Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a popular term in the software development industry, but what does it mean exactly? Simply put, an MVP is a version of a product with just enough features to satisfy first customers. It’s a great way to gather valuable feedback for further development. Such an approach is useful not only for the IT sector. It will be appreciated by any business that wants to create something new and needs to determine if their assumptions are viable.
This article will walk you through all the subjects related to the concept of MVP. We will discuss why it’s crucial for new software solutions, how to create a successful minimum version of any system, and what benefits it can provide. Whether you’re a startup founder or a product owner in an established company, the knowledge from this post will help you plan and execute a successful MVP strategy. This will be the first step towards building a high-quality software product that will satisfy your clients and support your organization in achieving its goals.
Definition of MVP
According to AgileAlliance.org: “A minimum viable product (MVP) is a concept (…) that stresses the impact of learning in new product development. Eric Ries defined an MVP as that version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. This validated learning comes in the form of whether your customers will actually purchase your product.”
In other words, MVP is a basic version of a product dedicated to proving the idea for an app, a platform, a website, or any other software system. The goal of an MVP is to test it quickly and cost-effectively, validate the market need for the product, and get feedback from the initial users.
A rule of thumb in MVP development says that it should contain only the core features. They should be necessary to deliver the most essential value proposition to so-called early adopters. These are people who are likely to be the first ones to purchase and try out the product. It doesn’t require additional functionalities, complex design, and fireworks. Such an approach means that the results can be collected relatively quickly and without spending too many resources. The company that releases an MVP can then gather data on user behavior, and make informed decisions on which features to prioritize and improve in later stages of development.
MVP in software development
The MVP approach to building software is crucial in many methodologies, including Agile and Lean Startup. It advocates for validated learning through rapid iteration. This way, it minimizes many potential risks and allows the company to quickly change the product when they find out something new or detect an issue. What’s most important is that a minimum viable product reduces the risk of investing time and resources into building a product that might not be compatible with market needs. Starting with an MVP provides more flexibility to product development, enabling teams to improve the product based on real user feedback rather than guessing what features they want.
Why is MVP important in software development?
There are several reasons why MVP creation is one of the crucial stages of most software projects.
An MVP enables quick validation of the market situation and audience demands. It provides useful data that gives direction for strategy adjustments. Moreover, it saves resources that would be spent on the development of features that might not necessarily meet the needs of customers. As a result, the product owner knows exactly if their idea has potential. Then they can decide what should they do next, and how to stay ahead of the competition.
Early user feedback
Being in touch with the initial users is the sole purpose of an MVP. They provide useful insights into their interactions with products and share their thoughts about features they would like to have. This feedback can sometimes completely shift the project scope, but that’s okay. Thanks to it, the product can be improved, made more user-friendly, and obtain features that really matter to the audience.
When the software project begins with an MVP, it’s usually more cost-effective than building the full solution immediately. That’s because the basic version’s tests indicate which features should remain within the scope and which ones can be dropped. Without that additional step in the product’s lifecycle, the client would probably invest much more in functionalities that might become useless in the long run.
Better time management
Software solutions that are developed as MVPs first have significantly shorter time-to-market. That’s obviously because the basic version is already publicly available for the customers. However, that’s not the only time-related benefit. Thanks to the information collected while MVP is used, the team doesn’t waste their time coding unnecessary features. It’s crucial when outsourcing IT needs, because the product owner pays for hours spent on their project.
Focus on core features
Sometimes brands want to build the most elaborate solutions. They believe that only complex, advanced systems are able to satisfy end customers. An MVP invalidates such thinking because it focuses on the true value it can provide. It usually has one or two features that solve the user’s main problem. It’s intuitive and easy to use. That’s what matters for the target audience.
How to create an MVP?
You already know why a minimum viable product is so essential for software projects. Now, we should take a closer look at the process of preparing it. It’s important to approach this task the right way. The fact that it’s a basic version of the solution doesn’t mean it can be sloppy. The quality of an MVP impacts its effectiveness in becoming the first source of information about the product. It should also satisfy the users enough to make them want to use the full version. The goal here is to make it worth recommending it to others when it’s finally released. Here are the steps to take:
Finding a reliable IT partner
Collaboration with a seasoned software company is the best way to prepare a great MVP. Then they can transform it into a complete system. An outsourcing partner will be able to recommend certain approaches and use their expertise to help the client achieve all of their goals. They probably have experience in building MVPs, too. If you’re in search of an IT provider, ask them about MVP development.
Identification of the core features
Let’s say you began a cooperation with a software agency of choice. During the initial phase of the project, the main task is to identify all the features that will be built over the course of it. To create an MVP, the product owner and the team should discuss which functionalities are the most important for the product. Those are usually the features that deliver the most value to the users and solve their problems. This stage requires a deep understanding of the target market and its requirements.
