The Secret Sauce of MVP Development
What is MVP in software? A minimum viable product or an MVP is an application that has core functionalities but doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles of the fully-baked product. It’s made to test or prove the idea and gather feedback from early adopters. How to build MVP software and what can a web product look like?
Applications have a life cycle. They evolve. Based on market conditions, changing business goals, feedback from users, and actions made by competitors. MVP is a reliable version of the product that offers basic features that are still important and useful to the audience. But there is a downside: not every solution good for mobile is good for a web application and vice versa.
According to Clayton Christensen and his article for Harvard Business School, as many as 95% of new products fail. There can be many reasons: lack of funding, poor marketing, internal conflicts, and wrong conclusions based on faulty data. Sometimes it comes from the inability to understand what the market really wants. Remember: a digital product is as good as its solutions to real problems. Founders often mistake real market needs with imaginary ones.
How to build an effective MVP software?
There are multiple stages of software development and MVP is definitely one of the most important ones. Because of that, you need to come prepared. Here are the necessary steps:
- Validate your idea. Search the market for similar implementations, and focus groups. Acting on a hunch alone is not enough.
- Treat competition as benchmarks. Chances are that someone already did something similar but probably in a different way. What do you think works for them, what doesn’t? How would you figure out a similar solution but put a spin on it?
- Hold your horses and narrow down the scope. Some teams feel the urge to develop additional functionalities just because they can and the budget can swallow it. Don’t take this road. Instead, implement only crucial features. This is MVP software, after all, so let’s focus on MVP development.
- Find the right tech partner. The difference between a vendor and a partner is pretty big. The first one will deliver you the software, the second one will advise on it as well. You want someone who can point you in the right direction, and act as an MVP development consultant, not a code delivery guy. The right choice is a team, not a group of specialists focused only on code.
- Test, test, and test some more. Quality assurance is as important as the development of a minimum viable product itself. Make sure your delivery processes involve checking it everything goes according to plan. MVP software can be “minimum” but it can’t be faulty.
- Pivot, but only if you really have to. The market never sleeps so if you spot something important out there or business requirements need to change for whatever different reason, that’s fine. But if you want to change something just for the sake of it, then it’s not efficient. It costs money, prolongs the MVP development time, and makes you question what you needed in the first place. Sure, priorities can change, but it’s not a good idea to change them drastically.
- Beware of pitfalls. One of them is over-minimizing. You want to build a product quickly but not at the cost of not working. Your customers will turn a blind eye to minimalism but not broken or missing features. The second pitfall is going with an inexperienced team. Check credentials and case studies for social proof.
How to build a web-oriented MVP software?
There is a difference between building mobile and web MVP software. The main one is the choice of technology. We recommend going with React, Flutter, Python & Django, NodeJS, and Angular to top it up.
Then, focus on the right audience. Web applications are built and scale differently than mobile ones. The focus on UX design is also different. You want to check what people really need. Instead of going for the whole market, narrow the scope. What people do you want to convince? What segment has the potential to share the knowledge about the product and involve other people in testing and using it in the long run?
Then, figure out features. Some are essential. There are also nice-to-haves and add-ons. Plus, there’s post-launch support. Don’t confuse them and focus on what matters most.
Define your criteria for success. Just like in agile, where there’s a definition of done, you need a definition of “mission accomplished”. What do you want to achieve, what is most important? The number of early adopters, active accounts after the first quarter, revenue, user feedback?
Map out the customer flow. Some feedback can be so fresh and important, that you might want to incorporate the feature into the MVP right away. Do that if your timetable and budget allow it. The only problem with that is you can’t predict the value of the feedback at 100%. So, plan ahead. Assume there will be a disruptor out there who will blow up your plan by giving important but problematic feedback that will require a rapid change in the code. Sounds scary but it’s usually worth it.
Incorporate statistics. Feedback is one thing, data is another. One can’t and shouldn’t exist without the other. Built-in an analytical tool that will give you answers across the scope and life of the MVP software project. Then you can implement findings in the full product.
The benefits of a minimum viable product
There are a few significant benefits of going quick, and all of them can help you with the business.
- Proving ground for business concepts. Either something works or it doesn’t. You can do everything right with the research and focus groups. We can do everything right on the MVP development’s side. The market will still judge the app on its own terms. By making a small-scale project, you are risking a little and gaining much.
- Rapid market delivery. This is pretty much self-explanatory. The market is a city that never sleeps. Do or die, there’s no try. A good thing about it is that limited scope means fewer problems and less need for solving challenges. Use that to your advantage by planning an MVP software that is simple yet effective.
- Honest market verification. Since the MVP development can only give you so much, the audience gets only what you give them. Core features, no more, no less. This is a great test. If something limited yet useable and useful can catch an eye, and be appreciated, then a full-blown product can only prove the point. MVP software gives you a crown argument for spending more money on development.
- An ultimate product and user experience design test. To catch an eye, you need to have a flawless design. UX, just as the product itself, be definition can’t be finished. It will be subject to change. So, if you can convince someone to use the product, you need a flawless design as an argument and, naturally, as a navigational tool. Can UX design be effective when seriously limited and incomplete? Sure, but you need a software UX design and software specialists to do it.
- Staying ahead of the learning curve. Disruption is a buzzword, even a juggernaut in the fintech and banking world. Rightfully so. By creating a minimum viable product, you create an introduction to other stages of software development and learn for the future. Lessons you draw from users’ feedback right now, will pay off in the months to come. Remember that everything starts with a product discovery phase.
Some minimum viable products examples
Here’s a shortlist of companies that made it big by starting small.
Uber. In 2008 the founders were tired of growing cab prices in San Francisco and the lack of alternatives in transportation. They have launched a product that was targeting limo drivers and passengers. The association was simple – Uber is a premium cab for a demanding audience. Now Uber is perceived as a company for everybody, and that includes drivers and passengers alike. We are talking about Uber because sometimes a good idea for MVP software comes from simple frustration and lack of choice. Use that to your advantage. What frustrates you the most?
Zopa. The company was established in 2005. It was the first peer-to-peer (P2P) lending company to eliminate banks from the process. At the time, the company offered only personal loans in the range of £1,000 and £25,000. It was all but enough. Today the firm is recognized by the FCA as a bank.
Affirm. This American unicorn presents an alternative to credit cards and loans. The client chooses a product to buy and is presented with a variety of options for payment. Including the buy now, pay later (BNPL) mechanism.
By the way, all three mentioned companies run on Python. Just saying…
The alternatives – a minimum loveable product (MLP) and others
Minimum viable product or a minimum loveable product? The second term is taking the tech world by storm. The difference goes beyond a single world. An MLP is a product with features that are nearly perfect from the start and people fell in love with them immediately.
MVP software assumes minimalism, but MLP requires building a product that is thoroughly though-out from the start. It’s minimalism seasoned with a level of perfection. MVP is tolerable, while MLP gives people what they want from the start. Still not fully ready but functional, beautiful, and with a value that’s worthy of sharing with a friend. Word of mouth is a powerful tool; MLP was born for it.
If you want to do something right, be prepared. You can do it quickly, as MVP development requires, but it can’t mean diving in without scuba gear. No need for an idea, plan, and the right team behind you. Then you can focus on what’s really important. Solving users’ problems and improving conversions.