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August 2, 2022

How to Develop an MVP: Tips You Should Know Before Starting

In this article, we will explain why your idea will have little to no chance to succeed without a minimum viable product (MVP). Seriously. This is no exaggeration.

Mitya Smusin

Chief Executive Officer

When you launch a product on the market, you expect it to win the customers’ attention. It doesn’t matter whether it’s goods or services—everyone pursues success. When it comes to software, the market is as competitive as it has ever been. Since a minimum viable product, or MVP for short, significantly increases the chances for your product to win engagement from real customers, knowingr how to build an MVP app is in high demand.

In a nutshell, for an MVP, you just need to create a barebones version of the product, show it to target users, clean up any problemts, and most importantly, discover what features your customers truly value. Sounds easy, right? Well, building your minimum viable product carries some challenges. What are the most common mistakes? Keep reading to find out!

What is an MVP in product development?

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, a minimum viable product 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".

MVP development approach

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 help you conduct your market research by testing the product’s demand and deciding whether to continue its development or not, based on the audience’s reaction.

For example, let's imagine you want to develop 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 gamification elements at this stage.

Why do you need a minimum viable product?

The fast and cost-effective release can become the most decisive factor in the app’s success. An MVP can give startup founders a hand in the following ways:

reasons for an MVP

✔️Quick start

Since a minimum viable product demands fewer resources than a full-scale application, it allows you to appear on the market quicker and get the audience’s attention.

✔️Validating the idea

An MVP creates an opportunity for you to understand whether your target audience really needs what you want to offer. It gets people familiar with your brand and demonstrates how it can benefit them.

✔️Collecting feedback

The main purpose of the MVP is to studythe audience’s reaction to your product. What you should add or remove from the app, what design elements are off, and if the user flow is smooth and convenient.

✔️Resource-friendly launch

As we mentioned, the faster your product gets to the market, the better. If along with this you save as much money as possible, you’ll get double the benefit. Building only the core functionality saves you a lot of time, effort, and money before proceeding with scaling the app.

✔️Attracting investments

Are you a startup that has a great idea and wants to raise more money to bring it to life? Make this idea tangible. In this case, the MVP will let the investors see the app in action. It will present you as a trustworthy partner for the investors.

If these reasons are not enough for you, here is some statistical data that proves the point.

Stats and numbers

An MVP is a great way for startups to present themselves to the public and gather money. However, not every startup embraces this opportunity. Around 90% of startups end up failing for various reasons (you can check the Startup Graveyard to see some of their stories). According to CB Insights, the top three failure reasons for startups are:

  • Running out of budgets — 38%
  • Not understanding market needs — 35%
  • More successful competitors — 20%

startup failure reasons

All these threats can be covered by the MVP launch. It will answer whether the audience needs your product, who your most prominent competitors are, and what investors think about it.

What to choose for your MVP features list

Sure, the precise list of features for an MVP will depend on the type of app you want to release and the customer needs of your audience. For example, a mobile messenger can include a simple user profile, text messaging, contact list, and registration, but these functions are barely needed for a media player.

Despite what are the desired functionalities of your app, you need to prioritize them. Not everything you want to implement should be present right away. You need to choose the core features for the first release to build a successful MVP. You can do it in several ways:

Priority matrix. It’s a popular visualization method that allows you to structure the app’s features by the effort you need to build it and by the value they bring to your solutions. It separates all the features into four categories: must-haves (perfect for an MVP), should-haves (necessary but not that important), could-haves (nice add-ons), and won’t-haves (your app doesn’t need them).

Priority matrix

Buckets. A classic version of this prioritization method divides features into three categories: metric movers, customer requests, and customer delights. Metric movers should affect the most important KPIs like churn rate, lifetime value, or conversion rate. Customer requests are the exact features they would like to see in the app. Customer delights may not be that needed, but users will love them. It helps the team clarify the purpose of creating each feature.

Buckets

User story mapping. With this method, you create a detailed description of how users can interact with your app and what they will be looking for. It outlines what feature will contribute to what action. Then, all the functions should be divided into several releases and updates according to their value.

User story mapping

MVP development process: Steps to take

It may appear to you that building an MVP is a breeze. It’s cheap, fast, and useful. However, if you want to create a stable and convenient app for users to evaluate, you should still follow a development strategy to reach the goal.

Steps to build an MVP

1. Research the market

First and foremost, you should analyze the state of the market you are planning to focus on. To define if your understanding of the market is right, you need to get the answers to the following questions:

  • What does my target audience need?
  • How can my product satisfy those needs?
  • What problems will my product solve for users?

With the help of a thorough investigation and business analysis, you can define what issues people face in their daily life, how they solve them, and how you can facilitate the process.

2. Analyze competitors

While developing an MVP, a lot of startups miss this stage, believing in the uniqueness of their ideas. No wonder it leads directly to failure. Each business area is growing every day and keeping an eye on your direct and indirect competitors is always good. Take a look at how many people use their solutions, what reviews they leave, and how their product is ranked.

3. Prioritize MVP features

This step is crucial in MVP development since it defines what features will be implemented in your app and what specialists you should hire for it. We already mentioned several ways to prioritize functions, so choose the one that appeals to you.

4. Design and develop an MVP

Once you clarify the final features list, you can start the development. Usually, it takes from one to three months, depending on the project’s complexity. In general, MVP development goes through the same stages as a full-scale development: wireframes, design, coding, review, testing, and launch. You can delegate all the tasks to an experienced agency.

