As we live in a fast-changing environment, the opportunities come and go very quickly. Users’ behavior and needs change rapidly and what’s popular now can become a thing of the past in just a few months. That’s why timing is a very important concern when it comes to software development. Developing and releasing a product fast gives benefits to its creators by saving time and money for its further improvement. Reduced investments mitigate the risks of the project, which is good news both for startups and businesses that want to reach new markets.
» What is MVP?
MVP or Minimum Viable Product is a solution that has just enough features to be ready for the release. This readiness should meet three important conditions:
› Firstly, the product should be able to satisfy the early customers bringing enough value to them, i.e. it should solve a problem.
› Secondly, MVP should demonstrate the benefits of using this product at the moment and in the future.
› Thirdly, analytics based on user interactions with the product should be collected in order to make the final product better.
The term MVP was introduced and explained by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup (2011). The Lean Startup methodology is aimed at shortening the development cycle and showing a product to its prospective customers for the reason of collecting feedback as soon as possible to understand the users' perception of it. This makes it possible to avoid situations when startupers have been working for many months on a project that users found neither interesting nor useful in the end.
The main idea of MVP is to prove the business concept of a product at the lowest possible cost and at the shortest time. The feedback collected after the release lets its owners know whether it is worth to continue working on the product and if yes, what exactly has to be improved.
"If You're Not Embarrassed By The First Version Of Your Product, You’ve Launched Too Late" - Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn
However, one should keep in mind that users are accustomed to certain features across different web and app solutions, that they will expect to find realized regardless of whether its an MVP or a final product. In general, the overall quality and functionality must be sufficient for people to be willing to use this solution and probably to buy it.
» How many features should MVP have?
Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this question since the number of features depends on the specifics of a product, a business niche, and market conditions. If the main idea of the project is completely new, it may be enough to implement only basic functions because there is no functionality users take for granted. On the contrary, if the main concept is not innovative, users already have some expectations on how the app of a certain kind should work and look like.
There are several approaches to selecting features that should be implemented in MVP:
› to create a product containing all the features of the competitors plus unique features
› to release a product with just some features of the competitors’ solutions plus new functionality
› to build a solution with only unique features which are new on the market
› to develop an app with no new functions but with the significantly improved quality of the old features
Of course, it is hard to say in advance which option is the best for every specific product and niche. Google, for example, provided the same functionality as other search engines but improved the search results. Today, Google has become a part of pop culture and is known by a wide range of products that make our world a better place.
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» Key benefits of building an MVP you need to know
When deciding whether to create an MVP before the release of a full-sized solution, it’s important to understand that a minimum viable product is not profitable and it’s not even intended to be so. At the same time, opting for MVP development allows you to build a better application that will solve users’ problems more effectively and, thus, will have the greater potential to win users’ hearts. And as a result, you’ll get more chances to receive excellent ROI. But let’s take a closer look at how exactly MVP can help you craft a stunning product millions of people will just love.
› Fast development
We live in a fast-paced world driven by innovations and technologies. Everything changes: new applications appear in a blink of an eye, customer expectations are growing, competition on the market becomes tougher and tougher, and so on. If a development process takes much time, a product may become irrelevant even before its launch. At the same time, a coding team will need only 1-2 months to release an MVP. This allows you to learn from user interaction with your solution early on and to adjust the product to current circumstances.
You’ll need less initial investments to build an MVP than to develop a full-bodied product. But not only that. The main idea behind the MVP is to give app creators the opportunity to learn from early customer feedback. As a result, you’ll understand users’ needs better, will be able to adjust the product functionality accordingly, and won’t waste money on developing features no one actually wants.
› Risk mitigation
App development projects are usually complex and associated with many uncertainties. Do we understand users’ pain points and needs correctly? Is our business concept right? Will anyone be ready to pay for this product in the end? Building an MVP allows you to test your ideas before spending a fortune on creating a complete product. Hence, it is one of the most effective ways to mitigate most business risks which are naturally inherent to software development.
» How can an MVP compete with the big players?
Well, the first doesn’t always mean the best. Google wasn’t the first search engine. iPod wasn’t the first mp3 player. Facebook wasn’t the first social network. But how did they manage to outshine their predecessors? Well, there are several reasons for that.
In short, if there is no competition, there is no market. If the product is popular, there is a group of people that are using it and by discovering their opinion on the product you can analyze the market. Also, by doing so, one can find a problem or a vacant narrow niche to develop a solution within. Still, it sometimes happens that there is a great product on the market but not so many people are aware of it. With better marketing and with a product at least as good as the existing solution one can achieve bigger success.
» Possible Pitfalls of MVP development
› Including all the features in MVP that the final product should offer. When trying to impress the audience startuppers should still leave some room for further improvements.
› Closely sticking to the minimalistic approach. Falling into another extreme, some features crucial for the users may be left behind depriving the product of its value it should bring to users.
› Underestimating the importance of market research. Before developing any product, the market should be studied thoroughly to understand whether the idea is worth implementing.
› Ignoring user-generated feedback. One of the main aims of MVP methodology is to collect feedback as soon as possible for the reason of adjusting the product in the future.
› Hiring a development team that lacks qualification. Building MVP requires as much expertise as building a final product, and every detail from deciding on a development methodology to the feedback analysis matters.
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» Recommendations on building MVP
Naturally, one would like to include all the useful features in a product and to make it according to the highest standards of quality. But as we all know to achieve this may take a lot of time and money. It is always hard to find a golden mean, but these pieces of advice will shed some light on how to prioritize your goals.
› You should focus on the features that will make your product unique. The feedback is needed much more on the new functions rather than on those that are already available on the market.
› Still, some must-have features that users are expecting to find in a product of a certain category can’t be left aside. Excluding key features can make the product useless for customers.
› Building MVP shouldn’t take a long time because timing is one of the key reasons for using this model. You should prioritize features and define the quality acceptance criteria for your MVP project.
» Is starting MVP a good idea for your project?
As a team of professional web and mobile developers with more than 8 years of experience, we recommend starting developing every project with MVP. Most web and mobile app projects are complex and associated with many unpredictabilities that may lead to many business risks. Building MVP is one of the most effective ways to mitigate them. At the same time, everyone should understand that MVP model does not give a one hundred percent guarantee of the success and neither it is a profitable product you can sell. But the feedback generated from user interaction with the product will let you understand what has to be refined to meet customers’ needs and, thus, to become successful.