In the competitive software industry, many new products are purpose-built to provide value to end-users. Project viability depends not just on the accuracy of the product in meeting user requirements, but also on the time and resources spent in its development.
Using fewer resources may enable faster development and allow the business to cash in on an identified opportunity faster. But exactly how do you get from concept to product fast, while staying true to design objectives?
Leveraging the concept of a Minimum Viable Product or MVP can help businesses achieve the objectives of speed and agility, while developing products that meet user requirements. In this post, we’ll cover 10 steps to building ideal MVPs and the many benefits MVPs bring to the table.
According to Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup, “Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”
By definition, an MVP is an early stage “product” with the “minimum” features required for collecting “viable” feedback. Testing an MVP with end-users and stakeholders enables you to gain valuable input on the future development of the product.
Although implementation can vary, an MVP facilitates development trends good for both developers and businesses alike, especially waterfall development. An MVP also supports the progressive development approach of testing riskiest assumptions first, then other features thereafter.
With either approach, having end users and stakeholders validate features while in progress serves the same purpose. Dev teams quickly stabilize validated features, while both narrowing the focus of new feature development and killing unneeded features.
The biggest benefit of MVPs are the insights on end users/stakeholder acceptance obtained from testing product capabilities before launched. An MVP-first approach can further help in the following ways:
Purpose-driven product development. As alluded to earlier, development teams can more easily identify required, end-user features, while avoiding ones that aren’t.
Better utilization of resources. With purpose-driven development, resources are optimally utilized in developing a product with only requisite features.
Faster Development. By filtering away unnecessary modules, project development is faster. Introducing products at the earliest possible stage can give businesses a tactical advantage over the competition.
Minimizes risks. Eliminating features that don’t fit market requirements minimizes the risk of releasing a product that doesn’t gain traction.
Pivot, when necessary. Market testing may well identify disruptive innovations that add value to the end-users. If there is nothing to validate in a project, it may imply that no innovation is being tried in it as well. Conversely, great innovations have been built on ideation and experimentation based on early feedback. MVP allows such testing and it makes it possible for the developers to pivot in case of failures.
Gain the interest of stakeholders and investors. MVPs help you audition your business idea, and pitching the product early can garner needed support from stakeholders or investors.
Let’s look at a step-by-step approach to building an MVP.
The first step is to accurately identify the target audience you expect your product to serve. Hopefully, this step is number one with every product you create, regardless of the method. Demographics to consider include age, location, income, gender, occupation and many others. Depending on the type of application you’re creating, you may need more granular demographics to be effective – level of education, marital status, political affiliations, number of children, etc.
Surveys should first qualify individuals as potential users by identifying their need for the product and how the product will fit into the market vis-a-vis the user requirements. Outside of surveys, you should always gather everything you can on your target market – number of competitors, competitive pricing, market size and maturity, barriers to market entry, etc.
Detailed data collected will help towards making an accurate hypothesis and should ideally cover all aspects of the product.
Identifying how the product adds value is the base formula for success. When users can easily see and use the value add your product offers, you’ll have an even greater chance to succeed.
Offering a seamless and positive user experience requires overcoming all friction points within the software. It’s very important to visualize the user journey and design the user flow before commencing with the development. If you wait to describe the user flow for your product, your project will be behind before you even start development.
The next step is to identify the riskiest assumption. Ideally, in MVP development you would proceed to work on the riskiest assumption first.
According to Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup, “As you consider building your own minimum viable product, let this simple rule suffice: remove any feature, process, or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek.”
Learning will come when the hypothesis is validated by feedback received from end users.
Integral to MVP development are continuous, short-term development sprints. Your team’s focus is on developing the hypothesis formed during the ideation stage, coding, deployment and validating it quickly.
Think of this stage as conducting an experiment to validate your hypothesis. The word experiment itself signifies learning by validating unpredictable hypotheses. The hypothesis may involve simple tasks such as UI/UX writing or major changes in functionalities.
In the building stage, always follow the best practices of unit testing, continuous integration and incremental deployment.
Measuring the success of your MVP starts with feedback from users and stakeholders. Here are a few ways of capturing the data you need to calculate success:
User / Stakeholder feedback. Always leverage input from interviews, surveys and any other means that you collect feedback.
User engagement. By testing levels of engagement of target users with your product, you’ll gain valuable insights that will decide the future course of improving your product.
Software downloads. The number of times the software is downloaded indicates its popularity amongst the users.
User referrals. The number of times your product is referred to others indicates user satisfaction and effectively validates the hypothesis.
Customer lifetime. How long do users continue interacting with your software before finally deleting it? The answer will always give you useful information. If the lifetime of your product is too short, you may need to review your MVP process to determine where feature inclusion went wrong.
Innovations in either the product or the implementation of the business idea can cause market disruptions. Innovations start as unverified assumptions, and a solid MVP-first strategy gives businesses the opportunity to experiment, learn and potentially introduce disruptive innovations in the long run.
Rather than going all out with a big bang launch of the product, using an MVP in software development gives startups the opportunity to test their business idea before launch. MVPs can bring multiple benefits towards the development of the product, and following the steps mentioned above can help startups to gain maximum benefit from MVPs.
Partnering with an experienced MVP development company can help startups implement an MVP-first strategy with precision for maximum deliverables while minimizing resources and time.