A product with just enough features to gather comprehensive qualitative feedback
Proof of concept, prototypes, wireframes, mockups… what actually constitutes a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
In practice, it's as easy to understand the concept of an MVP is as it is to ride a bicycle. So should we compare MVPs to a bicycle then?
Let's do it. In this article, I will shed light upon:
- What is an MVP?
- How is an MVP developed?
- How would an MVP be developed if it was a bicycle?
- Why is it important to build an MVP?
Every customer wants to be heard and understood. The software world offers an excessive number of apps and websites, but only some of them receive users’ attention and love. To find out whether your idea can find a place in this competitive environment, create a minimum viable product first.
What Is an MVP?
A Minimum Viable Product represents one of the major stages in the software product discovery process. Essentially, it is the set of minimum necessary features which can be used by the end user. The concept of minimum viable product became widely known in 2009 when Eric Ries coined it in his book The Lean Startup.
The minimum viable product is a perfect opportunity to let potential users voice their opinions and test out a product before its final launch.
Gathering and analyzing qualitative feedback is a primary task of MVP development. Based on these findings, you can modify your MVP and test it again.
This process turns into a cycle of MVP product development which takes place over and over again until the ultimate customer satisfaction is reached.
How MVP Software Development Is Conducted
Each and every product is different, and so is the process of its development. Before we jump into the details as to how an MVP is created, I want to point out that it is an individual and iterative process.
At first, you have an idea. Even if you feel that it is revolutionary and genius it might still be rather vague.
Your first task is to make your idea come to life. You can start by conducting product discovery. You need to study the needs, interests, and demographic characteristics of the target audience. Also, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of competitors.
Then you need to review all the features that can be implemented and select the essential ones. Organize and present this information during workshops with the help of graphs, charts, tables, or any other visuals you think best represents the data.
Now, your idea seems clearer but it still not presentable.
Proof of Concept
Next you need to create a Proof of Concept. Basically, it is aimed at summarizing the discovery stage and verifying that your innovative idea can be implemented in real life.
Ok, you know that your idea is feasible and comprehensive. You know that it can be done – but how?
Now you need to understand what the user wants to see once they open the application. You want to know which actions they are most likely to take, and what goals they are trying to achieve.
For this purpose, you need to map a user journey. User journeys are a visual representation of a hypothetical user and their experience with the app. They cover everything from the minute the user realizes they need that service through the moment they first find and click through to your app and up until they make a decision whether to make this service a part of their lifestyle.
User journeys resemble a set of statements, which look as follows:
As a [user role], I want to do [functions] so that [goal].
For instance, “As a website admin, I want to be able to add or remove users so that the app is free of spammers”. Or “As an unregistered user, I want to be able to open a menu so that I understand what the app offers before I sign up”.
After that, it's time to start prototyping. A prototype is a simplified version of the product. It demonstrates the final product design and navigation. Basically, it is a set of pictures of the interface of your future app. If it is clickable, you can navigate between screens by clicking buttons in order to understand user flows.
Prototypes may even look like a very basic version of your platform or mobile app. But it is not a final product and not an MVP because you cannot show it to actual users.
Here, you have your idea implemented. Kind of. It can be shown to all the stakeholders but not to the end user as long as it is just a rough draft.
Minimum Viable Product Development
At this stage, you need to make ultimate decisions about the UI/UX and finalize the visual design. After that, it's time to start coding the minimum viable product.
The Minimum Viable Product looks like a final app and feels like a final app. However, it has fewer features, the design or performance is not necessarily product quality, and the code quality may be lower.
Your idea is illustrated, you've put in the code, and it's partially implemented – it's now ready to meet its first user.
Minimum Viable Product Launch and Testing
After you finish development and launch the MVP, you should present it to a sample of actual users. Throughout the new few days or weeks, you gather customers’ feedback, analyze the results, and modify your MVP accordingly.
Once you see that your customers are fully satisfied, you can start implementing the final product.
How About an Example?
Let’s imagine that you want to create a bicycle. A cool, sturdy, and eco-friendly bicycle. What if the potential clients do not like it and your effort goes in vain? Or what if you are on a shoestring budget and you need to persuade investors first?
The development process will be pretty similar to what I described earlier.
You conduct a discovery stage: you learn about what a bike is, what parts it consists of, what bikes people like, and what riders complain about. After that, you answer the most important question: what you can do to make your bicycle stand out among the others.
Proof of Concept:
Let’s say you found out how to create a bicycle chain that never falls out of the chain ring. Once you have a clear idea, you create your mechanism: a chain, with a chain ring and pedals – your proof of concept.
You show it to your investors, tell them more about your idea, and receive their approval and support to keep going with the project.
Yet, it is not the time for the final bicycle as you have not seen it yet in actual size. You create a full-scale copy of the bicycle, carefully choose all the colors and materials, make it resemble a real product.
However, the pedals won’t spin yet, and the steering wheel won’t turn. This is your prototype – looks pretty impressive but does not work yet.
Your investors again review the idea and approve your design, but now they need to see the functionality. You again create a full-scale bicycle, but now, it has a working wheel, pedals, brakes, gears, and a seat. That is going to be your MVP.
At this point, you can actually let your users try it out. They get on a bike, test it, and share their opinion with you. The more people try it, the more comprehensive your feedback is. However, be sure not to show your bicycle to the people you do not trust, or they might leak your idea to a next-door producer who also makes bikes for a living.
Finally, you modify your product in accordance with what your customers had to say until you are sure that you've got it.
Final Product Development:
Only after all these steps, when you have received financial support from your investors and approval of your customers, you are ready to launch manufacturing.
You change the wooden seat with a cushioned one, install safety lights on your bicycle, lubricate the bicycle chain, put on stickers and a bell, develop a marketing campaign, and start selling your product.
Why Is an MVP Important?
A Minimum Viable Product has only one real advantage - but it's a very important one. It gives you an opportunity to test your future product in real-life settings with actual users.
This simple benefit has a lot of positive consequences:
- An MVP lets you adjust your product development plan before it is too late.
- It serves as a warning about any mistakes you are bound to make or as confirmation for good business decisions.
- This approach saves you a great deal of time, effort, and money by optimizing the planning process and reducing risks.
- A Minimum Viable Product boosts motivation because the team knows that what they do matters.
- MVP development offers a unique experience of testing the product idea, which will definitely come in handy in your professional life in the future.
The MVP approach can and should be used within industries of all sorts. While for manufacturers of traditional goods, it is a long and strenuous process, for the software developers, it is rather simple and accessible.
Some business may choose to disregard the minimum viable product stage when creating something innovative, but this is somewhat understandable and can be justified. But for a software development company, it is unforgivable.
Eventually, if you decide to run a risk and implement your idea before checking in with your target audience, you're laying money, time, effort, energy, inspiration, and supporters on the line.
Do you have an idea for an MVP?
A huge shout-out to Tania Matviiok for her help with this article.
The original article posted on KeenEthics blog can be found here: Minimum Viable Product: Between an Idea and the Product.