Most failures could have been avoided in the early stages by building a Minimum Viable Product (or MVP). This is the simplest version of the solution that has the basic functionality to solve user problems. It helps verify the value of the original idea and adapts it to market needs.
Since here at MindK we develop custom solutions for both startups and big enterprises, we have real-life examples proving that MVP is a great tool to test the assumptions while saving money. That’s why we want to get the message out to companies who plan to start the software development project – take your time, before fully diving into developing a feature-rich product, try the MVP approach first. In our previous article, we’ve already clarified in detail what MVP means, so now we’d like to focus on how to build it and the mistakes to avoid.
Right way: How to create an MVP for a startup to be successful
Developing MVP in Agile methodology involves rather straightforward and logical steps. To put it in a nutshell, you need to define the problem, set up a basic set of features to help users solve this problem, and give it to real users for their feedback. Here is how this process looks like in detail:
Step 1. Identify the idea (the problem you are solving)
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and try to answer the following questions: “Why do I need this product?”, and “What can I do with this product that I couldn’t do before?”
It sometimes happens that entrepreneurs become obsessed with an idea and entirely forget about the problem it intended to solve. That’s why you should identify a need at the very beginning – why your product should exist, and determine the criteria showing whether your product is successful (it should be more than one metric).
The solution should solve at least one problem of your target audience (TA). Take, for example, Uber. It solves two big problems: it helps car drivers find clients and to find cars for passengers. Uber started with an MVP, which was a beta version of a simple mobile interface used by a small group of users with restricted access. As the company evolved, the app got more and more capabilities like live driver tracking, fare sharing, instant credit card payments, and so on.
Another Agile MVP example is from MindK’s practice – Bridge, an operating system for global hiring. Bridge founders came up with the idea of a digital product that would help US companies open R&D offices abroad. Hiring in the United States has been increasingly hard in light of competition from larger tech companies and rising costs. Doing this abroad was complicated, because of obvious operational and logistical complexities. Bridge makes the hiring process 100% transparent and allows companies to control their spending and manage the office remotely. In just 12 weeks, our team developed an MVP and now we keep improving the product to suit the market.
Step 2. Analyze the competitors
After the idea is determined, it is essential to check if related products are already on the market. Neglecting competitor analysis and putting blind trust in the uniqueness of your product may be an ominous threat to the project success.
Bear in mind that even if you think you have no direct competitors, your undoubted faith in the exceptionality of the product is not reasonable grounds for marketing it. Competitor analysis is critical and you should know your business sector like the back of your hand.
You can use tools such as Google Trends, SimilarWeb, Compete and many others to check whether there is some new “player” or whether something has changed with the permanent leader. Don’t hesitate to take over good ideas from your competitors and also learn from their mistakes.
Step 3. Find opportunities to solve the problem (list the features)
As we’ve already mentioned, the main idea of the MVP is launching the simplest version of the product which contains enough functionality to test such fundamental questions as:
- Is there a real problem?
- Is the problem important for people?
- Can the solution solve this problem?
To generate possible functionality for your MVP Agile development – focus on solving the pain points of your target audience. You can use a “How Might We” opportunity statement for this purpose. For example, “How might we make it easier for users to book appointments?” and so on. It will help you transform the pain points into features description.
Step 4. Prioritize features
After the features are listed, you need to identify the key ones for your first version. It is super important because the MVP approach in Agile should involve the most valuable features with a great focus on problem-solving.
The first thing to do is to figure out which functionality will be a must-have for your product. There are several ways to do it. Among them are:
- Pareto principle
Pareto principle states that 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. This is an empirical principle, which means that many phenomena in the world, including product development, comply with this ratio.
Following this principle, 80% of your users will only use 20% of the functionality. So, you don’t have to spend months polishing your product before launch. Write down the full list of the functionality of the future application and determine the 20% that will cover 80% of user needs.
- Prioritization matrix
The prioritization matrix is quite a simple tool that allows sorting a varied set of features by the order of importance. The main goal of this matrix is to define MVP features which are essential at the current stage and those that can be postponed for later releases. It categorizes features in terms of urgency and impact.
- MoSCoW method
The MoSCoW method divides your features into Must Haves, Should Haves, Could Haves and Won’t Haves. With the help of the MoSCow Matrix, you can go through the entire business idea, its features and functionality, and “carve” the most necessary product features for market delivery.
It’s important to understand that none of the prioritization methods replaces human decision-making. Good approaches are a way to help everyone agree on the terms or goals of a product.
The ideal prioritization method for your product should action a few essential things:
- It must involve every team member, stakeholder, and in some cases, customers.
- The method you choose should bring practical results and provide information that will help you improve your product strategy.
- It should encourage team members to think about how any idea affects the goals of the product and prioritize based on this.
- It should help you get rid of meaningless and useless ideas.
Choosing a prioritization method is an iterative process – only by trying different approaches can you get feedback, measure performance, and find the one that meets your needs.
Step 5. Build-Measure-Learn phase
When your MVP features are mapped out and prioritized – begin development. Remember that MVP in Agile development is just a stepping stone and the start of a feedback loop, allowing you to gradually improve your product in 3 stages: Build, Measure, and Learn.
The goal of the Build-Measure-Learn cycle is to transform the doubts and assumptions into knowledge that the startup can use to develop the product. Let us review its components:
Build: This stage is aimed at building or developing the MVP to test some assumptions or form the hypothesis.