Prioritization of the features
The backlog is filled with core and additional features. The next step is to decide which ones should be developed first and which ones can wait. You should sort them based on their importance for the end users. The ones that will be on top of the list will probably be included in the MVP. Remember that it should contain only one or two core functionalities, so choose the priorities wisely.
Prototyping and testing phase
You probably wonder what’s the difference between a prototype and an MVP. The former’s purpose is to present your idea to potential users and stakeholders, so they can see how the future product will look and feel. It can be a paper sketch or a digital prototype that presents the design of the software solution. It’s the very first chance to detect any flaws or usability issues and make necessary improvements before preparing and launching an MVP. Showing it to a small group of people will help to determine if the idea has the potential to become a market hit.
Building the actual MVP
This is the moment when the software development team takes the wheel. They build the basic version of the product with core features picked earlier. Their objective is to do it quickly and without spending too many resources. However, they still should pay attention to detail. An MVP version should work without disruptions and look aesthetic despite its simple design. Once the solution is ready, it can be released to the public. It should be promoted by the product owner to get the first customers on board.
Here’s a checklist we prepared to help you approach the process of creating an MVP the right way:
Common mistakes to avoid when creating an MVP
There are many mistakes that might happen when preparing an MVP. It’s important to be aware of them when building this version of the product. These problems can occur on the client’s side and on the team’s side. It’s important to be in constant contact, discuss challenges, and make informed decisions. Both sides need to know what to do and have the same goal in mind. That’s why we provide a list of the most common difficulties that can negatively influence an MVP project.
The don’ts of MVP:
- Overcomplicating the product – an MVP should be simple and focused on delivering value to the first clients. The devs should not spend their time preparing features that are not the top priority at this stage of the project.
- Not setting clear goals – knowing beforehand what you want to achieve with an MVP is extremely important. Everyone on the team should know what is the definition of the product’s success. This way, they can measure progress and make adjustments.
- Inadequate team – this can mean lots of things. Finding the cheapest developers, a team that is too big or too small, or working with devs without the required experience. It all can result in unproductiveness, excessive resource spending, and slower development. Ask your IT partner to pick the team that matches the MVP project needs.
- Neglecting user feedback – the purpose of an MVP is to gather opinions. Sometimes they can be brutal, but each review is a lesson to learn. Thanks to them, the product can be perfected to avoid negative reception in the future.
- Considering ALL the feedback – an opposite mistake to the previous one, but an equally important one. It’s impossible to implement every single request from the users. An MVP testing phase requires reasonable thinking and keeping the main business goals in mind at all times.
- Forgetting about scalability – an MVP is not an independent solution, but a version of a product to be developed further after the testing phase is over. It has to be designed with the future in mind. It should be easy to scale, grow, and evolve.
7 MVP-first solutions and their success stories
Now you know why MVP can be beneficial for a company that wants to release a new software solution. It’s time to provide examples of brands that succeeded by betting on the MVP-first approach. And these are some established, recognized brands that everyone knows for being multi-million companies with thousands of users. Check them out:
One of the biggest tech companies and a globally leading eCommerce store was once a simple website that sold books. The name (inspired by the river) came from an ambitious goal to create the largest bookstore in the world. However, in the beginning, all the orders were handled by a single person. Books were just the first item to sell because they were easy to start with.
Amazon made its first profit quite fast. The team decided to invest the money in collecting customer feedback and iterating the next versions of the platform. The brand was growing step by step. Its strategy was based on adding new features and expanding to other types of products and services. They were also reevaluating their business model several times.
We all know this story thanks to the dramatized movie The Social Network. Aside from all the events presented in it, it showcases well how Facebook began its journey being just a simple website for a small group of early adopters – Harvard students. The name reflected its purpose. It was supposed to be a directory with students’ names and pictures. It also included groups for easier communication.
The platform became an instant hit. Soon it was available at other Ivy League universities like Stanford, Yale, and Columbia. Two years after its release, Facebook was open to everyone that wanted to register with their email address. Then, it skyrocketed to become the leading social network we know today.
Formerly known as UberCab, the story of people’s favorite ride-sharing service is a classic example of a successful MVP. The platform initially had a couple of features. It allowed the users to book a ride and its unique selling point was cashless payments. Uber’s services were available only for citizens of New York and then San Francisco. They were the first ones to test the solution.
Thanks to focusing on a small audience and listening to their feedback, the founders could soon expand their business. An app that offered the simple functionality of finding a ride via text messages started to grow worldwide. Then it gained the features we know today like payment estimations, tracking the driver’s position, and food ordering.
The best business ideas are often born when a real problem has to be solved. All the hotels in San Francisco were booked for a design conference in 2007. Hence, Airbnb founders quickly created a simple website where they offered space in their apartment to people who needed accommodation. It didn’t only help them pay expensive rent. It was also a testing ground for an app that would help users find a comfortable and affordable place to stay while they travel.
