If you have been keeping up with our previous posts, you’ll know that we did a whole series of posts about app development for the non-tech savvy. In the first chapter, we briefly introduced the notion of building a minimum viable product (MVP) and how creating one is an essential step when developing a new product. In the past, there have been several success MVP stories. In one instance, DropBox, the platform for syncing and sharing files in the cloud, jumped in user signups from 5,000 to 75,000 after releasing a 3-minute demo video of their MVP. Thanks to the success of the short video, the large market interest was used to validate the DropBox product idea. Currently, the platform has over 500 million users and generates over $1 billion in annual revenues.
Another unique MVP idea includes Airbnb, an online platform allowing people to rent properties and guest rooms around the world. When it originally began 12 years ago, it was a way to offer tech conference attendees in San Francisco a room to rent at a reasonable price as an alternative to staying in costly hotels. And now as a final product, the company is valued at $31 billion and offers lodgings in over 81,000 cities around the world.
The following post will be focusing on guiding you to building a successful MVP including explaining the many benefits of launching one, what to avoid and the different testing techniques and tools to can try out.
Helpful Reminders about MVPs
To jog your memory of the definition we provided in our last post, an MVP is a new product developed with enough features and value to appease early customers into using or buying it. All final features of your product are only designed, developed and completed once you go through several rounds of feedback from the product’s early users and then validate each one.
In terms of mobile app development, your MVP includes the necessary features needed to help solve a problem for users which can then be released on the market. A minimum viable product is a great learning experience to help you gain insight about the market you want to go into and learn about the potential consumers who will use your product. It gives you the chance to get feedback from your users, prove the business potential of your product and allow for future stages of development of your MVP.
Knowing your target audience, specifying your product, finding a market need and remaining goal-oriented are among some of the important criteria to know before launching an MVP. Throughout the whole process it is important to focus on several questions: Why are you doing this? What makes your product unique? Why should people care about it? What problems are you trying to solve? Whom do you want to solve the problems for? Who is your target audience? Answering these questions provide a focus of direction for your product.
Benefits of Creating an MVP
So what is the big deal about creating an MVP anyway? Sure, we mentioned some success stories in the introduction, but what exactly is it about an MVP that is so helpful and how does it benefit you? Among some of the tips we mention below, providing a focus and allowing for your product to evolve are among some of the many benefits of developing an MVP.
An MVP helps provide focus. Having an MVP forces you to understand the concrete values of your product and what you wish to create and launch for your audience. In gathering user information and intelligence, you can test your hypothesis, giving you a clear path for who your target audience is, what they are looking for in your product and what particular problem you want to solve for them. It provides organization for executing your product and knowing how you want to spend your time and money creating it. It is a way of finding out exactly what your audience is looking for before presenting them with a finished and polished product.
Creating early relationships with customers. Creating an MVP helps to attract early adopters where you can start building customer relations. Gaining their feedback on what needs to be changed and added strengthens the end result of the product. Creating that MVP helps build a community of loyal supporters and customers to the product early on.
Allows for the product to evolve. As we just mentioned, creating an MVP helps you build a user base. In doing so, you can gain user insight and feedback with what works and doesn’t work in your app or product. This data helps with making future decisions such as which features to add and what will increase sales and how to distribute the budget accordingly. Overall, listening to user feedback plays a major part in your MVP’s success.
Efficient on Costs. You can create the bare bones of your product at a minimal cost, as time progresses and as you gain more users and gather more information, more money can be invested in the future stages of development to complete a product you can be proud of. An MVP allows you to start small with minimal risks and then continually build and produce a well-executed product as you collect user feedback and better understand audience needs.
What to Avoid in an MVP
Are you aware that there are certain errors you should avoid when building your MVP? Below we mention a few actions to steer clear of to ensure the success of your product.
Advanced add-ons. These could be features added merely for aesthetic purposes which don’t add any value to the MVP. These features are better off being added in the later stages of development after the MVP has been successfully publicly launched.
