In current fickle marketplace, startups appear all the time. However, statistics shows they fail much more often than succeed. Meanwhile, it should not be a valid reason not to start one. There are more and more ideas and approaches aimed at preventing immediate collapses of new projects and discovering the reasons of it. One of the ways to make your startup successful is creating a minimum viable product (MVP) before a full-featured and complete version of your product sees the world. So, what is MVP, how to create it and is it worth the efforts?
A concept of MVP
Nowadays, a concept of MVP is very popular in IT industry and software market. Creating a startup requires coming up with an idea, planning how to put it into practice, implementing it, and waiting for the results, which is why it is quite complicated, long, costly, and time-consuming process. The most risky part here is whether your product will be desirable and create demand. Because, eventually, all the products are made for the users and if there are no clients – it means you failed.
In order to have more predictable forecast and try to understand what exactly your customers need without spending too much effort and money you can build MVP – Minimum Viable Product. Minimum Viable Product is a rapidly built product, which includes only the core features and is made for getting enough information about the product, how it’s used by the customers, what can be changed and improved in order to make this project successful in the future.
It saves time, costs and lets you make your predictions about the future of the product more visible.
MVP approach was promoted by Eric Ries (an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley) within lean startup methodology. He states that there is no point in developing a full-featured product when you can add more features after testing, which makes the launch less risky and saves the costs.
MVP can be built as a mobile app or as a part of it, a website, a landing page or even a simple wireframe. The most important part here is that it should deliver the main idea and customer value through its limited set of features.
Pros & cons of MVP approach
Apart from undeniable benefits, there are some challenges, which you can come across while creating minimum viable product.
So, building MVP has its strong advantages, such as:
Testing a product
You show users the primary version of your product and get their feedback about it. Even though MVP is not a complete and final version of your product, learning what the customers think about it gives you a vision what you have to change and improve, which features are necessary and which are not, and whether this product meets people’s needs at all.
It is not always clear whether your project will be successful and pay off. Launching your final product and discovering that considerable changes have to be made may require significant expenses. Creating MVP gives a chance to measure the efficiency of your product and see whether you have to implement further advancements. If the project doesn’t work, launching MVP will be less costly compared to launching the full-featured version of the product.
Faster entering the market
Considering that MVP is not a perfect version of your product with only key features, it is clear that it will not be able to capture all your potential customers, but only so-called early adopters. Nevertheless, it gives you an opportunity to grab your initial market share and attract your first customers, which will make your further invading the market faster.
Leading to a better product
MVP approach helps you understand your customers’ needs and follow them, therefore creating a product, which will be desirable and useful for people.
Nevertheless, there are also some challenges, such as:
Determining minimum set of core features may be tricky
It lies in the core of MVP approach that a product must consist of limited amount of features, which are enough to deploy it and get needed knowledge about it. Sometimes, it is hard to select only those, which would be the most desired and important in this case.
Limitations in some areas
For instance, when it comes to the projects in medicine, you cannot perform any experiments in this field because it relates to human health and life. So the product that enters the market must already be full-fledged and have complete functionality.
Extra effort and dedication
Gathering all the feedbacks and creating an intermediate version of the product requires more time and work on it.
Types of MVP
MVP can be built in different ways and forms. Among the most common types of minimum viable product there are:
Wireframe does not require a lot of costs and time. There are no design and colors here, just a roughly built frame of your project with screens layout, navigation system, and the core features of your product. It is made to demonstrate the main purpose of your product as well as its main functions. It does not look attractive but for people proficient in modern technologies and able to visualize, it will deliver the right message. It is a great start and opportunity to economize, show the world your idea, and prevent mistakes at early stage.
Mockups are like wireframes but more… alive. Yes, they look more realistic and resemble your final product to a greater extent. The features, navigation, design, and even colors reflect a future model of your project. You can also build an interactive mockup to show your app features in action.
If you feel that it is too complicated to demonstrate to the target audience needed features of your product and its functioning, you can just create a video. It may look way too simple and not serious enough but the history knows the stories when such videos paved the way to success. For instance, everybody knows Dropbox. It was supposed to be big and costly in the beginning. So, instead of putting a great deal of time, efforts, and money without being sure how it will end, they made a short explainer video for the investors, showing the main idea of the project, its key features, and undeniable advantages. As a result, Dropbox was more than just seen; it got funds, people on its list, and valuable feedback. It proved that visualization is powerful when used properly.
