What is Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
If you were wondering what does MVP even mean, it is a term popularised as part of lean startup, a most popular method for developing innovative products. Minimum Viable Product stands for a bare minimum version of your product which represents the core of your business without any unnecessary features. The most important goal of building MVP is to have a product which lets you test whether people will use/pay for the solution that you are building. By testing a product on a small number of early testers, your aim is to collect as much information about customers as you can with the least amount of effort.
Almost all of the successful startups have started with MVP. Here are some examples:
- AirBnB – They started by renting their own place because they couldn’t afford their rent. Getting strangers to pay for renting a room in your own house seemed like a counter-intuitive idea but very quickly it has proven to be a great innovation.
- Groupon – To promote a deal, they wrote a blog post with the details of one deal and shared it with their friends. Once they saw that it generated interest, they grew the basic idea into a giant business.
It is important to note that MVP is not a half-baked product but a product with minimal number of features which serve the core solution to the existing problem of the target audience. To build the first version of your app you need to think how to reduce the number of features and focus only on your laser-focused target market.
In this article we will refer to MVP as a web or mobile application which is most common the case, but MVPs can as well be analog/physical products.
Validating your product & strategy
A good way to research and understand your specific market is interviewing individuals with the knowledge of your product’s domain. While you can also use surveys and focus groups to help out with the creeping insecurity, these all are just guides to idea validation. Talking with potential users and asking for their feedback without having an actual product will lead to them having a hard time explaining what it is that’s wrong or right with it. The feedback they give just doesn’t translate to real world, but can only indicate if it’s a concept worth pursuing. So these types of testing the market can prove whether an idea has legs, but only the prototype can show the real reaction and feedback from your potential customers.
To better understand the assumptions you’ve made, try answering these three questions:
- Who is the customer (market)?
- Why do they need the product (problem)?
- What is the product (solution)?
The answers to these questions are your core assumptions and the goal of creating an MVP is to test the assumptions with your market. They need to be considered and then implemented into initial scope of your product. But you won’t be able to do everything at once. You are constrained by both time and money, so it is necessary to prioritize what comes first and what are the most important scenarios.
How is MVP created and who should do it?
What is more important than straight ahead starting with wireframes creation is to break down the functionalities and capability of the app in form of user personas and user stories first. Companies which have UX designers on disposal can make a big difference during this phase as UX designers have a user-centric approach and a process to ultimately acquire complete understanding of users. This process often includes competitor analysis, user interviews and surveys, content audits, and business model canvas ideation. After wireframes are finished they get transformed to high-definition mockups in form of polished user interfaces. After all of the designs are ready, the time comes for product development which often takes more time than all the previous design phases together. In the end, the MVP needs to be tested and quality assurance checked to assure the product matches the specifications set in the beginning.
When you decided to go ahead with creating your product there’s two options – you can learn how to program or you can hire a freelancer/agency. If you want to learn how to program you need to be in it for the long run, as it takes time and dedication and there’s no definite time on how long it takes to learn. So, looking at the typical development cycle it is easy to see that if you want to make an application but don’t possess good technical skills an option that should probably be discarded is trying to do it on your own. The speed of entering the market is the most important asset and it does take time to acquire the needed skills.
With that out of the way, you are left to decide between hiring freelancers or hiring an app development agency. The one that you choose will depend on a number of different factors, and the reality is that there are pros and cons with both. You will have to consider things like your budget, the timeline, and the risk that you are willing to take.
As far as pricing goes, your most affordable option might be going with freelancers. But you might need to hire more freelancers to fill all the necessary roles like UX, UI, front-end, back-end, etc. Certain freelancers may be great at putting a design together, but may lack the coding skills required to build in other elements you want for your site. On top of that you need to be able to manage this team of freelancers to successfully develop the app. Many of these freelancers are either students or professionals who are looking to build a portfolio or create a second income. As such, they tend to charge less than what you would expect to pay at an app development agency. The problem here is that you often end up getting exactly what you pay for. There are also high-quality freelancers but they will come at a premium price.
On the other hand, an app development agency will have several employees with different talents, all working towards the same goal of building you an app that works perfectly. With a process in place, they already went through a very similar project numerous times. Going with an agency might be pricier than hiring a freelancer from one of the freelancing networks.
Whichever path you chose to take, there are three important questions to check about your freelancer or an agency:
- How well is their communication? – When building a custom app it is all about good communication between you and your contractor. Good contractors will do everything to help you completely understand the process and the current stage. They will not run away from tough questions and will be ready to answer all the “dumb” ones.
- Do they have experience building a similar product? – You should be more secure by going with a contractor who has already built something similar to your product.
- Do they deliver stuff on time? – Since it’s your money and time on stake, you need a contractor with a proven track record of shipping products on time.
Defining your MVP’s scope
Once you’ve found a candidate whose communication skills, work experience, and shipping track record withstand your inspection, it’s time to start scoping out your MVP with a round of planning phase.
Planning phase is mainly about surfacing the details about what you want your app to be and how do you want it to behave in various scenarios. A successful planning phase sets a project on a smooth sail toward completion by clarifying expectations, removing misunderstandings, and defining tasks that need to be done. This is the part of the project where you and your contractor can learn more about each other’s ideas and define all the features you want in your app. A good contractor will listen to you attentively during the planning phase, take notes, and ask questions to better understand any subtle details about your goals and objectives.
Be sure to communicate clearly about the project timeline, the expected ship date, and any deadlines for any parts of the project. After the planning phase, your contractor will produce you clear and detailed documents that capture the scope of the project. Be sure to review this carefully, before you sign anything. The scope is a map of your project and it shows what you can expect once all the work is done. If anything looks wrong now, be vocal about it, and help to make changes before kicking off-with actual design and development.
At the beginning of the planning phase client expresses and describes the future product:
- A description of what your product is going to be.
- A list of key features your app must have.
- A prioritized list of nice-to-have features.
- Examples of similar products that you like and what you like about them. Learning which existing products you like helps to understand better your ideas and goals without going too much into technical details. It will make your contractor’s job easier and more exact to your expectations and the same time save you both time and money.
At the end of the planning phase the contractor typically delivers:
- Sketches made from discussions and brainstorming
- User stories and scenarios built up from the requested features and description of the app
Now the contractor is ready to turn the sketches and user stories first to wireframes, then to high-fidelity UI and interaction designs, and finally through web/mobile development into fully functional products.
After development of an MVP
The key is to thoroughly check all the deliverables you received including the code to ensure that it meets your expectations and complies with the scope that was set at the start of the project. Your contractor should give you a detailed demonstration of the features, explain them completely, and give you a change to try the finalised product yourself. If anything seems off, say it out loud immediately, because if you request for changes after some weeks or months have passed, you might be charged extra and with a different rate, all depending on a contract you signed. That’s it, at this point you are ready to get your new product out to customers and see if your idea fits the market needs. If it does, that’s it you can start scaling and hackind the growth and if it’s not, it might be time to pivot or move to another idea.
If you need help getting your MVP created, we are happy to help and offer you a free 15-min consultation .