A minimum viable product or MVP is a term describing a product development technique in which a new product is developed with only the core features required to satisfy early customers. The intent is additional features will be added over time, based on customer feedback, and potentially taking the product in a different direction than the development team might have imagined at first. As your customer base grows, your application or product evolves, too.
A primary benefit of this approach is that (hopefully) minimal effort is wasted building a product or adding features customers may not ultimately find valuable. Of course, what seems simple in theory is often more complex in practice. Let's take a closer look at the process of creating an MVP.
What to Consider when Developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
When deciding which features to include in a new product or application, there are many factors to be considered, especially when you're just getting started:
Establish Overall Goals
Before starting to build anything, you may want to take inventory of your resources and sketch out a vision for the first few product development phases. We're not suggesting Gantt charts and hard dates but rather that you consider the people, money, and overall resources you need to build the core of your product, acquire early adopters, and start integrating their feedback into your development process. While your original plan will morph over time, having an idea of how quickly you need or want to build your customer base will help you make decisions.
Choose Your Demographic
It's rare for a product attempting to solve too many problems for too many people to be successful. Defining an initial customer persona will help you prioritize what should be considered core product functionality and help you focus early marketing efforts. You may need to revise your target customer(s) over time, but without at least a rough idea to start, you are at risk of integrating strong feedback from a customer you may not be trying to serve. You need to strike a balance between building what your customers want and maintaining a connection with your overall vision.
Search for Feedback
With a concept in hand and an early picture of your target customer, you can begin searching for feedback. You can start by building a network of people who represent your target customer. The process of finding and connecting with them may take time. Even if you have little more than your vision to share at this point, though, talking through it may help you uncover critical insights. If nothing else, you have pool of people to contact when you do have those first few features built. And, of course, soliciting ongoing feedback is one of the most important aspects of the MVP approach.
Once you start receiving feedback, you need to prioritize it. In other words, you may receive a large amount of varied feedback from your customers and contacts. Learning to sift through this information and extract the most valuable ideas is vital. For instance, let's say you're developing a restaurant search and review application for large families. If your customer persona paints a picture of your primary customer as budget constrained, integrating a feature to sort by cost may make sense. On the other hand, let's say a single, vocal customer insists on having "official" reviews written by professional writers. While nice, paying to have this content generated may drive the price of your product out of your target customer's reach.
Create Feature Maps
As your collection of feedback grows, you may find it useful to map it against the core functions you've defined for your product. You will notice which functions are working well, which ones customers are struggling with, and group feedback into new categories that will help define future development.
What are Some Common Mistakes? How Do You Avoid Them?
When creating an MVP, there are several potential mistakes to beware of:
- Inexperienced Team: For instance, having an inexperienced team is one of the top mistakes businesses can make during the development process. While an experienced team can help drive the process and minimize costs, an inexperienced one can do the exact opposite. Be sure to consider the skills and experience your team needs as you're getting started.
- Pining for the Perfect Product: Another major mistake lies in trying to create the perfect product. There is no such thing as a product that pleases every single customer. Do not waste time and resources trying to make something perfect. Instead, spring for something that is functional but still quality. Creating specific, tangible goals (i.e. definitions of success) upfront can help you avoid this pitfall.
- Ignoring User Feedback: Lastly, although it seems fairly obvious, many make the mistake of failing to properly incorporate customer feedback. In other words, despite taking the time to collect data from customers, many downplay the feedback they receive, assuming they know better. In the end, it's up to you and your team to incoporate feedback appropriately.
What Tools are Available to Help Accelerate the MVP Development Process?
Although it is a fairly organic process, there are tools to help accelerate the MVP process:
- Fundraising/Crowdfunding: One of the top methods of accelerating development is by using fundraising/crowdfunding. Not only will this help you secure the funds necessary to develop your product, but it will also allow you to receive direct feedback from those who care enough to invest their own money in the process.
- Explainer Videos: Many people are reluctant to buy in to a concept they don’t totally understand. In order to increase engagement and boost the level of feedback, try creating and sharing an explainer video. You may be able to engage a bigger audience. Again, if nothing else, you may uncover a few things about your product that don't make sense or are challenging to explain in a 60-second video, and they may be what's holding people back from becoming customers.
Overall, creating an MVP can be a challenging process. Keeping these considerations in mind and simply recognizing that it is indeed, a process, should help you get started building your next great product.