Did you know that nearly 70% of startups fail? There are many reasons for this, from disharmony in the development team to a lack of product-market fit. And what’s more, there’s rarely a single reason why a startup fails.

According to CBInsights, there are 20 main reasons. You can check them out in the image below. Some may come as quite a surprise.

MVP development
source: cbinsights.com

In 2011, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries changed the history of startups by introducing several new concepts. The minimum viable product, or MVP, was one of them. The idea of an MVP is to get user feedback before developing the final product. This feedback helps you avoid failure.

In today’s IT industry, developing an MVP is common practice. It’s useful in the planning of a project or startup. If you’re planning to launch your own product, read to learn more.

The definition of an MVP

A minimum viable product has a bare-bones design. It’s then tested on the market to see if it has the potential to succeed.

MVP development
source: redhawkresults.com

To perform this initial testing, the product only needs the most essential functionality. Anything beyond major functionality is not included. The MVP version is a tool to help determine the product’s potential. The MVP method can be used to develop any product, including mobile apps and websites.

What does “viable” mean?

Before diving too deep, let’s have a closer look at what “viable” means. Viability is about delivering enough value to users.

Ensuring the viability of the product is one of the key characteristics of MVP development. What a product does is much more important than how it does it. 60% of the functionality of the average product is not used at all. This functionality is unnecessary and is a waste of development resources. A viable product meets user demands by performing one main function.

The key to success is balancing “viable” and “minimum” to make sure you create a product that people will use. Here’s an example.

  • Problem your users want to solve: Find a good used car in Connecticut.

  • Minimum: A used car in front of a house with a “for sale” sign on it.

  • Viable: A fast website based on a scalable language (like Python) that has user profiles, a search field, messaging options, and notifications.

  • Minimum + viable: A list of offers manually collected from Facebook that include car descriptions, photos, and contact details of sellers.

In essence, MVP development should look like this:

minimum viable product
source: steelkiwi.com

Why is a minimum viable product important?

An MVP helps you get early data that confirms users’ interest in your product. Positive results at the MVP phase give the green light to develop the full version.

By creating and testing a minimum viable product, you can:

  1. Save time and resources by making sure you’re investing in a project that’s likely to be successful.

  2. Check whether the product is appealing to potential users.

  3. Find out which trends you can take advantage of when developing the full version of the product.

  4. Aсquire a potential user base and find early adopters.

  5. Save time and money on developing the final product.

  6. Attract investors earlier.

But there are multiple types of MVPs. Which type do you need?

Six high-fidelity types of MVPs

There are six high-fidelity types of MVPs you can use to collect user feedback before releasing a full-fledged product.

1. A piecemeal MVP is a cheap way of introducing an application to users. A functioning demo of your product, a piecemeal MVP is built from off-the-shelf tools and a bit of innovation. When put together, these tools implement the product's basic functionality.

Example:

Your idea is to create a website that connects customers with a local grocery store. The final product is supposed to offer coupon codes and deals to cut shopping expenses. Upon receiving a coupon, a user gets a QR code that allows them to get a discount at the grocery store.

But before developing the end product, you launch a piecemeal MVP:

  • Start with a WordPress website where you post coupons every day for a local grocery store.

  • Manually generate a PDF file with a QR code.

  • Send this PDF file to users via email.

MVP development
source: groupon.com

A bright example of a company that used this type of MVP is Groupon. When it was launched, Groupon wasn’t a fully developed product. Today, it’s a huge corporation.

2. A concierge MVP helps you test your idea using a human-powered service. In other words, automated components are replaced by humans. Every customer receives white-glove treatment. Thus, you connect with users and learn about how they respond to your idea.

Example:

You want to start a food delivery company. After gathering clients’ meal plans via an online form, you deliver the week’s supply of food.

Before developing the final product, you start with a concierge MVP:

  • Find customers (friends and neighbors) and interview them to create grocery lists.

  • Grab your bike or car, see where you can buy food for the best price, and deliver it.

  • Get reviews and suggestions.

