Taking the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach is becoming increasingly popular in the technology startup landscape. Market-leading applications like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Facebook, and Spotify are a few examples of MVP startups that reached remarkable heights of success after starting out as Minimum Viable Products.
MVP development for startups enables them to launch their product idea in the market in the quickest, most cost-effective way, allowing startups to validate their product idea and gather market feedback. An MVP on its own is not a guarantee of success for startups, but MVP startups have a greater shot at market success when compared to startups without an MVP.
So what does it mean for a startup? Imagine you are a startup owner with a brilliantly innovative product idea that you intend to launch in the market. When you think about an MVP, you think about a scaled-back version of your envisioned product — a product that is ridiculously simple and basic. This is the simplest product you can offer to your set of target users to measure the value that your product can deliver to the users.
For a beginner’s guide to the basics of developing an MVP, refer to our previous article on Developing Minimum Viable Products (MVP) – The Basics, Benefits, And Costs. But if you are a startup owner in the process of researching product development, this is the guide for you. In this article, we have compiled a comprehensive breakdown of all that you need to know about MVP development for startups as an entrepreneur and the best practices you need to consider when planning your MVP. So let’s begin with understanding the most important attributes of an MVP that makes it a minimum viable product in its truest sense.
Key Attributes of a Minimum Viable Product
Every MVP startup is different depending on the type of product, industry, target market, size, and investment. Therefore, the minimum viable products for different startups are also vastly different in nature. But here’s a checklist of key attributes that make a product an MVP. Every startup must keep the following in mind when developing their minimum viable product:
- An MVP startup must result in sales. It is not an MVP until it sells; therefore, the MVP must offer enough value to the customers for them to make a purchase.
- The MVP development stage is not about the MVP itself. Instead, it is about the process of perfecting the final product.
- An MVP is not a product with the least number of functionalities, but rather a product that has all the core features that are necessary to make the product viable and retain early adopters.
- MVP development for startups is based on the philosophy of lean startups that is rooted in eliminating waste by following an iterative process of building → learning → improving until the final product completely meets the market needs.
- The main aim of building an MVP is to develop a final product that is valuable, useful, and successful, by gathering market feedback and using it to improve on the product idea.
An MVP can make or break your startup venture.
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Types of MVP Development for Startups
The key attributes of MVPs remain the same but the MVP can take different shapes. Following are the four main types of high-fidelity startup MVPs and some other low-fidelity ones that can help startup owners validate their product idea.
A concierge MVP is a way to validate your product idea by manually helping your users accomplish their goals and gauging whether or not they need the solution that your future product is going to offer. It is similar to providing a personal service to the users, where a human operator or “concierge” helps the users achieve what the software product will help them accomplish. In some cases, a concierge MVP might involve no technology at all.
Zappos, the American online shoes and clothing retailer is an example of a concierge MVP startup. In 1999, it began as a concierge online shoe seller since the owner was not sure if the idea of buying footwear online had any market potential. The owner tested it out by creating a catalogue of shoes on his website using photos of shoes that he took at the mall. When an order was received, he used to personally buy the set of shoes at the mall and mail them to the customers. This was a cost-effective way for him to validate the product hypothesis with minimal investments by providing a personal service. Zappos became one of the largest online retailers in the US and was later acquired by Amazon in 2009.
Startups use concierge MVPs when they want to evaluate the effectiveness of their product before they invest in the full-scale development of the product. It is a quick and low-risk method of validating product ideas and it enables startups to engage with real customers. However, a concierge MVP is entirely dependent on human operators which can impact the quality of services.
Wizard of Oz MVP
Just like the movie Wizard of Oz, where (spoiler alert!) it is revealed that the giant green head is an illusion and the wizard is actually a human who pulls levers behind a curtain, a Wizard of Oz MVP also involves creating an ‘illusion’ of the product.
A Wizard of Oz MVP, on the outside, gives an impression that it is a fully functional and automated product. However, in reality, most of the inner workings of the features offered by the solution are processed and operated manually. It is an efficient way to test the product hypothesis without investing in automation, complex algorithms, and technologies. It allows startup owners to immediately test their product offerings and gives them insights regarding target users’ behaviour.
A popular example of a Wizard of Oz MVP startup is Aardvark — a question and answer service that was powered manually when it started out. Instead of building complex algorithms, Aardvark staff connected people with questions to experts by manually posting their questions to people who were online and posting the answers back to the asker. On the outside, Aardvark’s MVP appeared as a fully functional, automated software while the inner workings were performed manually by the staff. This is how Aardvark initially gained popularity and later the product was built to include complex matching algorithms that automated the entire process. Aardvark was a huge success. The MVP startup was acquired by Google in 2010.
A single-feature product is the most traditional approach used by startups. It is an MVP that is built to focus on only one of the core features; at the MVP development stage, the efforts are centred around that one feature, while other features are set aside to be incorporated later on during the product development. A single-feature product aims to test how a particular feature will be accepted by the target users. Since it is the most important feature of the product, it validates the value proposition by proving the product viable in real market conditions.
A single-feature product is quicker, easier, and more cost-effective to develop than a fully-featured solution. This makes it easy for small-scale MVP startups to launch into the market. Single-feature products are also helpful for businesses that plan to turn a specific feature of their existing software product into a separate product offering.
A famous example of a single-feature MVP app is Spotify; it started out as a music-streaming application only and later added other features such as podcasts.
