What is an MVP?
An MVP is a preliminary version of your product that you can test in the market. Releasing an MVP enables you to validate product assumptions and study your users’ reactions to your product’s features.
You can use the information gained by releasing your MVP to strategically allocate further budget and align future builds around your business goals. MVP development is an iterative procedure that helps you identify the pain points of users and build the appropriate features to resolve those needs.
What you can learn from an MVP
Once you've released an MVP to users, you can answer a handful of valuable questions about your product:
- Value proposition: What benefits does your product deliver to users?
- Consumer segments: What is the target market that your product is built to serve?
- Key channels: What is the best medium(s) for delivering your value proposition to your target market?
- Customer relationship: How can you interact with your users and obtain valuable product feedback from them?
Why do people build MVPs?
An MVP offers immediate value by providing user insights, but it also helps you minimize costs. An MVP allows you to properly plan future development iterations and decide whether to change directions or continue on the present development path.
You can also use the MVP to show the potential of your product and gain buy-in from stakeholders. If you're running a startup, an MVP is usually the best way to demonstrate your product’s merit and obtain funding for development.
Get to market faster
With an MVP, you can test the market demand for your product. You can use feedback from users to decide whether to rework your product to meet user needs or create a new solution. If the MVP receives positive feedback, then you can move even faster along your planned course of development and launch sooner.
This early market research is also critical for understanding how you stack up against competitors. An MVP includes basic versions of your product's key differentiators so that you can determine how much further innovation is required.
Save on your initial investment
MVPs are cheaper to build. They enable you to adopt a minimum approach to your initial round of product development, reducing the amount of risk required to get your product out there in front of users.
MVPs also set you up for iterative development, which helps you spread your costs of development across multiple releases. This can help you avoid overcomplicating your product and reduce the risk that you'll need more advanced coding later.
Start building a user base
You can introduce your MVP to a small user segment and, based on their experience and reception, start reaching out to new users with similar needs. You can also use your MVP as an early opportunity to cultivate lines of communication between your product team and your users.
Test your app in the wild
An MVP puts your business's central premise to the test by putting the main features of your product in the hands your target audience. This early feedback can help you strategize about how best to find product-market fit with later releases.
It’s also much harder to rebuild the product after developing it fully. For instance, Instagram’s original MVP was a GPS function. But the company changed its concept based on insights and, after a hugely expensive development effort, developed its current successful photo-sharing platform.
Why not build everything all at once?
It’s not advisable to build all features of the product at once for the following reasons:
Highly expensive upfront cost
For most applications, you’d need to invest tons of capital from the start to develop all the features in one go. An MVP allows you to spread your investment over a longer time.
Zero market validation before the final release
Without an MVP release, you'll be entering the market completely oblivious to the needs of your users. If the product is not well received or does not meet user needs, you’ll face a heavy loss.
Potential for lengthy delays in development
Developing all features at once can result in long delays in development, as your team would have to plan, develop, and test the entire functionality, as well as fix bugs and errors.
An MVP is a faster, lower-risk approach
In general, you have a lot to gain by build as little as possible before launching the first version, then iterating on that afterwards. You need to validate your assumptions about your product, including your target market, product design, marketing strategy, solution architecture, and monetization tactics.
You can use MVP development’s “build-measure-learn” iterative process to invalidate or validate your assumptions with lower risk. With an iterative approach, you can make changes as needed to the product. It allows you to shape your product’s future iterations, learn what elements can help to boost ROI/sales, and effectively allocate your budget.
How to prioritize features in your MVP
You can prioritize your MVP features by first setting your product’s vision and strategy. Be clear why it is being created and for whom. Then, assess your competition and identify key differentiators that will set your product apart.
Learn the difference between user needs and user wants. Do not try to include all customer-requested features, but focus only on the necessary ones. Classify your product’s features into “must-have,” “nice-to-have,” and “optional” categories. Then, establish key metrics that you wish to track, such as product quality, lifetime value, conversions, and ROI. Try to create hypotheses about these metrics that you can test with the MVP.
How to plan your MVP before starting development
The key advantage of an MVP is that it produces a faster release at a lower cost. However, you won't realize this advantage if you don't plan it properly. Here are some tips for planning an MVP build.
Create a full list of desired features
Start by creating a full list of desired functionalities. Include all the functions that can enhance your product’s utility and value to users. This should be the "dream version" of your product as you see it today – the version of your product that you envision in the market a few years from now.
Identify which features are absolutely essential
From the list you've created, select only the features that the app must have before anyone can successfully use it. These features will vary from app to app, but in general, they typically include only those functionalities required for the app to fulfill its basic purpose, authenticate users, and collect money from users.
