It’s my hope you enjoyed the previous episode of our startup guide. In case you missed it, you can get it here at Six Amazing Ways to Formulate the Best Product-Market Fit. In today’s guide, we will be looking at Proven Ways and Examples to Create the Best MVP.
What should entrepreneurs do when they have an idea for a product, but they are not sure if they can successfully implement them? To bring a new product to the market takes some level of calculated risk. However, to reduce this risk, you can build a minimum viable product, what is commonly known as MVP.
As Eric Ries put it, “A startup is a human institution, designed to deliver a service under conditions of extreme uncertain”. Additionally, we can say that a startup is a temporary organization that is designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.
You do not want to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars developing your startup, only to find customers have no interest in your idea. To avoid falling for this problem, you need an MVP.
What is an MVP?
A minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allow a team to collect the maximum amount of validation learning about customers with the best effort. You build a product that includes just enough features to allow useful feedback from early adopters.
An MVP development technique was popularized by Eric Ries for building a basic version of a product. It envisions that early adopters can test and provide feedback to improve the product further.
Building an MVP can take multiple iterations to reach completion.
Benefits of Developing an MVP
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Startups can expect to reap several benefits when they develop an MVP to test their product ideas.
Here are three top benefits that a startup stands to gain by developing an MVP.
1. Low risk with very high ROI
One of the benefits of building an MVP is that they are often associated with low risk. However, their results can be exponential. Companies such as Uber and Dropbox grew to scalable heights from a basic MVP while testing their ideas.
2. An MVP saves on time and money
The time and money that you would otherwise have spent on product development and marketing can be greatly saved and reinvested into customer development. Doing so ensures you come up with a better product, and in the process increasing your chances of success.
3. Opportunities to acquire early adopters
For your MVP to pick up steam, you will need to target the right people. Early adopters or influencers are the ones who you should target with your MVP. They will be people who are very passionate about your product and are more likely to provide feedback as well as promoting your product to their networks.
Types of MVP Models
If we can settle down to the tech world, a usual MVP has three models, and all have different ways of forming a prototype. In what we can call mockup, it allows you to deliver a part of your future product’s functionality. Here are common options to create MVP using the product-mockup approach;
Piecemeal involves building an MVP model in which the product is made from multiple sources. Take the example Groupon, which takes deals from various stores and adds them to its platform.
It works as an affiliate and earns a little commission when someone makes a purchase. This MVP model can be great for startups who want to start faster and with a minimal budget.
To have a better understanding of this approach, let us take a product containing a recommendation system as the main feature.
In this case, it is not very possible to build complex and real-time machine learning algorithms which would be required to implement a working MVP app.
However, the goal is to show to users how this feature will work and therefore the recommendation engine can be manually handled at this stage of development.
Wizard of Oz
Just like concierge, this approach involves the use of manual labour to stimulate core functionalities. With this approach, the idea is to hide this fact from the user.
Wizard of Oz is basically a fake system in which startups pose as if they have a fully automated system built, but in reality, they are using human workers to get the work done.
This model is highly praised in the startup community because it at least shows is a startup has a feasible business model.
How to Create Your MVP
By now, you should have a good understanding of the challenges, benefits and pitfalls associated with build an MVP. We can break down the process of building an MVP into three key steps which include the following;
Identify what your problem is
Before you can embark on a journey of creating your MVP, you need to take a long hard look at the business you want to build. How do you want your product to look like and what problems does it solve?
These are simple questions, yet very important as they will inform every decision you will make going forward.
At this stage, you need to identify your target audience, who are they and what is their motivation to choosing your product?
Another key issue is to check out your potential competition. See what they do better or worse, and what you can improve to create your unique selling proposition.
Outline your user flow
Nest, you need to outline your user flow. The user flow is the route your customers will take with your business.
You need to break the user flow into different stages by outlining how your customers reach your intended goal.
Take for examples Uber’s user low; it lets customers hire cars to take them places – just as simple as that!
Take another example, Spotify – Its user flow is to let customers first find their desired artists. They then get songs from those artists, play, curate and discover new music as well.
When you have a clearly outlined user flow, you will place yourself in a better chance to further improve down the line.
Break it down to core features
When you have identified your USP and the problems it solves, you need to be more practical and break it down into key features and functionalities. Delineate between features which are nice and those which are absolutely essential. Just consider the most essential features for now because you will be striving to get the minimum viable product.
At this stage, be brutally honest with yourself, and develop an MVP that consists of only the most essential features and functionalities.
Next Steps after Developing an MVP
Once you have developed your MVP, the next step is to test its functionality and acceptance by driving traffic.
The goal here is to transition from your minimum viable product to a minimum marketable product (MMP) within the shortest period possible.
First, create a landing page and drive traffic to it. This will be a great starting point if you have some cash to spend and you want to test the validity of your MVP. You can also make use of Facebook, Google and Twitter ads to get more traffic to your landing page.
On the channels where your MVP can be found, you need to back it up with an explainer video. Businesses that are backed up with explainer videos get 180% more traction and action that those which don’t have.
In your landing page, you need to have an explainer video as it can help in boosting the product testing process.
