Build Your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) Website and App
Opportunity abounds and is waiting to be seized. Disruption has become easier than ever, and many markets are ripe for it. Becoming an entrepreneur is no longer a distant dream; all that is required is perseverance and determination to take the first step. A successful business requires more than a great idea - you must build a minimum viable product (MVP) and get it out to customers as soon as possible. The lean startup methodology is ideal for emphasizing MVP app development and deployment.
There are a few other terms for this type of build: prototype, proof of concept, minimum viable test, minimum lovable product, minimum marketable product, and demo. Don't get hung up on terminology, but get clear on your why. Is the purpose of your MVP to raise funds, validate the market, to woo potential partners? Depending on the purpose, there are different considerations. You may not need to build less user flow for partners and fundraising; you're showing off core functionality. Users that confirm your product market fit will require a bit more polish. Payment integration is necessary for live sites and early revenue.
Budget considerations are essential to MVP development. Instead of starting with a list of desired features, which can be costly and time-consuming, try reverse scoping. Begin with your budget and decide what should be built within it before determining whether to make further investments. This ensures that you are maximizing resources to create a product that meets customer needs without the risk of overspending. Prioritize the critical features for a successful MVP, then communicate clearly with your team about staying within budget constraints. Everyone involved in product development must understand how to balance cost efficiency with creating a quality product. This approach to MVP development can help you keep your core feature development in full focus. By understanding how to build an MVP, you can ensure that your idea will be given the best chance to succeed.
What is an MVP?
The Minimum Viable Product is a concept that involves creating a basic version of a product with just enough features to satisfy early adopters. This helps to test the market and get feedback from your potential customer. An MVP typically has the minimum set of features necessary to demonstrate the core value proposition of the product, as well as serve as a basis for further development. It's essential to ensure that the MVP app offers an excellent user experience so customers can see its value. To ensure success, thorough market research is needed. Doing this will enable you to identify potential pitfalls and issues and provide valuable insights on how best to tailor your product to customer needs. The concept of an MVP is often associated with the lean startup methodology, which emphasizes rapid experimentation, customer feedback, and iterative development. By creating an MVP, companies can test their assumptions about the market and their target user, and make data-driven decisions about how to refine and improve their products.
How to Build an MVP
Following are the steps to build a Minimum Viable Product.
1. Analyze the Market (Identify the Problem Statement)
Most times, it is good to start with domain expertise. Start with your interests and professional experience. Finding pain points of unique demographics is the goal here. Hone in on a tiny group of people that have a core similarity. Some examples of an appropriately sized demographic would be "mom-and-pop hardware store bookkeepers," "first-time retail investors in college," "middle school math teachers," and "cake decorators." Focus on what makes the group unique, and keep it small. Depending on the price tag of the ultimate product, you want your first demographic definition to be between 1000 and 100,000 people. In this way, you have enough people to sell to, and you can build something hyper-specific that speaks to them. If you target "people who conduct google searches" or "homebuyers," you cannot garner enough specificity to make your offering compelling. Eventually, your company may service and market to a demographic of that size, but that's once you're past the MVP stage.
Once you have a demographic in a niche that you're well-studied and experienced in, you next find a problem that technology can solve. What is a rote task that can be automated? What piece of financial, legal, or operational complexity can be systematized? How can we leverage machine learning to supercharge the intelligence of recommendations? The bookkeepers might need faster item SKU lookup. Or the retail investors need fast access to education for one-off questions. Math teachers may spend a significant amount of time scoring handwritten worksheets. The cake decorators need fast access to preset color icing. In the brainstorming phase, it is essential to be critical of ideas. Keep all possibilities open and keep track. Only when refinement occurs will you cut out ideas? As you narrow your focus to a single problem, consider the form of the technical solution. You need it to be technically defensible. This means the solution must be complex enough that it is difficult to replicate. You will likely do less work than too much, so err on an ambitious solution. In the later steps, you refine the focus to build incrementally.
When developing your product idea and bringing it to the market, it is crucial to consider who your potential users are. It is not enough to just describe them with demographics; psychographics such as extrovert, sustainability-oriented, or profit-minded should also be considered. These softer qualities will inform where these potential users spend their time and the types of attitudes they may have. From this information, you can create one or two personas of your ideal user to help you throughout the product development process. This will help you ensure that you are creating a minimal viable product with a product-market fit when released. Knowing your ideal user can help ensure that you have a successful product launch. Here is an example, Karly, a math teacher, who would be an ideal potential customer for the product example.
