What is an MVP? Do’s and Don’ts of Building One
What is an MVP? Most people have only a vague idea. However, it is critical to a successful product development which has many pitfalls along the way. Discover what you need to do and what not to do when building one.
Building a minimum viable product or MVP subscribes to the belief of Leonardo da Vinci, who once supposedly said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” This attitude applies to product development, particularly to software insofar as it is a work in progress.
Of course, building an MVP falls short of abandonment. Any stage of its development is your best guess at what it should be eventually. However, success in this process hinges on sticking to best practices when building a software MVP.
Before getting to the do’s and don’ts, let’s talk about what is an MVP.
What is an MVP?
The MVP is the initial version of the product you put in front of your audience. As such, it is close enough for government work but not the perfect version of itself. It will approach perfection through successive iterations over time. At least, that is the idea.
Most people tend to associate MVPs with startups since it became popular in 2008. While it is true that some of the biggest companies today were MVP startups, the process is not exclusive to them. Mature organizations with established products can use principles governing how to build an MVP for developing other products.
The primary point of an MVP is determining which assumptions about the market, product, and users are correct. Some assumptions will be wrong, no matter the level of experience or expertise you have. An MVP keeps you from taking more risks than necessary when developing software or other products.
The following are the characteristics of an MVP:
- Solves at least a single problem
- Has the potential to expand
- Keeps a record of feedback
Do’s and Don’ts of building a software MVP
Keep these characteristics in mind when building a software MVP. However, as they say, there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip. To avoid slips, employ the following best practices in how to build an MVP.
DO define the issue
Building a solution arguably starts with a problem. To build the right solution, you need to understand the right problem you are trying to solve.
About 35% of startups fail because there was no market need for their product or service. These failed startups were trying to solve the wrong problem, or the situation did not exist.
Before starting on a software MVP, you need to understand and define the problem to solve. It would be so easy to make assumptions because it supports your idea. Believing there is a current issue is not enough. You need to know it is there, bringing us to the next “do” on the list.
DO test assumptions
Assumptions are great when they lead to progress, especially for a new product. However, if you get ahead of yourself and build an MVP without validating your assumptions, you risk solving the wrong problem or building the wrong solution.
Look at your product or service idea from all angles with an objective eye. Assess the market, the competition, and customers to see if there is a need for it. Be ready to discard a concept if it turns out there is no need for it.
DO build an MVP that solves your problem
A rather clever way to build an MVP is to aim for one that solves a personal problem you have. You will know when your MVP is minimally viable when it solves it. You get immediate, actionable feedback.
DO launch as soon as possible
Let us assume you have objectively defined the problem, and your MVP will solve it. You should then resolve to get the MVP version into the hands of users as soon as possible.
The problem is people tend to get invested in an idea and want to present it in all its glory to the world. However, glory takes time, and you cannot afford that with an MVP. The window of opportunity to be the first in the market can close really fast.
What you should do is bring out a basic version of your glorious idea quickly so customers can interact with it. If they are happy because it solves a problem now, you know the concept works. You will then have time to work on achieving your ultimate vision.
You will see many instances of bringing a product to market before it is fully ready. Dropbox, for example, didn’t even have a product. All it had was a video, which served as its MVP, explaining how it would work. Thousands of people said they wanted it, so the founders decided to invest in the infrastructure. Dropbox has 15.48 million paid subscribers and 700 million users as of 2020.
The lesson here is to launch first to attract early adopters. They will not be expecting a “perfect” product. They also tend to express their support for an MVP in financial ways. There is no consolation prize for those that come in second.
DO go for minimalism
Remember that an MVP does not need to be complex. It is right there in the name: “minimum viable product.” You only need core functionalities (minimum) that will solve a problem (viable). It has to be usable to your potential customers and nothing else. You can add features later, but they are not necessary for an MVP.
Let’s say you want to take down notes. WordPad is a free and simple editor with very few features, but it does the job. For instance, you will not want to use it to create a resume, but that was not necessary.
You might be surprised at how minimal an MVP can be. The lesson is to deliver one that addresses the core needs exceptionally well. Once you have the essentials, everything else can follow.
DO stay on point
When it comes to building a software MVP, you must keep your feet on the ground. It is far too easy to veer away from the straight path during development. Ideas for making it better will start flooding in, and that is the first sign of trouble.
Stay focused on essentials. Make it a priority to get your app into real users’ hands as soon as possible and start gathering feedback. The feedback will help to track the user journey and identify issues. The earlier you get feedback, the earlier you can address any problems.
DO plan to have the following features
A characteristic of MVP is its potential for expansion. When building a software MVP, plan for adding the following:
- Basic payment system
- Security features
- Client-side monitoring
- Contact form
DON’T wait for perfection
Keep your desire for perfection on the back burner. It will only get in the way of your build. You want to move fast so you can get it out there as soon as possible and get feedback.
DON’T forget feedback
A core component of MVP is the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. You can initially measure and learn using formal and informal qualitative feedback. By understanding your customers, you have the tools to create products that will resonate with them.
DON’T discard failed MVPs
The MVP is mainly about validation. You should anticipate that some customers will not like it for whatever reason. Your job is to find out why. You might have to start over, but you might be able to use all or part of a failed MVP to build a new product or reach a different audience.
DON’T risk building a software MVP without expert help
The ideas are yours but building a software MVP typically requires developers. Unless you are one, you will need help. Full Scale builds IT teams quickly and affordably. We can help you build the best possible MVP for your business. The more you focus on the quality of an MVP, the better feedback you will get. We also provide the professionals you need for other aspects of your business past the MVP.
Contact us so we can start building your team!