MVP development
source: lifehacker.com

With this type of MVP, you get to closely analyze your users. You can pivot when needed and transform your idea into a business. Food on the Table was first launched as a concierge MVP. Now it helps people do their shopping wisely.

3. A Wizard of Oz MVP concentrates on creating the impression that what the customer is using is the final product. But in reality, it’s still under development.

Example:

You want to build an online shoe store. The idea is to post photos of shoes with their cost and a short description.

Before developing the final product, you launch a Wizard of Oz MVP:

  • Create a WordPress website.

  • Go to the local mall, take photos of shoes, put those photos online, and wait.

  • When an order comes in, go back to the mall, buy the shoes, and handle payments and shipping manually.

minimum viable product
source: zappos.com

With this Wizard of Oz MVP, you check if users want to buy shoes without trying them on. Zappos — a well-respected and established retailer of shoes and clothes — was launched this way.

4. Another option for an MVP is an explanatory video, or a minute-or-so-long animation that explains the product’s benefits. This is usually enough to catch the attention of potential users. Plus, a video can quickly go viral.

Example:

The best example of this type of MVP is a four-minute video that DropBox created before launching the app. The DropBox app now facilitates file sharing between devices. In the MVP video, Drew Houston explained how the app was going to work.

The idea behind the explanatory video for DropBox was to check if the app could solve people’s problems. The video became viral overnight, skyrocketing the number of those who’d like to become potential users. You can check out the video below.

5. A landing page MVP is used to provide a description of a product or service and includes a unique value proposition. Usually, the unique value proposition is a list of the product’s advantages. Your landing page MVP should include the name of your product or service, a description of what it’s for and its value, and an explanation of how it’s different from alternatives on the market.

Example:

You want to build an application that swaps a user’s face with that of a celebrity, politician, or animal. These hilarious photos may be shared on social media.

Before developing your application, you launch your own landing page MVP:

  • Create a landing page.

  • Describe the product’s features.

  • Show examples of how faces will be swapped.

  • Add a Download button at the bottom of the landing page.

  • Track clicks on the button to tell whether this app is something that may draw users’ interest.

minimum viable product
source: buffer.com

Joe Gascoigne used this method to test his idea for Buffer. He achieved 120 signups via Google Ads, talked to most of those people directly, and learned what they loved about his value proposition. Now Buffer’s revenue is over $1,000,000 annually.

6. An email MVP involves manually creating a single email with an offer and sending it to an entire list of contacts to see if there’s a favorable response.

Example:

You want to create a platform that will encourage users to share information about new food and drink brands, books, movies, apps, and technology products they’ve discovered.

Before launching the platform, you make use of an email MVP:

  • Collect email addresses.

  • Write an email with the subject “Coming soon” describing your idea for the product, its features, its benefits, and its prospects.

  • At the end of the email, ask readers to provide feedback.

  • Wait for feedback and process the results.

MVP development
source: producthunt.com

Ryan Hoover had doubts about launching Product Hunt. So he started off by emailing the concept to a list of people. After receiving positive feedback, he kept working on his idea. Product Hunt became a platform that has helped millions of people discover new products

Tips for MVP development

The MVP version of your product should showcase its basic purpose and functionality. Time spent on development should be minimal. But this should not deprive your product of its unique selling points.

MVP development
source: steelkiwi.com

Creating an MVP happens in four stages

Identify and evaluate the challenge

Start with finding a challenge and defining your target audience. Learn about this audience and their actual problems through surveys and interviews. Also, conduct market research. Who are your closest competitors? How many active users do they have? How well do they solve this problem?

Eventually, you’ll have a better understanding of your target audience. Your end product should solve their needs. That was how Uber started.

After interviewing users, the Uber team learned three things:

  • Yellow cabs weren’t very accessible or affordable.

  • People hated waiting for cabs in the street.

  • Users would prefer booking a ride while sitting at home.

After identifying these problems, Uber understood their users’ needs and fulfilled them. You know the result.

Analyze existing competitors

Do this if there are similar products on the market. To analyze competitors, use services like SimilarWeb. Set up an extension in your browser to get insights into a website’s monthly traffic, rank, location of users, etc.