2. Define the Idea
This can be thought of as the investor pitch. What is the problem being solved? What is the specific solution? How will you do your value capture? Is the addressable market large enough for your investment in the minimum viable product? What are the essential features that you need to include in your MVP to solve the problem? Who are the people who are most likely to benefit from your product? What are their demographics, behaviours, and interests? When answering these questions, emphasize the tiny solution, different from what your company will be in 24 months. No matter your dreams and your wild success, the 24-month reality will be so far afield that it's irrelevant here. You canconduct user interviews, draw on personal experience, and do competitive analysis here. Start with surveys and asking questions about pain points. Try not to avoid being biased toward the answer and solution. Keep your questions open-ended and nonjudgmental. Listen closely to identify patterns and commonalities between your users. Identify where users go to get this need met today. Every need is met at some level, so be creative in who you identify as competitors. For example, in the early days of Kayak, there was no flight search engine, but travelers had their needs met. They used travel agencies, individual airlines, and resort scheduling services.
Determine the value prop (proposition). This statement clearly describes the value your product provides to your target audience. It should be concise, compelling, and easy to understand. This is the solution you're offering and the benefit you're providing to each user. It should be a noticeable improvement over the current process or solution. Something that addresses the pain point directly. Coming back to our examples, some ideas could be: Computer vision to determine item SKU from a photo (without barcode) for the bookkeeper. An FAQ interface that dynamically delivers a list of relevant questions with one-paragraph answers with keyword searches for the college investor. Optimal character recognition (OCR) integrated with LaTex for the math teacher. A device that automatically mixes food coloring to deliver the preset icing color for the decorator actively. When you create a minimum viable product, focus on what makes your product unique and how it can truly improve your customers' lives. Once you've defined the value proposition of your product and have a clear idea of what it offers, you can begin building out the actual product and further refining the MVP.
You need to validate your MVP idea by getting feedback from potential customers or users. This can involve conducting surveys, focus groups, or user testing to ensure your product idea resonates with your target audience and addresses their needs.
3. Make a List of Features
Here we get concrete on what we're offering. This is a list of web pages and forms necessary for the user to get value from the product. Most of this work will be on the backend to create value. This is also where we focus on the essentials. The first thing you build will be to test with a handful of users who already bought into you as a potential partner. These close connections will be forgiving of an unpolished website but will be eager to see the progress of helpful tools. Focus on the product's core, such as the intelligence and expert systems supplying the innovation. Strip out login pages, long-term app storage, pretty CSS, and code unit testing.
Design your user flow. All decisions should be opinionated but backed by data and feedback. Expert knowledge and experience dictate how the flow should go, but it's important to remember to focus on the essential features that will make up your MVP. If you need help on how to build an MVP, it's best to start with the basics. For example, a single camera setup with integration to QuickBooks can create entries for the SKU for the bookkeeper. A webform with a single search bar and expandable FAQs can suffice for the investor. An upload form with bulk upload for student papers and answer keys, along with a final grade export, is an ideal feature set for a teacher. This type of functionality can save a significant amount of time and effort for teachers who need to manage large amounts of student work. Similarly, when it comes to baking, a piping device with three presets for working on a single cake can be reset for each job. This feature can save bakers time and effort by allowing them to easily switch between different patterns or designs without having to clean and refill the piping device each time. However, when designing a product, it's crucial to remember that more features do not always equal a better product. Overcomplicating a product with unnecessary features can often detract from the user experience and make it more difficult for users to achieve their goals. It is crucial to prioritize the creation of an MVP that caters to the specific requirements of users by incorporating only the essential features.
This is an essential step in determining whether the product is suitable for potential customers. Once the prototype is ready, you can enhance it with wireframes, sketches, or other tools. Eric Ries has famously said minimum viable products are designed to 'test a hypothesis,' and the prototype should only include the core features identified that are necessary to prove the viability of the product. Quality assurance should also be applied at each step to ensure that the final prototype meets all expectations. With this approach, you can build an MVP with minimal resources and time, thus saving time and money for further development. To develop a successful MVP, it's important to streamline the product or service by focusing on the core features and eliminating any non-essential elements. This will help you create a product or service that is easy to use and understand.
4. Build & Iterate
Stand on the shoulders of giants. Choose libraries and open-source components to make your coding tasks easier. You're bringing functionality to a new business case, but often some libraries and APIs do components of the product that you integrate in a novel way. You can find specialists who have already integrated the library before; look to upwork for a marketplace with these experts. Upwork is generally an upside-down marketplace in software. In most places you look, developers are in short supply, and work is abundant. On Upwork, prices are low, and engineers are numerous. This comes with a tradeoff. However, communication, tracking, and quality are challenging. But with the proper advisor and manager, it's generally the best option.