A landing page is a page visitors arrive at. It is a relatively simple and pretty cheap tool, which performs a lot of functions. With a landing page you can present your project and its main idea, emphasizing the key elements and enormous benefits, attract your first customers and even collect money. It is an affordable way to demonstrate your product, get users’ feedback, and attract investors.
Prototypes are supposed to show feasibility of the projects. It is a rapidly built version of product with only basic features and functions. It takes some time and money to create one, but it can bring truly valuable results. In comparison with the options above, prototype is really visual product, which demonstrates the main idea and purpose of the project along with basic interactive functionalities and initial insights into it. Prototypes allow users to experience the product and therefore are meant to gather valuable user feedbacks.
The overall process of creating MVP includes several stages. Among them there are following:
Defining the problem
MVP as well as your final product has to provide a solution to a problem you want to solve. There must be some goal your project pursues, the reason why you want create it, as well as its ability to be useful and provide satisfaction to customers.
Defining the target market
You have to know your target audience, who your customers on the market are, and how many people can start using your product.
Formulating a hypothesis
It means specifying how you are going to provide a solution to the problem with your product, how your customers will react, and what exactly you want to reach.
Creating a list of features and defining the most important
You should think of the features you want to see in your product and determine the key ones, which will demonstrate its efficiency and be included in your MVP.
You need to gather a team, to build it, and to find the way you are going to do this. Your product has to be developed to validate the hypothesis you formulated above.
Launching a product
Finally, demonstrating your MVP to the market and enabling users to test it.
Gathering user feedback and its analyzing it
It is of the utmost importance to learn as much about your MVP as you can in order to figure out whether it solves a problem and meets customers’ needs and whether it makes sense to continue with it.
It is a continuous process, which usually requires reiteration.
Which costs does MVP require
So how much building MVP can cost you? It depends. Yes, as long as there are multiple ways to build it, different types and various factors, which influence the amount of money spent on creating MVP, there is no clear answer.
So, the factors, which affect the cost of your MVP, are the following:
Platform. Choosing mobile, web, desktop or any other platform will definitely have an impact on the costs you spend on your product. On the stage of creating MVP, it is better to focus on one platform in order to give your project a try on the market and see how customers react to it.
Features and functionalities included. You may create a simple wireframe or an interactive prototype with more features and functionalities.
Adding online payment system. If you want to collect some funds on this stage, adding such an option to your MVP will take extra costs.
Design. Design makes your product visually attractive and desirable. However, adding these features takes a lot of costs. Creating a beautiful custom design is definitely an expensive whim, so you can wait with it till the phase of making your final product. Meanwhile, using some basic and standard design will allow you to minimize the costs on this early stage.
The way of developing. Finally, you can always choose the way your MVP will be created and how the work on it will be organized. You can do it on your own, hire freelancers, outsource the services, or just cooperate with software development agency.
So, there are several approaches to creating MVP, which have their own advantages, disadvantages, and various amounts of costs required as well. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Developing MVP on your own
If you are capable of doing it, you can build MVP on your own. For instance, if you want to start with a landing page, you will need some costs, and basically that is it. Of course, all the development, management, technical and organizational details will be on you, but you can save a lot of money. Nevertheless, it will take much time and effort.
In most cases, the solution is hiring a team of developers, who will be aware of how to make a qualified MVP. In this case, it depends which country you choose for hiring this team and whether you hire people on a daily basis. This way has its pros and cons. It is costly, it takes time to hire the right people, which will work as a team, etc. From the other side, with the help of qualified specialists you can get your project well done.
Hiring a software development agency
This option is probably the most expensive one, but also the most reliable. Engaging with software development company enables receiving thorough and full development of your product. Your ideas and vision can be clearly passed to developers with the help of project managers. You will have a dedicated team for your project, testing, designing, UX, and project management.
Whatever brilliant and problem-solving your idea is, you never know whether it will work or not. Unless you let the users experience it. As long as creating a full-featured product is not only expensive and time-consuming, but also risky at first place, the idea of creating minimum viable product looks extremely attractive and useful. Having got a lot of options and ways of doing it, it is your decision which one to choose and let this not perfect version of your product prove its relevance, bring enough learning about the product, show a level of demand for it, whether it solves the given problem, and whether it satisfies customers’ needs.
Author: Oleg Maykher
Co-founder and CEO at Exoft