5. Get feedback and implement

When your MVP is out, you should pay extreme attention to what users say about it. They can report bugs, describe what they like, and show what is wrong with your app. Careful examination of user feedback will help you learn what functions will bring your idea to the next level and add them with further updates.

MVP development cost

It’s hard to name the exact MVP cost right away since it depends on multiple factors:

  • project’s specifications
  • team’s composition
  • hourly rates
  • tech stack

Besides, all these factors are interdependent. The hourly rate will depend on what kind of specialists you hire and where they are located. The list of features you want to implement will define the technologies and tools necessary for the project.

Depending on the above-mentioned aspects, an average cost from an MVP may vary from $10,000 to $50,000.

Misconceptions about MVPs that could cost you a lot of money

From our experience building MVPs for business partners and startup founders, 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.

Misconceptions about MVPs

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 shows 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.

Including too many features into your MVP may shift the focus from market testing and understanding the user needs to just making features for the sake of making features. Sure, shortlisting everything you want to implement is hard, but you need to find the right balance between the terms “minimum” and “viable” to succeed.

Minimum and viable

To avoid this situation, use one of the prioritization methods we mentioned above to choose the core functionality and go with it for your first release.

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.

Also, if you are overcomplicating your MVP during product development and waiting for each feature to be perfect, you risk getting t surpassed not only by your closest competitors, but by larger corporations. With a smaller product, you have more ability to experiment and learn, thus can get to market quicker. And today, with more than 160,000 apps released monthly, time is money.

It’s easy to not let that happen: Don’t overengineer your MVP. It should not be all the way perfect, it should solve users’ pain points. Your audience will tell you what to fix and what to add.

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.

Tips and tricks

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.

MVP mistakes to be aware of

Besides sharing some tricks for a successful minimum viable product development, we are going to mention the most common mistakes that businesses usually make when developing an MVP. Knowing them will prevent you from committing them and save you time and money.

#1: Building for a wide audience

When you build an MVP for anyone, you build it for no one. Your app should solve a problem of a specific user group. To target them, you need to conduct extensive research. If you omit this step or don’t specify the target audience well enough, you will end up with an application that has no purpose, no value proposition, and no users.

How to avoid it: Research your target audience thoroughly and define which one of their specific problems your MVP will solve.

#2: Lack of prototyping

A prototype is the very first rough product realization. When it comes to something physical, like cars, the first draft version of it can be made out of anything, from wood to Lego bricks. For a mobile app or a website, a prototype will be a clickable set of functional screens. It’s not even necessary for it to have a complete design, The main purpose is to understand how usable your solution will be.

If you spend little time on prototyping, users may face some usability issues that you and your team didn’t notice. Fixing them will take a lot of resources.

How to avoid: Don’t limit yourself with one prototype iteration. At this stage, even major changes won’t take a lot of money, so you will be able to build a minimum viable product that will be welcomed by users.

#3: Overwhelming feedback

Yes, one of the main MVP’s goals is to validate your idea and help you collect feedback to set further directions. However, it doesn’t mean you have to listen to everything your users say. Too much feedback can result in a lot of negative consequences:

  • slowing down the development
  • disturbed planning
  • facing budget limitations
  • losing focus
  • implementing small insignificant changes instead of working on more milestones

How to avoid it: Try to choose the top most important early adopters and testers that fit your buyer persona the most. Their feedback will play the greatest role during the development process. Also, have a clear idea of what you want to learn from reviews and surveys and pay attention to one aspect at a time.

Moving forward with an MVP

Okay, your MVP is out, the first feedback is here, and everything is up and running. What’s next? Here are some options for you to continue the product development.

MVP next steps

  • Minimum Marketable Product (MMP)

The next in the list of development process stages is an MMP. After you build a minimum viable product that is valued by the early adopters, you can start selling it to more real users. There are still just core features, but their list is already fine-tuned by testers. When an MVP should validate your idea, an MMP will prove that people are willing not just to use but to buy your solution.

  • Minimum Marketable Feature (MMF)

An MMF is a must-have feature set that will bring immediate value to a user. It will be the main part of an MMP. It should solve the user's problem faster and easier than the similar features of your competitor.

  • Minimum Lovable Product (MLP)

We tested the idea, we sold the product to some users, now let’s try to impress them so they will become our advocates and sales people. An MLP is meant to be warmly welcomed by the audience right away. This version of your app should tap into people’s emotions, not just be a logical solution to their problems.

Here is a short comparison table to structure the information about these concepts.

The concept

Development time

Development price

Main goal

Minimum viable product

The shortest one to release

Cheapest

To validate the idea

Minimum marketable product (MMP)

Short

Cheap

To sell the app

Minimum marketable feature (MMF)

Short

Depends

To bring value to the user

Minimum lovable product (MLP)

Short, but takes more than the previous ones

Depends

To make a wow effect

Our experience

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, the Fonts app is up and running! We have implemented the core features and collected feedback from the users, so now the project is functioning.

Conclusion

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…

🔎 What is an MVP?

An MVP is the first version of your product, consisting of just the core features.

🔎 Why do I need an MVP?

An MVP can get you a quick start and help you validate the idea, collect feedback, and attract investments.

🔎 How much does an MVP cost?

Depending on several factors like the project specifications and the team’s location, you will need from $10,000 to $50,000 to build an MVP.

🔎 What are the typical mistakes in the development of an MVP?

You should avoid three major misconceptions: Including a lot of features, waiting for the “right” launch time, and compromising quality.

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