Creating a demo for each MVP component is critical for development. You can get the API or library to perform its essential function with dummy data while keeping utilities relegated to their files. This separation of concerns makes it easy to swap out libraries and maintain business logic that's clear and simple to follow. Once you have your utilities ready, integrate them with the database—generally, PostgreSQL is preferred as a robust production-ready yet easy-to-understand relational database. Involve real users in product development to ensure a successful MVP.
Expose the backend solution to the user with a simple webpage. Stay focused on UX design and fancy CSS work, as this might distract from your core features: the work on the backend. Instead, focus on simple forms, flow, and graphs showing off your backend solution in the best light. Once you've done that, you can take your time fine-tuning the experience and boast something visually impressive. But before that, remember to delight them with value first. After all, that's the goal of MVP software development.
Choose your hosting and deploy to the cloud. Set your static IP address, and point your domain to it. Then you'll have a live site for potential customers and investors to look at after the fact. As you publish to the cloud, do not lean on proprietary solutions.
At this stage, you do not want to test your code thoroughly. Your code is in significant flux; so much is changing. Tests more than double the number of lines to write, maintain, and debug as the codebase grows. Building an MVP is all about creating just enough features to demonstrate the potential of your web app. This MVP approach is ideal for app developers who want to remain flexible while reducing the number of lines to write, maintain, and debug as the codebase increases.
You must be agile to create something viable to solve customer problems. You must save time. You're racing the clock and want a competitor gets to market quicker than you. Acceptance testing and QA testing make sense at this stage. This is humans looking at the final product and interacting as a user would. This ensures some level of polish and fewer bugs. An important distinction to draw here is functional testing vs. nonfunctional testing. The former focuses on whether the product delivers the feature promised without error. The latter are other intangibles: site performance, uptime, accessibility, load testing, security, and usability.
The MVP development process is often iterative, with each iteration improving the product. After completing the process of identifying the target audience and receiving feedback from friends and core supporters, the next step is to launch the product or service. Depending on the product, launching may involve organized events and press coverage to generate a greater reach. For example, software development could benefit from launch parties designed to engage with customers and connect them with the product. In addition, a coordinated rollout through the proper channels can help ensure broader product coverage. With these strategies in place, you can be sure that your product will be well-received by the target audience. Consider an official launch if your product requires network effects to be valuable. Coordination of press coverage, rolling out to a specific location initially to concentrate the network, and seeding the activity with engaged users are some approaches to boost launch success.
Launching a product is an important step towards generating value via network effects. However, without an effective strategy, the cold start problem can prevent users from joining the network.To address this challenge, companies must develop an effective launch strategy that can help them overcome the cold start problem. A well-planned launch can make a big difference in attracting users to the network and creating momentum for growth. This strategy should include elements such as coordinated press coverage, which can help generate buzz and interest in the product among potential users. Another important element of a successful launch strategy is to roll out the product gradually, starting with a single geography first. This approach can help companies focus their efforts on a specific market and ensure that the product is well-received before expanding to other regions. This allows the company to gather valuable feedback and make any necessary adjustments before launching in additional markets.
Developing an MVP with the necessary features is vital for building a web app or platform. It should be tested with potential investors, users, and stakeholders early and often to get feedback and refine your user stories. Once you have an MVP ready, you can start considering how to build an MVP launch strategy.
At this stage of the MVP, app developers should ensure minimal bugs, and the "happy path" for the UX should be refined to ensure a new user experience. It's worth investing a few thousand dollars in polishing the web app, as this is a great way to provide customers with an enjoyable experience. This will also help to validate the app idea and ensure all essential features are included. Furthermore, customer feedback can be used to refine the UX further and make any necessary changes before launching the app. Do your due diligence to determine the scale of the launch. Do you expect 5k users or 50k users? Use scalability testing and chaos testing to ensure your site will be robust enough to withstand the demands of launch day. Nothing puts a damper on momentum as a downed site when eager customers are ready to hand over their cash.