Fast-forward to today and the platform has more than 6 million listings and over 150 million active users. The story of Airbnb proves that an MVP really can be the simplest construction that offers a single feature. If there’s a demand and a need, its value will be appreciated. That’s the first sign that further expansion is worth approaching.
The file-sharing system is often mentioned as one of the most prominent MVP examples. Not only because it showcased the potential of this concept. Also, because of the company’s creative way of doing it. The first version of their solution was shown to the public in an explainer video. It wasn’t even coded yet but the community was instantly interested. More than 75,000 people signed up for a waiting list.
Dropbox is now one of the leading cloud-based online storage spaces. It’s even mentioned in The Lean Startup book among case studies of successful MVP implementation. Sometimes a well-prepared presentation is a crucial factor that might influence the perception of a product and its future expansion.
In 2011, Buffer published their story about the minimal viable product their platform once was. The social media scheduling tool was supposed to be a single-feature solution dedicated to queuing up tweets in bulk. The website was simplistic – it contained two pages. However, it wasn’t even a ready-to-use system. It was just a landing page for collecting user feedback. The founder wanted to determine if his potential audience would even consider using Buffer. He tweeted the link and gained numerous messages that expressed interest in the platform. He knew it had the potential.
The MVP was slowly expanded, but its form remained the same. The next phase was adding the third screen with potential pricing to find out if customers were willing to pay for the access. These tests also gave positive results, so the development process officially began.
Sometimes the market doesn’t need a fresh idea that will revolutionize the way people live. A clever alternative to a leading solution can be equally successful. That was the case for Etsy – it was created because of eBay’s monopoly and high seller fees. The new platform positioned itself as a place for niche craft merchants. This way it stood out from many competitors that wanted to dethrone eBay back then.
At first, Etsy was available for a group of artists and designers, but it quickly gained momentum. The brand’s creators were constantly expanding the MVP. They did that by adding new features dedicated to helping crafty people promote their work and get more purchases. Since then, the platform became a place that helped many users kickstart their careers as entrepreneurs and dedicate themselves to selling their creations (digital and analog).
MVP at G-Group.dev
We did several MVPs during our 15 years on the market. It’s an approach we like to recommend to our clients. We know it’s proven and can be a great way to begin any software development project. We don’t want our partners to miss the benefits we mentioned above. After the MVP is tested, our team helps to expand the solution further. As a reliable IT partner, we know how important it is to test the product and collect feedback from its target group. It provides the right direction for the project.
Here are the examples of solutions we made that were MVP-first:
An MLM platform that had to rebuild their system to meet the needs of their modern clients. Souvre was a challenging, complex project that definitely took advantage of an MVP-based approach. The system is now handling vast traffic of 200,000 users. The brand was very much open to customer feedback. They knew their global expansion would be possible only if they listened to their audience and met their desires. Our team prepared a strategy and executed the production process flawlessly. Souvre is now an advanced platform that utilizes technology to deliver an exceptional experience to its users. It also helps the company realize their objectives.
One of the top universities in Poland came to us with a quest to prepare a new platform for lecture planning. It’s important to keep such solutions up-to-date because they can get redundant quite quickly in our rapidly evolving world. The old version was 5 years old, and it didn’t meet the expectations of the target group. UAM asked our team to prepare an accessible, advanced system with multiple features. The best way to build such software products successfully is to start with an MVP version. That’s exactly what we did, and the result was quite impressive. Instead of quickly swapping the old system for a new one, we decided to test the solution thoroughly to make sure everything was in place before the release of the full version.
Solutions that are dedicated to connecting various entities always require a unique attitude towards the project scope and delivery. That’s why 4Workshop came to us to produce their MVP and then expand it into a full platform. Integrations had to work seamlessly, so it was crucial to find out if the users didn’t experience any trouble when exploring the product. This project presented an additional difficulty we had to face – short time-to-market. We managed to prepare an MVP and launch the platform within the estimated deadline, which is proof that good organization and attention to detail when developing software are crucial to achieving all the assumed goals.
We consider MVP development one of the most significant parts of the software production process. The benefits that this approach provides are appreciated by every client who decided to invest in the basic, test version of their product. What’s most important is that the minimum viable product allows businesses to prove their ideas, verify the market situation, and create a software solution that is in tune with the needs of their customers.
If you’re looking for a software company that outsources developers and has experience in building MVPs, you’re in the right place. G-Group.dev can be your IT partner that provides competent programmers and other specialists whenever you need them. No matter if you’re looking for a single dev or a bigger team, we’ve got your back. Reach out to us, and we will help you elevate your brand, so it can conquer the desired market.