The concept of a minimum viable product (MVP) is at the core of the modern startup economy. Turning an idea into an MVP provides innovators with an easy, cheap, and fast way to validate their hypotheses, collect viable customer feedback, and devise future development plans. If you’re out to reap the benefits of an MVP, be it investor funding or faster time-to-market, you need to ensure you check the five points on this checklist. Missing even one will result in extra expenses that most startups cannot afford.
1. Market and Competition Analysis
As you’ve probably heard, 42% of startups fail because there’s no market need for their products. Therefore, research and analysis should be the name of the game in the early stages of your business. Before you invest thousands of dollars in development, learn the size of the market to ensure enough people are willing to pay for what you’re offering. Then, look for available products or services that satisfy the same customer need. If the competition is too intense, you might have chosen a broad niche, but if the competition is non-existent, you haven’t looked hard enough (unless you’re a category creator or a first mover).
With all the market information at your fingertips, analyze your idea. If it offers a unique take on or approach to solving the problem, you can skip over to the next step. If your idea has no discernible competitive differentiators, you shouldn’t move to the next stage until you find them. You can reconsider your monetization model, include unique features, or even a better user interface. Either way, you should have a unique selling proposition by the end of this stage.
2. User Journey Map
Once you know how your product is different from the rest, you should have a clear picture of your target audience. While crafting user personas might seem like a chore, it’s a necessary evil if you want to get into your clients’ heads and deliver the best user experience. The exact ROI of user experience (UX) design is impossible to evaluate, but it comes with a host of benefits, including improved performance, increased exposure, customer loyalty, and a greater number of sales.
Best practices of user-centered design call for mapping out the user’s journey through your website or app. Start with their goals and move backward to a starting point or connect the entry point with the desired result. Either way, you will come up with several stages that take users from installing the app or entering the website to buying a product (ordering a service, downloading a book, etc).
3. Prioritized Feature List
With user journeys mapped out, you can now list the features for every step that your clients will take to achieve their goals. For instance, if you’re building an online store, your clients will need a search bar to look for the product they need and a cart to collect their purchases. Alternatively, a car-hailing app will surely need a map and GPS navigation functionality to identify the locations of the customers and available drivers.
To speed up the process, you can add both critical and non-critical features to every stage. However, once your lists are done, ask yourself which of the features are vital, and move them to the top of your priorities list. Remember what MVP stands for and curb your enthusiasm to focus on the core functionality that’s enough to fulfill the users’ goals without bombarding them with extras.
Do not discard the prioritized list of features even if you only implement the most critical ones. Instead, use it to add new ideas as they come to you after the project is launched, and the first reviews start trickling in.
4. MVP Building and Launch
Whether you rely on in-house talent or outsource the software development, now is high time to deliver your requirements to engineers and designers. Ask them to start with a simple prototype that’ll let you get a better feel of the interface and the features you’ve prioritized. Building a prototype is a speedy and affordable way to assess the results of your previous efforts. Besides, it will let you introduce changes in the early days without wasting the development budget.
Selecting the right technology stack is also crucial for a startup’s future success. All technologies and resources used should accommodate scaling up when the number of users grows. Make the wrong decisions at this stage, and you might have to rework the product from the ground up when the architecture buckles under increased load.
When dealing with an outside development team, make sure to create a system requirement specification (SRS) with clear qualitative and quantitative deliverables for critical features. These may include the desired loading time, maximum user load, and other parameters.
5. Client Feedback Loop
Once the product is finished, it’s alpha and beta testing time. The latter means your product will get the first real users who deserve your undivided attention. Make sure to collect their feedback, and over time, you will get a clear picture of which features must be added or removed. Thus, the virtuous circle begins. It includes upgrading the product, receiving feedback, and analyzing the changes that must be introduced. If you successfully implement the feedback loop, your product will gain popularity. If you want to branch out or pivot, you should once again start with the market analysis stage of building an MVP.
Planning a minimum viable product is a challenging task, but it returns significant benefits. Whenever you start doubting this approach remember that Zappos, Airbnb, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and other billion-dollar companies started in this exact manner.