Ask for Feedback
Getting feedback from your beta users is quite essential for your startup products. It will help you better understand how your customers are perceiving your product.
You can get feedback from a select few people of your choice in what we call alpha testing. Another way is to get feedback from random actual users.
You can turn to sites such as Product Hunt, Hackernews and other social media channels to get early traction and feedback.
When you launch a product, the first thing you want is to get users to test it and give you feedback. Performance testing lets you do just that.
Instead of having to wait for months to get your product ranked and reviewed on social media, you can directly pay search engines and social media sites to get users test your product.
Organizing for pre-orders is a great way to validate your startup’s product. This can actually be done on your landing page and with the help of an explainer video. Take for example how Google and Facebook get instant feedback from users.
It allows these companies to understand if users are interested in a product. By getting vital feedback about a product, a company is in a better place to make improvements on a product, or drop it in case feedback shows it is potentially headed for failure.
Pre-order pages are a great way to see if people will actually pay for your startup idea. You need to optimize your landing pages to find potential customers through search.
Performing the long game may work wonders for you since it can take months for search engines to crawl and rank your site.
Ideal MVP Case Studies: Airbnb, Uber and Facebook
We can analyze an MVP example using Airbnb founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. These founders’ idea was one that was based on the hospitality industry.
The idea was to allow homeowners to make extra revenue by renting out rooms in their apartments or houses they didn’t need.
Brian and Joe built this idea when they found they could not afford to pay their rent, but when they discovered there was a conference happening in their San Francisco city, they took pictures of their apartment and put it on a website and immediately they got three customers.
They used the concierge minimum viable experience to gain information and by verifying their assumptions, Airbnb was born.
In 2010, Uber started as a simple interface only used by founders; Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick as well as their friends.
Their MVP was simple – to connect mobile users in San Francisco with car services that would otherwise be very cheap and faster to acquire.
This service was first tested in New York using only three cars but the official launch happened in San Francisco.
Uber made use of the rate and comment feature that can be accessed through iPhone stores to gather information from customers on how they could make it better.
True success for the founders came when they were able to move to other larger cities including New York, Paris and Berlin even with the opposition they faced from the taxi industry.
When Facebook was launched, an MVP was done to connect students in different schools and colleges via messaging. The idea was to connect friends via a social platform as well as organizing gatherings.
In its early days, Facebook was built on the basic model of an MVP that needed constant improvement to meet user demands.
Challenges When Developing an MVP
Entrepreneurs face several challenges when building an MVP for their startups. It would be very important for us to discuss these challenges so that you are better placed to avoid them. Here are the three most common pitfalls and challenges that startup founders face in their process of building their MVP.
Ignorance of the difference between MVP, proof of concept and prototype
While all these three terms are used to validate ideas, each one of them is slightly differencing from one another.
Proof of concept: This is a way to check if a startup idea can be applied to real-world scenarios before spending money or time to build it up.
Prototype: This is a working simulation of your product, which is based on mockups from proof of concept. Prototype is usually the first draft of your proof of concept. It is usually discarded after testing.
Prototype: This is a working simulation of your product, which is based on mockups from proof of concept. The prototype is usually the first draft of your proof of concept. It is usually discarded after testing.
The most important difference between a minimum viable product and a prototype is that MVP is the most initial version of your real product idea, although it has limited resources.
Failure to identify the right audience for the MVP
Another challenge that startups have to deal with is coming up with product-market fit. Just because an idea seems awesome in theory does not mean it will be successful in the real world.
If you want users for your MVP, you need to constantly test your target audience. You need to conduct intensive research to identify the preferences of your audience when it comes to product development.
Chances are high that the first bunch of people you will launch your MVP to will not be responsive to your ideas. You need to look for passionate people within your niche, then show them your products and use their feedback to make your product better.
Choosing an incompatible project management methodology
Another key challenge that startups face due to cost and skills is collaborating with others on building the MVP. For tech companies who need software development as part of their MVP, they adopt the two most popular product methodologies, which are either Waterfall or Agile.
When it comes to the waterfall model, it has different development phases including planning, design, implementation, testing and production. It would be impossible to proceed to the next phase of development without fully completing the previous ones.
The opposite of the Waterfall model is Agile. This model thrives on agility. This means changes can be made instantly based on feedback. Constant iteration can also speed up the product development process.
Startups may develop a lot of problems especially if they decide to outsource their development on sites such as Clutch or Upwork. It is not because these sites are bad, but the fact is a startup needs to assemble its development team which is constantly available for iteration.
Technology is changing the way we view and interact with the world around us. Startups are now disrupting every industry imaginable and smart entrepreneurs are constantly coming up with new ideas to make the world a better place.
The challenge for many startups founders is raising funds for their ideas. Ventures and angel capital have come in handy to help startups with the much needed funding. However, venture companies are very selective on where to invest, as they only want companies and ideas with traction.
To gain significant traction in your startup project without spending thousands of dollars, vital months locked away in a garage building a product, the answer lies to building a minimum viable product. 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 efforts.
When startups build an MVP, they create the most basic version of a startup as quickly as possible. This way, they can test their assumptions and optimize their ideas for product-market fit, based on feedback from early adopters.
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