Next, identify the features that deliver the most value to your users and enable them to gain the most benefits from your app. These features can help to increase your product’s sales, so they are worth considering for an MVP build.
Review your list of essentials for anything that could be excluded or saved for a later release
After creating a list of the most essential features, review it for any functions that you can add later. This approach enables you to spread out your development work and costs over a longer time for increased efficiency and budget management.
If you're unsure about a specific feature's importance, save it and review with your PM. It can sometimes be helpful to get a technical perspective on which features are really necessary for an app to work.
Common features that are included in most MVPs
Here are a few features that you'll find in most MVPs:
Your MVP should offer a secure login/authentication (sign-up and sign-in) feature so that users are able to register and use the app without difficulty.
Your MVP should include basic content that helps users navigate the app and understand its features.
Ability to gather data from users
Most applications must collect some data about users, even if that data is limited to their interactions and selections within the app. It is possible for some types of MVPs to consist of simple interfaces without a database attached, but most will need some type of database to ensure that user data persists across sessions and pages.
Data gathering can also involve collecting user feedback about their experiences using the app. This is vital to validate your product and make changes and improvements to it as needed.
Interactive elements to achieve the app's intended purpose
The MVP should have interactive features that enable users to actually engage with its key functionalities. These are the essential components that make up the core in-app experience for your users.
The MVP should also have monetization features that allow you to generate revenue from your product and begin optimizing the checkout flow for maximum conversions.
Features that you can usually exclude from your MVP
You might find that you have a few favorite features that you'd like to include in your MVP, but that really don't belong there. Here are some common examples.
It's usually a good idea to look at an MVP strictly from a cost perspective. What features will obviously take a lot of money to implement? If they aren't key differentiators for your product or critical to it's functioning, then they are best reserved for later releases.
Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning
AI/ML features are increasingly popular within apps, but they can be expensive and time-consuming to implement properly. In many cases, an MVP can imitate the effects of AI or ML with a little bit of extra planning. These features can then be fully integrated later based on user needs and feedback.
Augmented or Virtual Reality
AR/VR features can boost user engagement and are usually quite attractive, but they usually too costly and complicated to include in an MVP.
Complex integrations like marketing tools, analytics, or complex third-party APIs can often be saved for later iterations.
"Nice-to-haves" are features that are desirable for your product, but not strictly necessary for its functioning. It can be difficult to tell a nice-to-have from a must-have, but there are some common features that can safely be categorized as nice-to-haves:
- Complex designs: Attractive designs take time to create and are usually not required for a user to access the key features of your app.
- Social integrations: A social integration's priority level largely depends on the complexity of your integration. Simple social logins are occasionally found in MVPs, but integrated feeds or API integrations are best reserved for later builds.
- Highly customized user flows: Offering a personalized experience to each user is a really nice feature in an app, but it greatly increases the app's complexity and isn't usually crucial.
- Non-essential content: Non-essential content usually consists of promotional material and additional user screens that aren't required for the app to function.
Strategize for later releases of the app
Once you've released your MVP, it's time to start planning future releases of the app. Here are some key steps to consider.
Re-prioritize everything that didn't make it into the MVP
If you planned your MVP properly, then you must have some features that you're just dying to add to the product on your next release. This time, you should take user behavior into account when planning additional features, as the growth of your app will mostly hinge on whether successive releases improve the customer experience.
Break out releases according to budget or timeline constraints
Group your product’s feature releases according to timeline or budget limitations and focus on priority functionalities first.
Be prepared for items in the MVP to move to later releases
Even if you've whittled the MVP down to as few features as possible, you may still find that a few of the planned features in the MVP were only partially built or were pushed to later builds. The second release is a great time to get these finalized in the product. Of course, this means that you’ll need to push back items in later releases even further.
Plan for expected tradeoffs
If a particular function doesn’t ultimately fit into your specific release schedule, you can postpone it for a later launch and focus on the important features that need to be released immediately. You should be prepared to push a feature forward or move it back in the calendar depending on its urgency.
Most successful apps start as MVPs
Releasing a proper MVP is the best way to build your app, as it allows you to identify user needs, develop the necessary features to resolve those needs, get user feedback on the app’s functionality, and make improvements to the product based on that feedback.
Building an MVP doesn't mean that you’re sacrificing important features for basic ones. Rather, the MVP gives you the budget and flexibility to fully develop the most exciting features in later releases and ultimately ship the best possible product to users.
Crowdbotics’ managed app development is the fastest way to go from zero to MVP, then from MVP to scale. Our PMs and developers are experts at planning MVP builds and helping clients prioritize new app features. Get in touch today for help planning your MVP and later builds.