6. Examine the Feedback
It's important to remember that the development process is constant and iterative. As your user base grows, it's easy to get overwhelmed with feedback from active users. It's essential to differentiate the signal from the noise and focus on your target audience. It's important to remember that vocal minorities may have specific needs or preferences that don't necessarily reflect the needs of the majority of users. While their feedback is valuable, it's essential to approach it with a critical eye and evaluate whether it aligns with your product's overall vision and goals. Keep in mind that addressing every piece of feedback from a vocal minority may not be the most efficient use of your resources, so prioritize based on impact and feasibility. Additionally, look for patterns in user feedback across your broader user base. By identifying these trends, you can address common sticking points and make changes that benefit the majority of users while still providing value to the vocal minority. Ultimately, striking a balance between addressing feedback from vocal minorities and prioritizing broader user needs can help drive the success of your product. This will help you improve the product while keeping your ideal customers in mind. Doing so keeps a healthy balance between user feedback and feature development. Who are the ones giving repeat business, actively using the product? What is their delight? What is their pain? How can you expand their use, commitment, and lifetime value? Again, give an open forum for them to air their thoughts and listen intently.
From lean methodology, we can employ the Build Measure Learn framework. This constant loop incorporates success metrics and actionable feedback to inform the build process. When building an MVP, gathering feedback is essential. You should consider quantitative and qualitative forms to understand better how the product is used. Qualitative feedback can draw out users' emotions and provide free-form responses to questions about the product. This can spark creativity and provide more insight into hard metrics. Based on the feedback you receive, develop an action plan to address any issues or areas for improvement. This can include adding new features, improving existing features, or fixing bugs.
Additionally, usage data on activity, engagement, and abandonment are also needed when building an MVP. Understanding user stories and getting feedback from actual users is key in MVP product development, as it helps identify areas in which mobile app development teams can improve the product. Gathering user feedback can save developers hours of unnecessary effort and ensure that their final product is well-received. It's essential to involve the development team in monitoring the metric process, as they can help to identify areas for improvement or where resources should be focused. Define what success metrics matter to your company and bottom line. Are you seeking dollars, pain relief, eyeballs, engagement, education, and connection? Get specific and find the numbers that track that closely. Some metrics you can use include:
- daily/monthly actives
- hours watched
- product purchases
- subscription purchases
- positive feedback
- high NPS (net promoter score)
- messages sent
- connections made
- in-person meetings
- client acquisition cost (CAC)
- client lifetime value (CLV)
- churn rate
- sales bookings
Why is an MVP important?
Here are some of the benefits of an MVP and why it can be a valuable tool for startups.
1. Accelerated Product Launch
Building an MVP allows businesses to launch their product or service faster than building a fully-featured product. With an MVP, you can quickly validate your idea and get it to market before your competitors. This can give you a competitive advantage and help you capture a larger market share. This allows businesses to test their essential feature in the real world and get feedback from early adopters sooner than they would with a full-fledged product.
2. Customer Validation
An MVP enables organizations to obtain client feedback before investing significant time and money in developing a full-fledged product. With an MVP, you can test your product or service with a small group of customers to get their feedback and improve your product accordingly. This can help you build a product that meets the needs of your target audience. This allows you to make adjustments and improvements to your product or service before launching the full version.
Building an MVP is a cost-effective way to validate your product or service. By focusing on your core feature, you can save money on development costs and avoid making unnecessary features your target audience may not want. This can help you conserve your resources and invest in your customers' desired features. you can quickly make changes and improvements to the MVP at a much lower cost than with a full product or service.
An MVP allows businesses to test the scalability of their product or service. By launching an MVP, you can test how your product or service performs under different levels of demand. This can help you identify potential scalability issues and improve your product accordingly. This can help you build a product that can scale with your business and customer base.
5. Competitive Advantage
An MVP can give businesses a competitive advantage by allowing them to launch their product or service faster and iterate on their product based on customer feedback. By releasing an MVP, you can gain a foothold in the market and attract early adopters before your competitors. This can help you build a loyal customer base and increase your market share.
6. Risk Mitigation
An MVP allows businesses to reduce risk by testing their product or service before investing time and money in developing a full-fledged product. By testing the market with an MVP, you can assess the demand for your product and identify potential roadblocks before investing in a full-fledged product. This can help you avoid costly mistakes and reduce the risk of failure.
Building an MVP is your business. All the other accounting, finance, HR, and legal components are in service to the product. It's essential to a company's success and can help kick-start your business. To do this effectively, you need to stay focused on the essentials. You must identify your target audience and define an MVP scope that answers their needs. Choosing the right technology stack is essential. Not only does it need to be able to support your idea, but you also need to make sure that it's easily maintainable, secure, and future-proof. After that, you can build your development process and create the right development team for the job. To build an effective MVP, it's essential to understand your customer's needs and objectives clearly. Utilizing user stories, personas, feedback loops, and other techniques can help you define what needs to be done. This will ensure that your product meets the user's expectations. Reach out if you're convinced MVP Engineer can help you bring your business to life.