The idea of creating a minimum viable product (MVP) originates from the principles of lean startup methodology. The methodology emphasizes the need to validate ideas fast and with minimal costs. Building an MVP, therefore, saves the business from investing too much in an idea that may not pan out well in the end.
The best way to understand an MVP is to explain the questions it answers for a business. First, it’s a version of your product that helps find out whether indeed there is a need for it. Secondly, is it able to solve the problem it’s meant to solve? Third, and perhaps most importantly, is whether the app can generate profit. The MVP is supposed to put the chosen monetization model to test.
An MVP is therefore a real-life stripped-down version of the product that tells the business whether to go on to develop the product or move in another direction. Historically, 90% of startups fail. It, therefore, makes sense to hinge that risk by first building an MVP.
Other Benefits of Building an MVP
A small business aiming to attract funding to help scale needs to demonstrate that their product indeed solves a problem and is monetizable. A startup that already has a minimum viable product will get more attention from potential investors. Target customers also get to see and feel the product, thus creating a buzz. By the time more features get added to the product, there will already be a community of users.
Building an MVP allows the business to understand the landscape they are working in. It helps understand regulations, competition, untapped opportunities and so much more. This will inform future decisions when launching a full-fledged version of the product. Starting with a full-fledged version might lead to suboptimal use of resources in areas that might not be essential.
With an MVP, the risk of failure is minimized since resources are only committed to building the most important features to help the product work. This also makes it easy to remove those things that do not work well and replace them with something that does. This reduces the risk of commitment bias where the business sticks with something that does not work optimally simply because of the money that’s been sunk.
How Long Does it Take to Build an MVP?
Most software development agencies give an estimate of 3 to 4 months to build an MVP. This depends greatly on the nature of the product you are aiming to build. Depending on the complexity of the MVP, the process could go on up to 9 months. According to a survey by Alter.io, building a risk management tool MVP can take up to 9 months. An automation service MVP can take 4.5 months before launch. Simpler applications such as a job board or an email prospecting tool can take half a month.
Still, the steps or path to follow when building the MVP is rather common for all products.
Step 1: Defining the Problem
Before committing any money to development, it’s imperative that you write down the problem and debate the feasibility of the product intended to solve the problem. The problem has to be such that a monetization opportunity really exists. Having skills is not enough and neither is a napkin idea. Real work must go into defining the problem, including finding numbers to back the problem definition.
Step 2: Conducting Market Research
Market research involves the calculation of market size both in terms of revenue and customer numbers. It should also highlight the existing competitors, their audience, key competitive advantages, and finally identify a gap.
The gap defines where the product will focus on, including how it will differentiate itself from competitors. It also explains the expected revenue model for the new product. There should be a justification of the price to be charged if any, and a comparison with what competitors charge. If there is a premium on the price, a fitting explanation of the rationale should be made. Market research could take up to 1 month.
Step 3: Prototyping
A prototype is a visualization of how the final product will look like. It validates the UI/UX as well as the design and functionalities. The prototype helps make improvements before starting the MVP development process. While an MVP is a working solution, a prototype is a visualization, which can be done with digital tools such as Figma and Adobe XD. This could take anywhere between 1 to 3 weeks depending on the improvements needed.
Steps 4: List of Most Important Features
Building the MVP requires you to determine the most important features of the product. The best way to do this is to gather feedback from the target audience. During the market research stage, when determining the gaps in the market, you should find out their criticism of existing products. The feature list you come up with will give a roadmap of MVP development.
It is possible that your MVP will go through several iterations. It’s likely that it will have some features listed as coming soon. However, after several iterations, you will have a product that’s ready to be scaled. This explains why it’s tough to give a fixed estimate of how long building the MVP takes.
Step 5: MVP Release
An MVP release is the first version of your product to be released to the market. It should be treated as an actual product and sufficient time and resources allocated.
Some companies may elect to have a user testing phase with the assistance of user testing companies. This is not always necessary. It’s far more important to continue collecting feedback once the product is in the mass market and undergoing real case use.
Picking the Right Software Development
The success of your MVP launch and subsequent improvements depends greatly on the development team or partner you are working with. When working with an internal team, you maintain a lot of control over the speed of progress. It’s also assumed that there are internal quality control mechanisms. However, it’s a little more complex when outsourcing the work to a freelance team or agency.
The development company entrusted with building an MVP should have a portfolio that demonstrates expertise in developing applications for your industry. Case studies and testimonials are helpful in this regard. A development company that has a constant stream of customers is great to work with because they are likely to be in step with the latest trends in app development and security. They will not stall your project to bill you for extra development hours.
Partner with NS804 to Build Your MVP
Before development work begins, it’s important to have a roadmap. NS804 works with clients to determine the problem to be solved through the app. We also help clients research the market and existing competition with a view to find the best route to launching a successful product. This is what informs the minimum viable product’s features. We scope the app before moving on to the development phase. To learn more about building an MVP, contact us here.