Focusing on perfection. There is the temptation of wanting to release a polished version of your MVP, however releasing an unfinished MVP right away allows you to receive user feedback to shape the product to your customer’s needs and go on to create the finished product. Showing customers an unfinished product is okay, it gives room for improvement based on the feedback retrieved from the users. Don’t ignore user feedback and disregard their opinions, assuming you know what is best for your product. The users are what determines the success of the app or product, so it is important to keep your eyes and ears open to criticism and feedback.
Building an inexperienced team. It is inefficient to assemble a team that is inexperienced in both technical skills and developing an MVP. Working with a professional team of designers, project managers, engineers and developers is essential in delivering the best product. A good and professional team is capable of changing the product, re-branding the business and even tearing everything down and starting from scratch all over again. An inexperienced team can result in missed deadlines, issues in interpreting feedback from customers and being unable to deliver the right product for consumers.
Skipping the prototype phase. Often people want to skip right into the development phase of their product. It is important to start with a prototype because it brings the idea to life with minimal risk. Having an interactive prototype is the best way to present your vision to investors and it sets the foundation for development.
Ignoring marketing research. Most startups fail because their product ideas aren’t new and there are already similar services on the market. It is important to conduct in-depth marketing research in order to validate your business idea and make sure your product could have a competitive advantage. If there is no market need, then your product will most likely not survive.
Testing Techniques and Ways to Build your MVP
With the different benefits and avoidances in mind, it’s time to tell you how you can build and test the success of your MVP. We have highlighted a couple techniques, tools and resources to follow when creating your minimum viable product.
Landing pages: This is a single-page website for customers. A landing page gives visitors an introductory explanation of your product. On this one page, you can ask customers to sign-up if they like your product, helping to see the number of people interested. Tools and platforms like Instapage and Unbounce can help you create a landing page for your product.
Customer insight interviews: This is a way to present your customers with the problems you wish your product to solve and to ask their opinion about each problem. You may realise some of the issues you wanted to focus on are not really a concern for customers.
A/B testing: We mentioned in a past blog post that A/B testing is a way to test two different versions of a product to see which works and performs best. The testing process involves half of your traffic being shown an original version while the other half is shown a modified version of your app or product. The users’ experiences are then recorded, measured, collected and analyzed through a statistical engine. When experimenting, it is important to make sure both versions are extremely different and bold for clear testing answers. Using tools like Google Analytics or Optimizely can gather user data and measure the performance of each version.
AdWords Campaign: This testing technique is a way to conduct market validation surveys. This allows you to zero-in on the demographics interested in your product and to identify which features appeal to them the most. According to Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, running a Google AdWords campaign presents “the overall conversion % of customers from landing page to completed registration, the click-through-rate for your ads on different keywords, and the bounce rate of your landing page for different keywords.”
Crowdfunding/Fundraising: Fundraising platforms like Kickstarter and Ingiegogo are great for testing MVP products. The market response and interest in your product are measured by how many monetary contributions are made toward the campaign. This then gives you access to interested early-adopters who have invested in your MVP.
Explainer/Demo videos: This is a brief video demonstrating your product’s user experience. As we mentioned in the introduction, DropBox had a very successful 3-minute explainer video and became a hit overnight. Creating a demo video is where you show your product in action and present how everything works.
Blogs: A blog platform like WordPress, is a way to build momentum, gain more followers interested in your product and gather their feedback during the development of your MVP. Using a blog is a way to post your ideas and gain the supporters needed for the success of your MVP.
Digital prototypes: A digital prototype MVP can mimic what the usage and functionality of your real application or product will be like once it is fully developed and polished. These can include screenshot previews or even demo applications which show the user experience of the product.
Single-feature MVP: If you want to focus on a single feature of your MVP, then this is a good testing technique. You can zero-in on what your product is supposed to do and not have users get distracted by other fancy features. Having the restriction helps cut down on development time and costs and narrow down the initial target audience.
After reading this post about MVPs you should be more comfortable building your own! Now get out there and be creative!