The term MVP (Minimum Viable Product) was first coined by Frank Robinson in 2001, but it was Eric Ries and Steve Blank who later popularized methods to building an MVP. Ries, as he describes in his first book, The Lean Startup, faced numerous failures in Silicon Valley and saw many of his colleagues do the same. They invested time and money in adding features and functionalities to their products that no one used.
Ries was inspired by Toyota’s lean manufacturing method used to highlight the key values of a product.
The 5 principles of lean manufacturing are:
- Specifying the value of a specific product
- Identifying the value stream for each product
- Making value flow without any interruptions
- Letting customers pull value from the producer
- Pursuing perfection
What Is the Goal of MVP?
The primary goal of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is to lower the design and development costs, and reduce testing, deployment, and release time. This way, the company is able to quickly shift and adapt to the market needs, mitigating time and resources lost while creating the product.
Eric Ries defines an MVP in the following way: “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.”
The company designs or develops a prototype of the simplest version of its product to test the idea, performance, time to market, and to validate the value proposition.
They can learn more about potential customers’ needs and expectations, and how the company can improve their product before they go further into product development. The reason for the popularity of MVPs is simple — the company doesn’t have to invest nearly as much time and money as they would in a finished product. Even if the target audience is not satisfied, scrapping the MVP is a lot cheaper than abandoning the finished product.
The idea is to see what makes the product work by reducing its features and functionalities to its viable minimum. This way, the engineering team can focus on application or product development while eliminating unnecessary features or low-priority functionalities.
This method has become rather popular in software development because a company can easily postpone the development of features that aren’t necessary for the functionality of the app. Instead, they can focus on the core features of the app only, ensuring that the app showcases the idea behind their product.
The Biggest Advantages of Owning an MVP
Companies like Uber, Instagram, Facebook, Airbnb, Spotify, and many others purposely opt for building an MVP — because of all the advantages that come with it. Let’s take a closer look at all of the benefits it offers:
- User-centric development — The company designs a product focused on its users and what they need and expect, based on requests and feedback. It focuses solely on the key problems the product is trying to solve.
- Rapid testing — The lean method is based around quick launches, continuous learning and rapid improvement of the product. Since an MVP includes only the core functionalities, both development and testing are completed faster.
- Reduced costs — Considering that the MVP comes with core features only, its development will require significantly less resources and time than a completed product.
- Market validation — The easiest way to understand what works and what doesn’t is through feedback. It eliminates speculation and gives clarity on what the target customer wants, and whether he wants the product in the first place.
- Investors’ buy-in — Businesses rely on investors’ and stakeholders’ buy-in to secure funding and green light the project. An MVP a great way to demonstrate your initial idea and secure funding for the next round of development
- Monetization strategy — An MVP is an excellent way to test the monetization strategy and see whether users are willing to pay for the upgrades or add-ons that come with the app.
Building an MVP
Now, after we have covered all the benefits of the MVP, you may ask: “Toyota has probably had a team of experts on their hands, so how do I build my own MVP?”
Luckily, MVPs are easy to create; by simply following this step-by-step process, you will be developing your MVP in no time!
Step 1: Find Your MVP’s Value Proposition
Finding your MVP’s value proposition is one of the most vital parts, and focuses on the idea behind your product.
The following are the questions you need to be able to answer before you are ready to proceed:
- What problem is your product going to solve?
- Who is your target audience?
- What is the current stakeholders’ solution to this problem?
- Why is your solution better than what’s currently on the market?
- What is your MVP’s value proposition?
What to Avoid During the First Step
Each company faces a highly competitive market, and even the slightest mistake can be a deal-breaker. Here are some of the most common mistakes:
- Focusing on the wrong problem — The first idea behind an MVP is to solve a specific problem, but if you focus on the wrong one, it might spell doom for your product.
- Trying to target everyone — Finding the right audience is the key to success. “Think small,” and once your initial audience is happy, increase your existing base incrementally through product expansion, market penetration, or business development.
- Not planning sufficiently — Visualize the entire existence of the product, acknowledging that it might change in the near future. Plan further steps and set milestones for each step.
