This is the third article of our series about the concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
Over a decade ago, when Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon noticed that the music industry had a huge gap, they decided to address it. Consumers loved listening to music, but they didn’t have a platform where they could stream songs. Their first prototype of Spotify was up and operating in about four months in 2006, and the beta version was released in 2007.
The beta testers they chose were the famous Swedish music bloggers who shared Spotify with their audiences. After that, the service spread across different markets, with the team adding more features like music sharing, customized playlists, offline mode, and a freemium account. Eventually, they created the Spotify mobile app to enable smartphone users to listen to music on the go. That’s the short version of the story about how Spotify became today’s global music service leader.
When it comes to product development, you’ll need to test your product to figure out what your customers want, and this is where the MVP approach comes in. Creating an MVP is a critical phase in the product development process that enables you to evaluate and test the product before publishing the final version with all of its functionalities. In addition, taking away Spotify’s story, testing is also a great way to build buzz and launch without a significant budget.
After introducing the concept of MVP in the previous two articles of this series, in this article we’ll explain the step by step process of building an MVP:
1. Research, research, research
To avoid wasting time and money, you need to start with in-depth market research. Regardless of how unique or intriguing you might consider your idea to be, it would help if you found out what’s going on in the market and get acquainted with your potential target audience. Thus, when starting to work on your MVP, you need already to have a pretty good idea of your target audience and focus on them specifically.
Market research will help you discover and pinpoint who your potential consumers will most likely be, what they are currently doing, and how to make their lives easier with your innovation. While you’re researching, you should always consider the value and the benefits you’ll be communicating to the target audience and what obstacles you will need to tackle to bring your product closer to them.
Pro tip: In this stage, more is more. Find out as much as you can and take the information you’ve found at face value. The last thing you want is to start with an unrealistic view of the current situation because that can only lead to a definitive mismatch with whatever the real users want and need. Also, don’t just conduct research online. Talk to people in real life, observe behaviors and reach out to other founders. All this will serve you immensely in the long run.
2. Monitor competitors’ activities
Just because you want to do things differently doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the experiences and activities of your competitors. Many options tools can help you examine your competitors’ websites or apps and help you learn more about their marketing tactics, the channels they use, client demographics, and other helpful information.
Our suggestions: Similarweb is a great way to discover competitors and Competitors.app is our personal favorite for finding competitors’ marketing moves. You can also check out the MVP for one of our tools – Launchtorch that can help you see how your competitors launched their products.
Pro tip: When you look at the competitors, pay special attention to their reviews. Analyzing consumer feedback on competitors’ services can help you make a better MVP for your own product that solves existing solutions’ flaws, giving a serious competitive advantage. Also, don’t be afraid to borrow great ideas and knowledge from your competitors’ errors.
3. Define your goals & the user’s journey to your minimum viable product
The more definitive and realistic your goals are, the more likely you will reach them. What do you want to find out by releasing the MVP? What do you want to measure? How will you measure it? What kind of feedback do you need?
Along with answering these questions, you also need to look at things from your target audience’s perspective. How will they find out about your MVP? Where? Why will they be motivated to interact with it and give you feedback?
Pro tip: In this step, prioritization is key. That’s the whole point of building an MVP – to get answers for your key questions. You can’t get feedback on everything from the first try. It’s far more essential to focus on answering a few important questions than getting as much data as possible but still not knowing what your next step should be. So focus on quality instead of quantity, but still try to reach as many people as possible.
4. Choose the key features you want to include
In line with the previous note, you need to prioritize which features must be included in your MVP (and which don’t). Focus on the minimum amount of features that can deliver the highest benefit to the consumer. Which are your core features? And what will make your product unique? This is where the findings from your research will come in handy.
Pro tip: Make a list of features for each level, and then rank them by importance. The main feature should be the most important action you want your users to complete. After this, list other features you want to offer and split them into ‘must-have,” nice-to-have,’ and ‘not important.’ The ‘must-haves’ should be the highest priority to be included in your MVP and the ones you should spend the most time and energy building.
Pro tip 2: Hand in hand with feature prioritization comes feature arrangement (a.k.a. The way your MVP will look like). The easiest way to visualize the arrangement is by simply drawing things on a piece of paper or making a basic digital sketch. No matter how advanced your visualizations skills are, you shouldn’t waste your time and make a perfected visualization during this step. Instead, sketch things out to get the general idea before you move to the next step.
5. Time to create your minimum viable product
Now that you know your users and what you need to build, it’s time to create your MVP.
Your MVP is like a scaled-down model of the ultimate product you want to build. However, unlike a basic prototype, you want to see if people will use your ultimate product through the prism of the MVP. That means that your MVP doesn’t only need to be functional but also – look good.
Depending on your background, when bringing your digital MVP to life, coding doesn’t always have to be a requirement. No-code apps like Bubble can help you build SaaS and other apps without requiring high-level software dev skills. If you’re looking for ways to build your MVP faster and cheaper, check out this article written by one of our own and learn how to take advantage of Cloudflare’s new features.
Pro tip: Realistically, this step can be very time-consuming, and you can get lost in finishing your MVP for months on end. It’s a good idea to set some deadlines and stick to them. The goal of the MVP is to minimize overthinking and let real users show you what to focus on, so getting your MVP out there as soon as possible should be your goal (even if it’s not perfect).
6. Run internal tests
After building your MVP, it’s time to test it thoroughly. You don’t want to release your MVP and start building buzz only to have your first responders tell you you have a minor glitch that’s causing major problems in their flow.
Pro tip: The best way to make sure all aspects of your MVP work as they should is to approach the matter systematically. Make a test list/chart to add all the essential features to be tested and all the possible paths a user might take to explore your MVP. Then, duplicate the chart to test it from different operating systems and browsers. And don’t forget about desktop vs. mobile.
Pro tip 2: It’s an excellent idea to involve other people at this stage. Ask your partners, colleagues, or friends to help you out. This task can be pretty redundant if you do it independently, but there is another good reason to involve other people – immediate feedback. Even if they don’t match the target audience, they will see some things you will miss because you’ve been neck-deep in your MVP for months or even years, and they have the benefit of a fresh perspective.
And now you are ready. It’s time to share your MVP with the world.
But… where? And how?
Now that you’re here, these two tough questions are going to start giving you quite a headache. Even if you have some ideas to start, getting your MVP to spread and get as much feedback as possible is a real challenge.
To help you figure out exactly which channels to choose and how to approach the potential users, we have dedicated part 4 of this four-part series specifically to that. So stay tuned until next week to find out more.
- Minimum Viable Product (Part 1): What is it, and why do you need it?
- Minimum Viable Product (Part 2): Read before you start building it
- Minimum Viable Product (Part 3): How to build it and what mistakes to avoid? THIS PART
- Minimum Viable Product (Part 4): What to do after? TO FOLLOW