For small businesses, new start-ups and even large enterprises looking to introduce a new product to the market, the concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is probably the best way to test your idea to the customers. No, we’re not talking about Tom Brady or Lebron James type MVPs, but a different MVP – the minimum viable product needed to go to market.
A minimum viable product is the most basic form of a product. It is the simplest version of a product with just enough usable features needed for testing and basic usage purposes – to meet customers initial requirements and importantly for the business to be able to obtain feedback for future product development.
One of the cornerstone principles of an MVP is to test your product concepts and features with actual target customers. These customers are the ones you are carefully observing and monitoring while gathering information from them. As you release various iterations of your product for early alpha and beta testing, at some certain point, you find that sweet spot of those most basic features that provide a workable solution to your end-users. This is going to be your MVP.
One of the advantages of the MVP is that you are able to gather insights from your customers while keeping your expenses low by building a “bare-bones” version of your product. This is a much better approach than developing a product with full features that maybe only driven by informed guesses. Not only it is quite costly, but it also increases risks of loss if the product fails because of mistaken assumptions. You may like the full version of the product you have created and designed, and you assume that your target customers will like it too. They may, but they also may not.
By implementing the MVP, you are able to launch your product quickly, which is based on your concept, on a low budget. Through this, you will be able to gather feedback from your customers quickly and include that feedback in the next iterations. The MVP will enable you to gather ideas based on experience, find the right audience, and save time.
How to build an MVP?
Building an MVP is striking the right balance between what your business offers to users, and what the users actually need. The purpose of an MVP is testing out your theory to minimize errors. This method helps you in gathering quality feedback by targeting specific users or groups.
Here are a few general strategies in building a successful MVP:
1. Define the problem you’re attempting to solve
It’s easy to get caught up in ideas of a specific product and forget the problem you’re trying to solve. But if you want to build a successful business, you shouldn’t focus on the product you want to create. Instead, create the product that customers actually need.
Focus more on the problem instead of the solution – chances are, the product you have originally envisioned won’t be the best way to solve the problem.
2. Find the simplest solution to the problem
Now that you have gotten attached to the problem, it’s time to begin planning for the solution. If you are a developer, you might end up designing elaborate functionality with fantastic features, because it’s something that you’re good at, and something that you enjoy doing.
The problem is, it takes a lot of time and money to develop that elaborate functionality. Even if you have plenty of time and resources to pull off a perfect product – with all of these desirable features included – you can still face a huge risk because nobody would want to use it. They won’t even just care for it.
Instead, find the simplest way to solve the problem. Develop the simplest version of the product, which contains the most basic features to test your assumptions. These assumptions include: does the problem exist? Is the problem really important? Can we solve the problem?
3. Give the basic features a top priority
In order to come up with the simplest functioning version of the product, you have to identify the “must-have” features that you can’t do without and save the “nice to have” features for future iterations.
The “must-have” or core features of a product are the ones that are inextricably linked to the product’s functionality. The most fundamental elements of your product constitute the foundation of your MVP.
4. Don’t think about efficiency for now
In order to improve and grow, your product needs to be efficient and scalable. However, it is not feasible to do it at this stage. Instead, you can afford to develop a product that lacks efficiency and scalability but has the basic and usable functions. You can think about efficiency in the later iterations of your product. For the time being, though, you’re only putting your fundamental assumptions to the test.
5. See the MVP as a stepping stone
Don’t think of the MVP as an end-goal; instead, treat it as a stepping stone. You aren’t generating profits just yet – you may even lose some money along the way – and you aren’t trying to expand your product as quickly as possible. See the MVP as a way to make the best use of learning.
With your MVP being planned out, you can begin developing. But keep in mind that development is not intended to complete the process. Instead, development is just the beginning of a feedback loop – first is to build, second is to measure, and third is to learn from it. And then, this feedback loop starts all over again. It goes on and on until you have developed a product with features that end-users exactly need.
You can expect that user feedback may vary at this stage. You may receive a lot of positive feedback, which means you’re heading down the right path. Some feedback, though, may tell you that you have failed and indicate you’re going in the wrong direction.
While some user insights can be hurtful or hard to hear, they’re otherwise crucial to building a product that people exactly need. Besides, you’re not building a product for the sake of the product itself, but you’re building a product that people themselves would be really willing to use. Without the benefit of testing the product, you won’t know what it will look like in the end. So, if you release an MVP and realize you are heading in the wrong direction, don’t worry – these failures are actually a path down to success.