An MVP Can Save Your Product’s Life
In this article, we will explain why your idea will never succeed without a minimum viable product (MVP). Seriously. This is no exaggeration.
An MVP (minimum viable product) significantly increases the chances for your product to win engagement from real customers and break into the market. You just need to create a barebones version of the product, show it to consumers, clean up its failures, and most importantly, discover what features your customers truly value. Sounds easy, right? But building your MVP carries some challenges. What are the most common mistakes? Keep reading to find out!
MVP – What’s it all about?
Generally, an MVP is the first version of your product, consisting of just the core features. According to Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup methodology, an MVP is “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”.
One of the most common mistakes is to confuse the minimum viable product with a prototype. However, an MVP is first and foremost a real product with a basic set of features that promote its major function. The purpose of MVP is to test the product’s demand and to decide whether to continue its development or not, based on the market’s reaction.
For example, let’s imagine you want to launch a dating app. To create its MVP, you need to include the app’s most basic features, such as authorization, user profiles, and search functionality. Obviously, you wouldn’t need to add live video chat or user blocking at this stage.
Misconceptions about MVPs that could cost you a lot of money
From our experience building MVPs for business partners, we’ve seen some serious misconceptions about MVPs. These misconceptions have caused startups to lose not only money but also essential momentum for entering the market.
The first major misconception about MVPs is that they should have as many product features as possible. Why is this wrong? Before anything else, we need the MVP to test the most important aspects of our product, the so-called milestones. Once the data show that the milestones are fine, we can be sure the product is worth our time and resources, and move on to developing additional features. Without this data, there is always a risk that we’ll invest heavily in the product, only to see it fail with real users.
The second misconception about MVPs is that there will be a perfect time to launch one. On the contrary, launch delay has killed millions of startups and will probably kill millions more. There will never be a perfect time to launch your MVP. The answer is simple – release your MVP as soon as possible. You can never be sure your competitors won’t strike first.
Let’s imagine a company that has been investing in an MVP for three years. They added feature after feature until the project became over-engineered to the point of permanent dysfunctionality. Another company started developing a similar product and released their MVP after less than a year. The second company’s MVP captures the market, while the first company ends up abandoning their project along with their years of work and investment.
The third misconception about MVPs is that they should lack quality in the same way as they lack features compared to the envisioned final version. However, the truth is that while a reduction in features is expected, there should be no reduction in quality.
Let’s say you want to release a trivia game app. Your MVP should contain a full set of essential features, including basic gameplay and a UI. It should ask questions and display the correct answers. If you launched the game’s MVP without these basic features, users simply wouldn’t be able to use it at all.
Some advice for you
Based on our experience, we can give several recommendations on how to build an effective MVP. Always remember that simplicity is the key to success.
First, think about complexity. If your product (an app or a game) will eventually have several difficulty levels, you don’t necessarily need to include them all in your MVP. Consumers might be perfectly happy just starting with the initial levels.
Second, pay attention to which platforms you support. If your team is planning an impressive product with a lot of functionality, we recommend creating an MVP for both Android and iOS. In case you plan to add just a minimum set of features, one platform will do perfectly.
Third, don’t forget A/B testing. It’s the perfect instrument to resolve disagreements about what features would be most desirable. To put it simply, A/B testing means updating a product with two variants that have one differing element, such as a button, menu, or copy, and then comparing results for each. A/B testing helps you discover which variant users like best.
Fourth, we recommend creating a landing page for even the simplest MVP. These days domain names are cheap and you don’t need to hire a web designer to build the site. A landing page will give users a better understanding of your product.
We used this approach when developing our own app called Fonts Changer. It’s a keyboard extension that contains a lot of cool fonts that can be used in different messaging apps and social networks.
In the beginning, our team listed all the features we wanted and then just crossed out those that didn’t contribute anything to the app’s main purpose: the ability to use different fonts in other apps.
Then, we chose iOS as a platform for launching the MVP, because we didn’t have a lot of functions to test. We also decided to implement most of the functions on the front end. This allowed us to avoid complex connections between the back and front ends.
Now basic functionality is complete and the MVP is released. The only thing that’s left is to collect feedback from future users and gradually upgrade the app.
To summarize, creating an MVP is a crucial stage in product development. It helps you to learn whether your product will break into the market or fail right from the start. Your MVP provides engagement with real users who give precious feedback for further development.
When building an MVP, you should define its essential purpose and base the product’s features around that. A big mistake would be to over-engineer your MVP to the point of paralysis. Another serious mistake would be to skip some basic functionality. Always keep this balance in mind when adding to your MVP’s feature set.
Also, we don’t recommend waiting until the “perfect time” to launch your MVP. In fact, that time will never come. Instead, the sooner you launch the MVP, the better. Otherwise, your rivals may get there first…
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