You or your business have an idea to serve a marketplace, but an idea is nothing more than that. You also need to know the viability of that idea before you spend resources on making it a killer product.
So what should you do?
Make a minimum viable product.
In this article, you will learn everything and anything related to a minimum viable product and how to make one today.
What Is a Minimum Viable Product?
A minimum viable product, aka an “MVP,” is a product that has just the features that allow it to be deployed, and no more.
Companies use MVPs as a fast way to test their products. They release the MVP to collect feedback from real customers about what is missing or wrong with their idea. Companies then decide if they should continue building it.
You don’t need to be a startup to launch a minimum viable product. Companies of all sizes launch MVPs to test new product features.
Product managers, entrepreneurs, and marketing teams use MVPs as a way of validating assumptions about their market before building out entire products. They do this to save time and money while figuring things out.
MVPs have proven to be an economical tool for testing an idea before commercializing it.
When building an MVP, you should have a prototype of the product. You should also have initial marketing materials.
The goal is to launch an MVP to quickly validate your assumptions about customer needs. Then you find out if people want what you are building before investing heavily into it.
In order for this process to be successful, companies need good hypotheses with measurable goals. Hypotheses for minimum viable products are assumptions that are testable and are backed up with evidence.
An example of a hypothesis to validate is people will want the product at $X price point; if not, we should lower it.
The MVP has proven its worth many times over in helping startups learn what customers actually want. Especially before committing resources into building something that has no value.
To test hypotheses, your minimum viable product should have measurable goals. Measurable goals are goals that can be measured by a number.
An example is how many people download your app if that’s your MVP.
Another piece to having measurable goals for an MVP is making sure they are not too vague. Have clear cut-off points where you could decide whether your hypothesis was validated or not.
Minimum Viable Product Examples
An example of a minimum viable product in the tech industry would be the SMS app, WhatsApp.
The founders of WhatsApp had an idea for a text-based service that would allow people to send messages across different countries without paying any fees.
WhatsApp created their prototype and then put it on the App Store.
It took off years later.
WhatsApp went from an MVP to a $22 billion acquisition by Facebook.
Another example of a minimum viable product from the tech industry is Google Docs.
Google Docs is a free, web-based office suite offered by Google that allows people to create and edit documents online while collaborating with other users in real-time.
It was built by a small startup that was acquired by Google in 2006. It was first launched as an internal tool for use inside the company before being released to consumers. Only after one month of launching, 90% of Google’s employees used Docs.
Google knew that its own employees would make good cases for early adopters. Employees at Google represent much of the tech industry.
If you can make it at Google, you can make it anywhere.
A third example of a minimum viable product in the tech industry is Dropbox.
Dropbox is a file hosting service that provides users with online storage space for personal files, photos, videos, and other content. It allows them to sync items across computers and mobile devices.
It was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi who were frustrated that companies had not included an automatic cloud to store and access files.
Dropbox’s minimum viable product targeted users who wanted a simple way to share and store files online.
Dropbox had a million users seven months after launching.
This is an example of a minimum viable product that became successful because it met users’ needs by testing hypotheses and having measurable goals.
How to Build a Minimum Viable Product
There are a few key parts to a minimum viable product: the problem you’re solving and the solutions you offer.
Take an honest look at what problems people in your target market have.
Then create some possible solutions for that problem.
The solutions of your minimum viable product should be the features of it. Features are the core elements that make a product a product.
For example, a product that allows you to send pictures might have features like adding captions and filters.
Although MVPs are “minimum”, you still don’t have a product without features. Can you imagine using a laptop without a keyboard? Or a social media app or photo maker without a profile avatar?
Features are the key part of your product and you will be able to create more features as you learn what people like.
Your MVP should have a core set of features that solve problems. You can then add in other features later if necessary after launch or at any time during development.
As long as your product is solving the most pressing problems for the user, that’s enough for a minimum viable product.
How to Launch an MVP
To launch a minimum viable product, you should launch in a niche area where you know the problem exists and is important to your target customer.
For example, if you’re developing an app for soccer fans, launch it at restaurants that show soccer games.
This allows you to focus on one small market segment and learn quickly if your product solves an issue.
It’s much easier to test a hypothesis in a specific market than a broad one.
To get people to use your minimum viable product, you need to make it as easy to use and appealing as possible.
If you’re not sure how best to market your product, try utilizing marketing strategies that are cost-effective and scalable.
Another way to get initial users for your minimum viable product is to offer them incentives.
It’s good to offer a variety of options to get people interested and engaged with your product.
An example would be offering the first user who signs up for your service an exclusive deal that is only available through you.
One more way is by asking users without offering incentives. Put up a sign-up form on your website and ask people to enter their email addresses to be notified when the product is ready.
How Not to Build a Minimum Viable Product
There are things you should do when building a minimum viable product. But what should you not do when building a minimum viable product?
A bad idea for building a minimum viable product is to come up with an idea, build a prototype of the product, then hope people will buy it.
The only assumptions that should be made when making an MVP are your hypotheses. And even for those, you have to test them for metrics before you can confirm that your assumption is correct.
Another bad idea for building a minimum viable product is to think you’ll be able to make money from it.
Once again, it’s misguided to assume that people will buy your MVP’s offering. Let alone the potential product it would turn into in the future.
Build Measure Learn
A popular phrase when making a minimum viable product is “build measure learn.”
Build measure learn was first introduced by Eric Ries in his book, The Lean Startup. The phrase points to what we’ve written already in this article but in three simple words.
Build your idea into an MVP.
Measure how your MVP is used and accomplishes users’ needs.
Learn from that data by analyzing it and asking users to see what to build next.
Build measure learn is a cyclical process. It’s something you will do from the MVP stage until your product becomes obsolete.
What Comes After Minimum Viable Product
What comes after the MVP is whatever you learn from its launch.
When launching an MVP, you will learn more about what your users need by asking them questions and analyzing their behavioral data.
Using such information will help you understand what you need to do next.
Perhaps you need to improve a certain feature you made in your MVP.
Or perhaps you need to roll out a new feature in your next build altogether.
You won’t know what to do next until you analyze what you learned
Either way, you will repeat build measure learn.
Building a minimum viable product is the first step you need to take if you think your idea can be commercialized. It’s cheap, effective, and quick.