MVP development
Source: similarweb.com

To complement the results provided by SimilarWeb, analyze feedback about existing products. Your minimum viable product can address the shortcomings of existing solutions.

Plus, you need to investigate how competitors solve the problem that your application will solve. Learn from their strengths. Draw lessons from their failures. Make sure your method of development will avoid the pitfalls faced by others.

Make a list of MVP features and get it down to a minimum

Define the steps a user will take when using your product. Create a list of features for every step. Then prioritize those features:

  • Choose one top feature for every step. Let’s call it the main feature that lets your users accomplish the main task of your app.

  • Get back to your list of features and divide them into two groups: high-priority and low-priority.

  • Now go back to the high-priority features. Complement every main feature with two more that a user might want to have in the app.

MVP features
source: steelkiwi.com

Development, alpha, and beta testing

Once you’ve defined the scope of work, move to developing the product. When going through the long process of development, you should regularly test your product.

Alpha testing is performed by employees of the organization working on the project. Beta testing is done by real users on your side, meaning that you need to collect a group of users before you start developing your app.

To get more beta users, take advantage of free online exposure through websites like BetaList, ProductHunt, Reddit, and Quora. You can also advertise in Facebook groups and blog about your new product. Build your email list to keep your audience engaged and consider getting help from companies specializing in beta testing.

Beta users can give you feedback that helps you understand:

  • If the product solves actual problems

  • If the product is faster, better, or cheaper than similar solutions

  • If users like the product, are ready to pay for it, and are willing to recommend it to their family, friends, and coworkers

    MVP development
    source: steelkiwi.com

How does an MVP work?

Developing a final product takes an average of 6 to 8 months with a budget of $200,000. As a result, you get a final product that you put on the market. Then you wait for users’ reactions — they’ll either like it or they won’t. If your product doesn’t appeal to users, the time and money spent on developing it is wasted.

The MVP method allows you to speed up the product’s launch because only essential features are required before you can begin getting real feedback on the concept. MVP design and development usually take 1 to 1.5 months with a budget of $10,000 to $15,000. See the difference?

MVP stages
source: public domain

Are MVPs only for startups?

It’s commonly believed that an MVP should be created only during a business’s early days. But that’s a mistake.

When you’re developing new features, you should always start with an MVP. Release a basic version of a new feature to selected groups of users to test. Once you have feedback, improve the feature before releasing the official version.

Great examples of minimum viable products

Foursquare — The company’s MVP contained check-ins and awards in the form of badges. After assessing initial user reactions, the developers started to expand the product, adding recommendations and city guides. Today, Foursquare unites 50 million people who have checked in over 8 billion times.

Instagram — Initially, the MVP was focused on photo filters only. Users could take pictures, apply one of the suggested filters, and save their photos in an album on their device. Users liked the application. It has since been updated to include videos, geolocation, tagging, hashtags, and integration with other social networks.

Amazon — In 1990, Jeff Bezos made a list of products that could be sold online at the time. His very first list included 20 categories. Later, he selected only five: books, CDs, videos, computer hardware, and software. He launched a simple website with a catalog of books. Once a customer ordered a book, Bezos bought it from a distributor and shipped it. Over the years, the website scaled and grew. Today, Amazon offers many more products and is one of the world’s largest retailers.

Facebook — The popular social network started as Thefacebook. The idea for the MVP was to connect students in the same class or college. Thefacebook let users post messages to boards. All other features were added after the success of the MVP.

Airbnb — Living in a loft apartment, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky had a hard time paying their rent. They came up with an idea for providing accommodation to those coming to San Francisco. They launched a simple website, posted a few photos of their place, and got three guests. Today, the startup has $2.6 billion in yearly revenue.

Need help developing an MVP for your idea?

To save yourself time, money, and resources, we highly recommend an MVP.

At Steelkiwi, we have developed MVPs for all sorts of projects, websites, and applications. We offer full consultations for minimum viable product development. Are you interested in developing your MVP with us? Do have any questions on how to make an MVP? Don’t hesitate to get in touch. Meanwhile, you can explore more examples of great minimum viable products and read about best practices.