A Complete Guide to MVP Development
Every business wants to develop valuable, innovative, and well-loved products. One of the easiest ways to develop such products quickly is to launch a minimum viable product (MVP). This guide will discuss everything you need to know about MVP development.
What is a Minimum Viable Product in IT Development?
A minimum viable product (MVP) is the earliest version of the product that can be launched. An MVP contains a limited number of must-have features that help to attract early adopters and gather feedback for further product development. The feedback gathered is then incorporated into later development stages to upgrade the product.
In other words, an MVP is a beta version of the software that contains just enough functionality to allow for market release.
It is common for people to confuse an MVP with a prototype or a proof of concept. To clear this confusion, let’s define a prototype and a proof of concept and see how they differ from an MVP.
What is a Prototype?
A prototype is a mockup of the upcoming product that displays the software design and primary user flows. It's usually created for stakeholders in order to validate the design arrangement before development commences.
What is a Proof of Concept?
A proof of concept is a small project such as a document or demo software that is created to demonstrate the viability and usefulness of an idea in real life. It is developed for the project owner or tech team to validate the feasibility of the product.
Unlike a prototype and a proof of concept, an MVP is a fully functional product that contains a few features. An MVP is released to the end users to enable the project owners to start making money from the product early on, while still gathering valuable feedback to help improve the product as more features are added.
Now that you know what an MVP is (and what it's not), let's look at reasons why you should invest in MVP development.
Why develop an MVP?
Test Business Concepts
By launching a product with only the core features, you can test whether the product you have in mind resonates with your target audience before adding more features. This way, you can easily change the direction of your product based on customer feedback.
Win Stakeholder and Investor Buy-in
If your business relies on investors to fund your software project (like most businesses do), you have to gain investor buy-in. An MVP will help you convince potential investors that there is demand for your product in the market, and since your product is already live, they will not have to wait for months before seeing a return on their investment.
Creating fully functional, feature-rich software requires a large capital investment. You can spread out these costs by launching a beta version of your product, and then adding other features while still earning from the product.
Faster Time to Market and ROI
Rather than wait for your development team to create a mature product, which might take a long time, an MVP allows you to reduce the time taken between the beginning of the project and the launch. It also helps you start earning from the project early on.
As you can see, MVP development is a vital step in the software development process that can save you time, help you win investors, and enable you to create a product that will be valuable to your target audience. So, how do you start developing an MVP?
A Step-by-Step Guide to MVP Development
1. Conduct Market Research
No matter how revolutionary you think your ideas are, you must always conduct thorough market research before you develop an MVP. Conducting market research will help you know what your target audience needs so you can provide it to them.
When conducting market research, start by identifying what your competitors are doing. This will give you insight into what is already available in the market, and what needs to be added.
Next, send out surveys to your target audience. Ensure that your survey asks the necessary questions to help you know what kind of product would impress and benefit your audience.
Without proper market research, you will end up making three mistakes that will lead you to failure:
1. You will assume that your product will solve a problem.
2. You will assume that the problem your product solves is pressing enough for people to pay for a solution.
3. You will assume that your product is the most effective solution for the problem.
2. Define Your Product’s Value Proposition
After conducting market research, you should have a good idea of what your target audience needs and what solutions they already have access to. This information should enable you to decide on what your product should offer.
To make this step easier, ask yourself why your target audience should spend money on your product. The answer to this question will help you determine the main value proposition of your product.
3. Find the Simplest Way to Solve the Problem
Once you know what problem you want to solve, you must decide on the easiest way to solve the problem. In this step, you cut your feature list to a bare minimum. Keep in mind that an MVP is the smallest and simplest version of the product that contains just enough functionality to help you gather feedback.
To build the smallest and simplest version of your software, you must identify the core features your product can't do without and other nice features you can add later on.
One of the easiest ways to prioritize your features is to use the MoSCoW method. In this method, you divide your feature list into 4 groups: must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and won't-haves.
Must-have features are the core features that directly affect the functionality of your product. They are the backbone of your product. Without them, your product would not fulfill its value proposition. These are the features you will focus on during the MVP development process.
Should-have features are features that must be included in your final product but are not needed in your MVP. A good example is a password recovery system. Although your final application must include this feature, your MVP can use an email support system instead.
Could-have features are extra features that you deem desirable but should only be added after you have tested the basic functionality of your product.
Won’t-have features are the features you will not add to your product because they are resource-consuming and low-value.
4. Launch Your MVP
By this stage of the MVP building process, you know what problems your audience has, the best way to solve these problems, and the features you need. Now it is time to create your MVP.
Keep in mind that although your MVP is not the final version of the product, it should be viewed as a complete and quality product that fulfills all customer needs. As such, your MVP must be engaging, easy to use, and suitable for your target audience.
5. Build, Measure, Learn
Once you launch your MVP, you need to start collecting feedback so you can improve your product to serve your audience better. Start by building a user base. The more people that use your MVP, the more the data you are likely to collect. Consider running an open beta or using third-party services to help you attract the right types of users.
Next, collect as much usage data as possible. You can use third-party programs to help you do this or directly ask for user feedback using surveys. User feedback will give you insights into unneeded features, bugs, and missing functionality.
With the feedback you get from users, you can now accurately determine which aspects of your MVP are successful and which ones need improvement. You can now use this knowledge to make changes as you build your next version.
With each version of your product, you should build, measure, and learn, over and over until you have a finished product that users actually need.
6. Pivot or Preserve
Sometimes, the feedback you get from users will indicate that you’re headed in the right direction. Other times, it will show you that you have misstepped and need to rethink some things.
Either way, customer feedback is vital to building a viable product that solves pressing problems. So, if the feedback you get from your MVP shows that your idea isn't as viable as you thought, do not despair; you have just discovered one way that doesn't work.
For instance, you might:
· Discover that the market segment that is showing interest in your product is completely different from the one you were targeting.
· Find that features you thought were important fail to attract users while features you thought as less important become surprisingly popular.
· After implementing feedback, end up with a product that is completely different from what you had in mind.
At this point, you must decide whether you want to pivot (assume that one of your fundamental ideas is wrong and use this as an opportunity to learn, change, and improve) or persevere (remain firm in your decisions and hope that the drop in performance is not a symptom of a downward trend).
Final Thoughts on MVP Development
MVP development is one of the most crucial steps in creating a viable product. The process helps you save time, create products that solve problems, and impress investors. An MVP also helps you launch your product quickly and start earning returns from your investment even without completing the entire project.
Although it is not your final product, you must create your MVP with care, to ensure you gather the right feedback and get the results you hope for.
If you need help with MVP development and lack the time or skills, contact us. We can create a custom plan for your project.