What is an MVP?
An MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is used by a lot of entrepreneurs to push for a first iteration of their product or idea to the market at the shortest possible time. As the name implies, it consists of the bare minimum features that your idea needs to be accepted by your customers. It is designed to introduce your product or service to your customers and gather as much feedback as possible to improve your 1.0!
Why start with an MVP?
Tech products and services will NEVER run out of good features and components. This is the hole that a lot of techpreneurs find themselves in—lots and lots of new ideas come up, thus development keeps getting delayed or pushed back. The MVP will allow you to prioritize which features and components are necessary to launch your first product. This will let you get a good grasp of development time and when your product will be ready for the market. In tech, speed is key.
Often than not, what we see as essential for the customers is not the same as what they say is essential or beneficial to their needs. The MVP will allow you to recalibrate faster and investigate your pool of features to be developed on which one the customers will need right NOW.
1. What problem are you solving?
At this point, all you probably have is an idea on how to solve a problem that you have experienced. But is this a common problem? Uber was brilliant because they wanted to solve two things: 1) getting a cab on demand without the wait, and 2) not having to worry about being short-changed with the fares. This was a problem that not only did the founders experienced after their conference in Paris, but by many people all over the world. This allows you now to determine how big of a market your idea will have when you finally launch your MVP. Intensive research and analysis of data will be crucial in this part of the product ideation.
Whether your idea is the first of its kind or a better version of an existing product, there will always be an alternative to the kind of product that you will or the service that you will provide. It is imperative now that you make a list of the alternative solutions that are available to your customers and what makes you different or better than them. This will allow you to focus your MVP on pushing features that are clearly differentiates you from your competitors.
As a techpreneur, the first thing that you need to think about is how does my platform make the lives of the people who are going to use it, easier? What is that distinct feature of your MVP that will instantly solve the problem of your customers? Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp, founders of Uber, were able to solve a worldwide problem of having to wait in the corner of the street for a chance to hail a cab. Their platform has changed the landscape of commuting since they introduced Uber to the world.
2. Focus on UI/UX
Don’t jump into coding
As startup founders, it can be exciting to go straight to coding and building that coveted MVP. However, taking long hours developing your product may be a waste of time, effort, and money, if your customers won’t find your UI and UX intuitive and easy to use. Instead, there are several programs such as Figma that can help you build your frontend on a design level so that you can showcase your prototype and test your UI/UX flow before you write a single line of code.
Show your design to family and friends! Revise on a UI/UX level
Once you’ve built the UI/UX flow, start with letting your family and friends play around with the frontend a bit. Get feedback on what looks intuitive and what needs some more explaining. Are the headers self-explanatory? Do the buttons pop out? Are elements that can be swiped clear that they can be used? Once you bulletproof the UI/UX on a design level, only then do you start coding.
3. Determine which features should be in the MVP, which can be pushed to 2.0?
There are a lot of features that need to be built on an app, but as the name of the MVP suggests, we should just focus on the minimum elements that we need to launch the product. From here, you should determine what features of the product are most crucial for the customers and which ones are just nice to have at this point. Remember that speed to market is still critical in the technology world—someone else could be building the exact same MVP today! Will that extra animation for a component (which will take an extra 30 hours to build) make a significant difference in your 1.0? If not, then move it to 2.0! Remember that the first letter in MVP stands for minimum—be sure to live by that word!
4. Building your MVP
At this point, you already have an idea, you’ve already tested your UI/UX on a design level, and you’ve already finalized which features will be part of the MVP. This is it, you’re finally ready to start building your MVP. If the founders do not know how to build a mobile or web app, it’s not the end of your startup journey! There are two ways to go about it: first is to find a co-founder who can be your CTO and develop the app, or second, hire a third-party full-stack developer who can build your MVP for you. Keep in mind that like any other project, development will cost a lot of time, effort, and resources—just stick to your plans for the MVP and keep additional features in the 1.0 to a bare minimum. Depending on the scale of your project, development time can take anywhere between six months to one year.
5. Launching your MVP and getting tons of feedback
This is it! Your MVP is finally complete. If the planning and development stage was not hard enough, know comes the real test—getting people to try out your MVP. Here, your marketing skills will be tested. What ways can you compel your target market to use your platform? In this stage, apart from user base and usage rate, FEEDBACK is the most important data. It is imperative that you can talk to your users about their experience because it will allow you to focus on what features need to be tweaked or what new features should be added. Only with immediate feedback can you determine if your MVP is really making a difference in the lives of your customers. The biggest tech companies now are so far away from their MVPs because the listened to their customers. Let me cite two examples of companies listening to their customers. The first is Netflix. They saw that their viewers are running out of things to watch despite the vastness of the content library in their system. They realized that because their subscribers are overwhelmed by the sheer size of the library, they tend to just scroll haplessly through the listings and end up not watching anything at all. Listening to this feedback, they created their “Netflix Recommendation Engine” (NRE) to determine the subscribers watch history and preference in movies or TV series so that they could just recommend to an undecided user what to watch next. The next example is Apple IOS. Because of the pandemic, a lot of users using their face ID and unlock feature were having trouble because they weren’t getting detected with their masks on. Thus, in their most recent IOS update, they enabled face-detect to function even with a mask on.
Feedback is important in improving your MVP. You need to constantly listen to your users so that you can make slight or major improvements in your product—listening to them maybe the key to success or will assure your failure.