Step 2: Assumptions Review and Validation
Analyze your idea, deconstruct it, and consider how you can make it work. Your goal is to decide whether building an MVP is the right approach and decide which features and functionalities are essential for your MVP or prototype to work. Moreover, you need to identify the key features that meet your stakeholder’s expectations and delight your early adopters.
- Restate assumptions from the elevator pitch — Understand the relevant assumptions that are required for your MVP. Deconstruct every relevant statement from the elevator pitch and value proposition.
- See what assumptions are already validated — Always remember to analyze the market and do your research, or do it the Steve Jobs’s way and trust your instinct.
- Choose your KPIs wisely — Out of all of the remaining assumptions, see which ones you need to validate and decide on your KPIs. It is important to understand which assumptions need to be tested with your MVP and which metrics you will use.
What to Avoid During the Second Step
One of the most common mistakes would be to avoid prototyping. The evolution of the idea is a vital part of the development, and it will serve as a great visual model for your MVP. The safest way to know which features you need to prioritize is through feedback.
End users ultimately decide what is important and what isn’t. Once you get the necessary response, you can begin to add or remove features and functionalities to your MVP.
The developers also need to identify the most effective tools and methods to build on the initial idea. Jumping straight into the process would be a mistake. Technical deep dives and brainstorming before acting is the best way to go about this process.
Step 3: Shortest and Easiest Way to Validate Assumptions
The third step focuses on design and development based on the MVP technical requirements.
- Non-Functional MVP? – You can decide to create a non–functional MVP, which is used to test interest in your product on the market. Consider whether it is possible to build a non-functional MVP, as it is cheaper and faster to test assumptions of your initial idea.
- Select the right feature for your MVP – Make a backlog of the most important features that you need to add to your MVP.
- Create a list of priorities – Take a list of the features you plan to add to the final product and ask yourself whether it is essential to prove any of the assumptions. If the answer is “no,” you can skip to the next one.
Many people don’t know that some of the most famous companies started with an MVP. Here are some of the successful startups that were once a fraction of their current size:
- Facebook — When it launched, thefacebook (that’s how it was first named) was used to connect the students of a class or college and allow them to post messages. This wasn’t the first social media platform available, but the MVP offered simplicity that people enjoyed.
- Dropbox — When Dropbox launched, they didn’t even have a product to offer. Instead, they created a video to see if file-syncing was something that people might be interested in. Over 70,000 people wanted to learn more about the product overnight, and they kept asking when they could buy it.
- Uber — When Uber started, all they did was connect the drivers in San Francisco who weren’t afraid to share their credit card details with an unknown app. The idea was to enable black car services that are affordable and more convenient than taxis. The rest is history.
- iPhone — Many of you might be surprised to see the iPhone on the list, but the first model lacked some of its basic features. You were unable to copy-paste, send MMS, there was no Bluetooth, and the phone worked on 2G. Yet, people enjoyed the idea behind it. It wasn’t long before the iPhone became one of the biggest names in the world of smartphones.
- Amazon — Amazon started as a bookselling service. The idea was to challenge bookshops that were still stuck in the brick-and-mortar age. When the company started, they offered simple designs, cheap books, and nothing else.
Building an MVP can be quite challenging. We have tried to cover some of the most common questions that might help you along the way.
- How much does MVP cost?
The development of a high-quality MVP can cost between $30,000 and $300,000, depending on the project scope and whether you’re working with an outsourcing or internal development team.
- How long does it take?
The MVP development takes approximately two to six months to complete.
- What comes after the MVP?
Following the successful MVP launch, it’s time to gather feedback, see what your users like and dislike, what features you should remove or add, how to improve UI/UX and more.
Launching the MVP
The final step of the process of building an MVP is launching it. It can be quite challenging for inexperienced companies, but it is one of the most important and exciting parts of the process. Fortunately, even if the company has never before developed and launched an MVP, our experienced engineering team can guide you through the entire process, and build/launch a viable full-range product together.
Here at The BlockBox, we always develop an MVP for each project before we put it into production. Building an MVP has never been easier, and the only thing you need to bring to the table is a world-changing idea.