A pre-order MVP is built to engage with the target users in a way to make them pay for the product before its actual release. It is a type of high-fidelity MVP that describes the future product and helps secure future sales by allowing target users to pre-order the product. With the help of a pre-order MVP, startups can gain a customer base early on and generate revenue through prepayments to fund the future phases of product development. However, developing a pre-order MVP involves multiple risks such as the possibility of not getting pre-orders or not being able to meet user expectations in terms of the functionality and usability of the final product. This is a reason why nascent startups traditionally prefer other types of MVPs over it unless they have a reputation of a world-renowned successful business owner or a truly innovative idea that they are confident about.
Other Low-Fidelity Types of MVPs
Some other types of low-fidelity MVPs include email MVPs, landing page MVPs, and no-product MVPs. Unlike the examples mentioned above, low-fidelity MVPs require almost no development work. They are only ways to communicate the idea of the product to target users via emails, landing pages, or marketing campaigns. Some might argue that since low-fidelity MVP startups don’t generate sales — a key attribute of MVPs — they are not technically considered MVPs. However, low-fidelity MVPs such as landing pages are commonly used by startups to get an initial customer base that can help define the content and features of the future product. Email MVPs are also used by startups to validate a new feature or product idea among the existing user base.
Why MVP Development?
But, why MVP? Why invest in MVP development, when a full-scale product can be developed from the get-go? Why not invest in the development of the final product instead, and save money? These are some questions we frequently get asked by startup owners. The benefits of MVP development for startups are numerous and the many examples of successful products that once started out as MVPs are a testament to how beneficial MVPs can be for the success of the startup.
Here is why you should consider MVP app development before investing in the development of a full-scale product.
- An MVP can test the viability and value of your product idea in the market with minimum resources. It can either prove your product hypothesis true or provide you insights on how you can add value to your product.
- For startups, MVP development is an additional stage in the product development life cycle but it can help avoid bigger failures and monetary losses in the future.
- MVPs help you experience real-life market conditions and measure the performance of the product in these conditions.
- MVPs allow startups to craft a final product using the feedback of target users so as to avoid building a product that is unnecessary, useless, and redundant.
- MVP development for startups is the swiftest way for them to gain early adopters. It takes the shortest possible time for them to launch the product in the market and obtain early adopters.
- With the help of an MVP, startups can gain a userbase early on and continue to expand it with later versions of the product.
- For startups that are aiming to onboard third-party investors, a successful MVP can help convince potential investors of the workability of the product idea.
- MVP startups can secure crowdfunding with the help of a functional and successful MVP.
- MVPs allow a loop of customer feedback that helps with the learning and education of the product development team.
- Rooted in the lean startup philosophy, MVPs help startups reduce waste of resources, development efforts, and money.
How to Plan an MVP – Best Practices of MVP Development for Startups
Startups that are planning to create an MVP need to have a roadmap or a priority plan of what they want to achieve at the MVP development stage. It requires a careful and comprehensive analysis of the product idea as well as technical and functional analysis of how that idea can be transformed into a product. Setting priorities is the first and foremost thing that an MVP startup must consider because most MVPs tend to change with time, and it is always helpful to have a clear set of priorities that guide the product development process.
Core Value Propositions
Our first piece of advice for startups is to think about the core value propositions of their product. The two main questions that startups can answer at the MVP stage are:
- Is our product idea viable?
- What are the minimum set of features our MVP needs to make it viable?
To answer the first question, a startup must agree on the core value propositions of the product. What value is it offering to the target customers and how is it addressing their pain points? The process of planning the MVP is easier if you have a clear answer to these questions.
MVPs are important tools for startups to understand their product offerings and their relationship with the market. It is advised to start small at this stage by decluttering your MVP plan and only focusing on a few features and a small number of users. It is easier, cheaper, and efficient to focus on a small representative group of users.
Set a Timeline and Budget
As you hire an in-house development team or outsource to an MVP development company for startups, you realise that time is money. You must set target timelines that are clear and feasible so that you can plan your MVP around time and resources. The cost of development usually makes up a significant part of the MVP budget, but startups often forget about other costs, such as the go-to-market budget. Allocating a budget for rolling off your MVP in the market and its maintenance and support is important.
Our last piece of advice for startups is to think of their product and MVP software development in terms of the user journey rather than complexity and design. Outlining the user journey will help you identify the features that your product should have for users to solve their pain. With this list of features, you can discover the ‘must-have’ features of your product that you can not compromise on because they are central to the product’s experience. These are the features that will become the basis of your MVP app.
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Product development can be tricky for startups if they don’t have a rock-solid product idea and a well-thought-out product development plan. Developing an MVP is a way for startups to reduce the risk of failure and validate the product idea prior to investing in the development of a full-featured product. An MVP helps startups make the right decisions and develop a product that is valuable, viable, useful, and competitive. The key attributes of a minimum viable product include an approach of building a scaled-back version of the final product focusing only on the core features, gathering feedback that the MVP receives in the market, and using that learning to guide the future phases of development. For this purpose, startups have the option of different types of MVPs that they can choose from depending on their goals, target users, product type, industry, and budget. The success of the overall product depends heavily on how well the MVP is planned and how efficiently it is executed by the development team, therefore, It is also important for startups to wisely decide if they want to outsource the project to an MVP development company for startups or build their in-house development team.