Measure: In the second stage, the startup defines whether real progress is achieved or not. It involves measuring the results received from the experiment of the BUILD stage.
Learn: The startup decides whether to persevere or pivot. It means that the company either keeps the existing strategy and goals or changes the whole product strategy or its aspects.
The feedback loop enables turning the idea into a product, measuring client response, and deciding whether to pivot or persevere.
This is exactly what we did on the project Melody, a melody search engine. Due to the fact that finding beats and sound to create music is frustrating, immobile, and mostly leads to loss of inspiration and excitement, the client required a solution to turn the process of discovering melodies into a creative pleasure. Here is how we and the client went through these three stages:
Build: To verify the assumptions, we started developing a robust Progressive Web Application (PWA) that performs great on various devices.
Measure: The client showed the basic version to investors and potential users and the application was highly praised by both the client and the investors.
Learn: Based on the feedback received, the client decided to keep on with the strategy, and after that we started working on a feature-rich web app together with mobile applications for iOS and Android. Today the app has thousands of active users and we keep on improving it and create even more pleasure from melody search.
Step 6. Iterate or Pivot
Sometimes, user feedback may verify your beliefs and show that you have chosen the right way (like in our case with Melody). But sometimes it may show you’ve made a slip and are going in the wrong direction.
It’s critical to determine whether you’re building an MVP app that people need. You aren’t creating software for the sake of software. You want to build a product that people will fall in love with. This is why you should keep in mind that:
- Listening to your users is vital.
- You are creating a product to benefit your clients’ lives.
- Asking users what they want is helpful.
An MVP for software development is aimed to solve key user problems by determining the pain points and focusing on a viable solution. Keep this information in view during each step of building a Minimum Viable Product and try to avoid the most common and most dangerous mistakes.
Wrong way: Top mistakes to avoid when developing MVP
#1. Focusing on a large target audience
Don’t try to reach out to everybody with your Minimum Viable Product. You have a much higher chance for success when you know exactly who you’re talking to through your MVP. Try to please a limited target audience instead of making “something for everyone”.
Imagine you are invited to hold a workshop and the only thing the inviting party explains to you is that the workshop is just for “anyone who will come”. It is quite a vague statement and you likely have dozens of questions at that time — the subject you will be presenting, the duration of the workshop, the sphere the audience works in, and so forth.
If you haven’t determined your niche target audience, you risk spending a lot of money on marketing with no returns or qualitative feedback about your product. Winning the hearts of a small audience can help you establish a steady position in the market from the very beginning.
#2. Postponing to give the basic version in hands of users
Such a point of view presupposes that you know exactly what your potential users want.
Under real-life market conditions, you cannot be a hundred percent sure. You can only make assumptions.
It happens that most of your early assumptions about the product are likely to be wrong. In such a case you risk spending months of development time and effort on creating a product that doesn’t solve customer problems.
Make your Minimum Viable Product a simple and helpful tool for your target audience and they will tell you themselves what they like the most and what they don’t so that you’ll be able to build a complete product.
#3. Thinking that UX is not the part of an MVP
Quite the opposite! UX and UI are the fundamentals of a successful product. A better and seamless UX design is able to improve customer conversion rates up to 400%.
This does not mean the design should be drop-dead gorgeous or involve the latest trendy effects. In other words, imperfections are acceptable. Ultimately, MVP design should be simple and handy, taking into account the basic principles such as unity, balance, hierarchy, proportion, emphasis, and contrast.
When the design meets the aforementioned requirements, it is easier for the end-user to understand and use the product. Creating a good first impression is a basis for building trust, which is important, as usually there are no second chances to rectify a bad impression.
#4. Including too many features in your first version
Too many features is a bad sign. An incomplete set of functionality is not good either. Lack of usability can become the reason for product failures. As a rule, additional features do not improve your Minimal Viable Product but complicate it.
For example, Steve Blank, an American entrepreneur, educator, and author of a number of books on startups and entrepreneurship, admits that MVP should have the smallest possible feature set that creates, gains and reduces pains for customers.
You can add features after you test your assumptions with MVP and know exactly what your users want. It is hard to believe but almost 80% of the features in software products are rarely or never used. For example, what functionality do you use in Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel? How much of it – 5 or 10 percent? Maybe 30% if you are a power user!
Thus, when you build an MVP app, focus only on the crucial moments. This way, you can save a lot of time and money, while reducing time to market.
#5. Not learning from your MVP
Treat your Minimum Viable Product like a scientific experiment. Any feedback, whether good or bad, is equally important. It helps you understand your early adopters better and improve the product in order to meet customer needs.
At long last, you should focus on finding the happy medium between the capabilities of your product and the needs of the end-users.
Consider MindK your trusted partner for MVP development
We hope that our small tips were helpful, and now you are fully armed to give the right answer about what is MVP in Agile and start your personal journey to successful software. Developing an MVP is a creative and challenging process and requires professional analytical skills, technology trends, and expertise in software development. So, you’ll need a trusted software development partner to turn your idea into reality.
Here at MindK, we have completed a number of MVP projects, which have further grown into extensive solutions, just check our case studies to make sure. If you need an experienced software development team to help you with MVP, just leave a few words about your idea and our specialist will get back to you with a proposition.