I recently found myself on a team of developers that was working on a new application for one of our customers.
The process of creating the application was a fascinating experience that had a number of small steps that needed to be walked through before one could start programming in earnest.
One of the steps that really caught my attention was the development of an MVP.
What is an MVP?
An MVP, or the Minimum Viable Product, is the simplest version of the product, the bare bones of a future application. It has only enough core features in order to satisfy the clients needs, and its target customers.
How does it work?
If you need to validate your product idea or are still looking for market fit, your IT partner will probably suggest starting with an MVP.
The first step is to go through a discovery phase with your development and design teams. They will build simple wireframes that will help better understand what to include in your minimum viable product.
At first you will include only the essential features to test with your ideal market before adding the nice-to-have features. At this stage you are not concerned with how the application looks, only with the primary functionalities.
Once your first MVP release is built, it's your turn to find your ideal target market and test it as much as you can. You will get invaluable insights into how customers use and experience your product.
With what you have learnt from this phase, you can decide which product features you will maintain, remove or add. You may even have to decide if you will build the application at all.
What is the purpose of an MVP?
1. Test product feasibility
One of the fundamental purposes of an MVP is to help determine whether or not a concept or idea that you have, or are building on, would be worth the effort you are putting into it.
This is important in that it allows you to test the product in it's most basic form. Meaning you can ascertain whether or not the product will sell, and secondly whether it is a product you are currently capable of producing.
Furthermore you can determine early on if the product should go into further development, change directions, or be shelved for the time being.
2. Get-to-market ASAP
The MVP model allows companies or individuals to release the application to the market at an earlier stage. This is a significant advantage because in a few weeks, the first product version will be in the hands of consumers.
Most of the companies take a different approach. They build the entire product before releasing it to the market; however, developing a complete application can takes months or even years.
Therefore, presenting the most basic form of the product earlier gives a significant exposure advantage. Moreover, it gives you as the creator time to gather a greater understanding of whether people are interested in the product you are creating.
3. Save marketing budget
Before spending your entire budget creating expensive marketing campaigns to promote your application, let customers tell you what they want and what they think about your product.
Starting with a MVP gives you a great opportunity to co-create your application with your ideal market. Through consistent collaboration, you will better understand what users perceive, feel, like and dislike in your product.
With this information in hand, the marketing and sales department will be better equipped to build marketing campaigns that truly fulfil what users need or care about. Thus, you will save marketing and sales efforts and increase the return on investment.
4. Reduce time wastage
Time wastage, or inefficient time usage, is one of the greater challenges that software development houses face, because it has a major impact on the length of time taken to complete a project.
This is a major issue because without truly knowing what your target market wants, you will end up wasting time building useless features or missing important ones. This will then require extra development work to integrate and adapt new changes to your existing application.
As a result, the previous estimated time for the building of your application is now invalid. It will take longer to add, remove or fix your application and release a new version to the market. This might create unmet expectations in your stakeholders and generate unsatisfied customers.
5. Validating your ability to create the end product
An MVP can also be used as a peace of mind tool between you and the customer. This is because the MVP breaks the project up into realisable goals that can be achieved in a small period of time.
You focus resources on developing one single feature or integration at a time, allowing you to test your ideal market before fully deploying it to a final product.
Hence, you validate your ability to create an end product that is indeed what the customer is looking for.
Questions to Ask Before Building an MVP
When designing and building the MVP for your desired application, there are several important questions that need to be asked:
- What is the applications purpose?
- Who are the end users or ideal users?
- Is your target market location specific?
- What is the format of the MVP? (Wireframe or full product)
- What is the actual minimum product?
- How will you measure the success of the MVP?
By answering those questions, you will be able to plan better the MVP development and evaluate its success. Thus, saving time and resources before jumping into the software development journey.
The 4 key elements in an MVP
You might have a very clear cut idea of how your product will look and what you want to achieve with it. If this is not the case, that is not a problem. It's difficult to translate your business idea into technical functionalities. This is where your IT partner will help you figure it out.
To build an MVP, you need to clarify which set of features you must have to meet your primary vision and the objectives for your product. With this in mind, your development team will build and integrate the core functionalities that compose your minimum viable product.
The design of the MVP needs to be in accordance with industry standards. This means it needs to be as detailed as possible for the development team to build it properly. If you share vague requirements, you will compromise on the quality of your testing capabilities, data collection and on the end-product itself.
In software development, the MVP needs to be reliable otherwise you risk the users not responding well. As such, extensive and rigourous testing needs to be carried out to make sure the product is up to or above industry standard.
Above and beyond all this, the MVP must remain easy to use and navigate. You may target a specific group of individuals or companies, but anyone may end up using the product. As such, a rule of thumb is to keep it as simple as possible, so that anyone can easily use it.
As with most concepts, making use of an MVP in your app development process is not do or die for your product. However an MVP gives you the chance to conduct low-cost and low-risk testing of your concept, to go-to-market faster, to save money and resources, and to validate your ability to create a value-added product that users love.
What do you have to lose by using this?
At Appstrax Technology, we recommend that our clients who are still trying to find market fit, or product validation, begin by creating an MVP due to its immense long-term benefits.