It’s not enough to have a new idea. You have to be able to prove that the product you want to build solves a problem and is viable. It may seem easy, but when it comes to reality, many products are built that don’t actually solve a problem for anyone. It may look brilliant, have lots of features, but at the same time be absolutely useless.
The best way to prove viability is to build a minimum viable product (MVP) which is the first version of a product. The concept of building an MVP is simple. Your goal is to build the smallest, quickest, yet functional version of your idea — something that can be tested quickly and easily, over and over, until it works. Then, you can scale up from there. Its purpose is to test the idea, whether there is a demand for such a product and what is the customer’s response from using that product. The market reaction defines whether you are inspired to expand your business or just stop.
The MVP idea was born from the Lean Startup movement by Eric Ries who used his experiences in the startup world to develop a lean way to build high-growth companies. In the words of Eric Ries- “A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”
“What if we found ourselves building something that nobody wanted? In that case what did it matter if we did it on time and on budget?– Eric Ries"
MVP needs to have a clear goal and a set of features to promote this main feature. A minimum viable product is not a prototype but a real product and people are going to use it and pay for it.This is based on hypothesis testing that:
- - Your solution is something your target market needs, and
- - Your solution is something your target market will pay for.
You don’t want to pour thousands of dollars of your hard-earned money into developing something which doesn’t have market validation. Let’s have a look into some other benefits from developing an MVP :
1. Draws Focus on the Core Value Proposition
An MVP includes only the “must-have” features that meet your customers’ most pressing business needs. MVP development allows you to clearly define your value proposition. It narrows your vision and also helps in deciding your target customers. You will also be defining goals to be achieved and required functionalities. This will ensure you spend time and money efficiently.
2. Allows for Product Evolution & Builds Relationships with Customers
Once you begin testing your product, first users may provide you with the needed feedback on the desired changes or additions. You will come to know if your product is bringing value to customers. This will improve your product and also create a community of users. If customers like your product, you will be attracting additional customers through word-of-mouth.
3. Reduces Remakes
MVP is built with the least amount of features to test the viability of your idea with customers. Extra features may only complicate the user experience. Keeping the MVP simple ensures that customers give better feedback on core features and will guarantee minimum remakes. You can test your hypotheses faster, gather user information, and ultimately get your product to market quickly.
4. Defines Critical Drawbacks
It allows finding weaknesses fast and coming up with solutions to improve the product. It will ensure that all the functions work properly before going further.
5. Spend Money Efficiently
As the product development cycles are iterative, there is no need to search for a huge amount of money at once.
# Stats Emphasizing the Need to Build an MVP
- - 29% of startups fail as they ran out of cash.
- - Startups that scale properly grow 20 times faster than those that scale prematurely.
Ultimately, building an MVP is a smart choice. It allows you to start small and build a better and more polished product over time. By interacting with customers early on, your product’s value is clearly defined, saving you time and money.
Here's a step-by-step guide to build an MVP :
1. Market Research
At times, it happens that ideas do not fit into the market needs. So, first, decide who you’ll target and dig into understanding their needs and challenges. This can be done through interviews and market research. Additionally, investigate competitor companies and products to get a thorough understanding of what’s currently available in the market and how customers are responding.
You need to drill deep down into the problem you’re solving and find out if your solution solves the problem in a way that appeals to your target audience. Some questions to ask:
- - Are there opportunities for products or features not currently being met?
- - Is there a benefit to improving upon what is currently available?
- - What value will this product offer my customers, and what problem does it solve?
A study conducted by CB Insights revealed that the topmost reason for a startup’s failure with a 42% share is ‘lack of market need.’ In a nutshell, if your product doesn’t nail the problem, customers won’t go along with it to find a solution.
This is the stage where you put your idea into documentation and define what your product does, the one major problem you wish to solve with the MVP.
3. Design Process & User Flow
The design process is an important MVP stage.Many startups build a product too quickly and present the market with something unfinished, ugly, and extremely basic. Yes, your MVP should include the absolute minimum features, but it should also encompass a complete customer experience. Presenting the market with a poorly designed product will only turn customers away and never give you the chance to build on your idea. Your MVP needs to have quality code, design, content and provide a good all-around user experience — not just a bunch of random features.
User flow is an important aspect as it ensures you do not miss anything while keeping the future product and its user satisfaction in mind. See from the User’s Perspective- Consider how each user type will interact with your product. What tasks do they need to accomplish? What environment will they be using the product in? Focus on keeping each task as simple to accomplish as possible. If the product isn’t convenient to use, people won’t use it.
4. List MVP Features
There are many frameworks for determining which features should go into Version 1.0 and which should be saved for later versions. Some of the popular ones include:
A. Prioritization matrix, with axes that include items like urgency and impact, risk and value, or effort and impact
B. The MoSCoW method, splitting features into must have, should have, could have, and won’t have
C. Story mapping, where you have a series of categories that represent each stage of the user’s journey on a horizontal axis, and vertically under each of these, place the features in order of priority
Regardless of the method, the goal is to decide on a prioritized list of features required to release the product. Anything not determined to be a priority from the user’s perspective can be reserved for future releases.
5. Build Measure Learn
Once you have decided upon the main features and have learned about the market needs, you can create your MVP
Once built, Measure and Learn. You can measure the success of MVP through common ways such as interviewing first customers, number of users/ daily active users, customer reviews and feedback, number of customers re-ordering, any positive word of mouth or through analyzing traffic, sign-ups, and engagement.
Taking your startup from idea phase to launch is a big deal. While there will likely be missteps along the way, it’s important that you build as lean as possible, so you can learn quickly from your mistakes and move on. Your MVP is your best chance for doing that.
Want to develop an MVP but do not have any technical background. Read our blog post on ‘Outsourcing a CTO for Startups with Non-Technical Founders’
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