from the Lean Startup methodology. Using this approach, you make the development process efficient. It is a learning cycle of turning ideas into products, measuring customers' reactions and behaviors against built products, and then deciding whether to persevere or pivot the idea; this process repeats as many times as necessary.
The phases of the loop are: Ideas → Build → Product → Measure → Data → Learn.
The data gathered by MVP will help to understand if the project has perspectives, will help to generate new ideas, and create a strategy of product development, based not on suppositions, but on facts. Thus MVP testing pays off.
Our experience allows us to evaluate the data and analyze the feedback from the customers. We understand that launching the MVP, testing the product, and processing the feedback are complicated and costly tasks, which require a professional approach.
Timeline for a software-based MVP development
In mobile app development, an MVP is a development method where you develop only the core functionalities to solve a specific problem and satisfy early adopters. Essentially, an MVP is the basic model of your product that will fulfill the primary goal you want to achieve.
MVP Business Analysis
The stage includes identification of business needs, target market, customer, and competitor research, product idea generation, planning a KPI dashboard for MVP, etc.
MVP UX design
The main result of UI designers is to follow basic business logic concepts, sync with the UX designer's wireframes, and create an engaging and convenient interface.
MVP UI design
Mobile and web app UI designers are in charge of the visual look of the application - shapes, surfaces, shading, consistency, visual appearance of the project in view of the UX provided.
(2-6 months ≈ 240-720 h)
Front-end development to transform static interface images provided by UI designers into a fully functional MVP client-side, and ensure its communication with the server.
To bring the MVP to life is the job of a back-end engineer, who is responsible for the server-side of MVP development.
A DevOps engineer ensures the scalability, stability, and security of an MVP.
A QA engineer identifies bugs and potential problems, plans and performs tests during the development process, and recommends what improvements should be made. Testing runs in parallel with development.
As a result of the development team's work, you get an MVP ready for launch.
What skills are needed to build an MVP?
- Project Manager
- Business Analyst (BA)
- UX Designer
- UI Designer
- Back-end developers (1-3)
- Front-end developer
- Quality Assurance Engineer
Software Development Hub solves the challenges of small and mid-sized businesses. Relying on our values we deliver software from a raw idea to a market-ready solution or improve the existing projects.
MVP development consulting
- Assistance in conceptualizing your idea.
- Pre-project preparation and business analysis.
- Define the functionality of the MVP.
- Software requirements specification.
- Define the technology stack and architecture of the MVP.
- Providing a detailed roadmap for MVP implementation.
End-to-end MVP development
- Product/project management and BA.
- UX and UI MVP design.
- MVP development.
- Integration with third-party systems.
- MVP testing.
- MVP launch and support.
- MVP performance evaluation and further iterations.
Software Development Hub has considerable consulting and startup development experience, including IT startups related to innovative technologies, at the early stages of their formation (pre-seed, seed, and series A).
mvp development startup