What was a critical step some of the biggest startups, including Facebook, Airbnb, Dropbox, Twitter, Uber, Spotify, and Foursquare, took before releasing their polished apps to the world? They introduced a minimum viable product (MVP).
The MVP was a seed that grew into multi-billion-dollar companies for many of these huge names. And while there is no guarantee that your startup will follow suit, this important step can lay the groundwork for success to come.
An MVP is an initial approach to your idea that, while not fully developed, can show you (and your stakeholders and users) whether you have something worthy in your hands. But, being an incomplete version of your idea, it’s natural to ask the question – how do you know if your MVP is ready to launch?
What’s an MVP?
An MVP is a product that has the critical requirements and the lowest number of features it needs to be successful. The model is built to meet the needs of early adopters. Businesses spend the minimum amount of effort necessary to validate the product and demonstrate that it has potential in a larger market.
Many types of businesses across different industries use MVPs, but it often plays a particularly important role in software development, especially in teams using agile methodologies.
Bear in mind that an MVP isn’t a prototype, which is solely used in an internal capacity — an MVP, meanwhile, is meant for real consumers.
Why Do You Need One?
The main purpose of an MVP is to collect feedback from real users that you can use to inform and improve your product. Essentially, you’ll be able to find out if your idea has legs and gather information about how you can make it even better to satisfy the needs of a wider audience. At the same time, you’re spending the least possible amount of effort and funding to make a real product.
It’s also an ideal solution if you want to release your product to market quickly. This way, you can get it into users’ hands and work on improvements once it’s already available.
Is Your MVP Ready? 6 Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Does It Meet My Business Goals?
The first stage of product development is usually outlining your goals for the project and determining how they align with your business goals. When considering if your MVP is ready for deployment, you should go back to those initial goals and think about whether or not it successfully addresses them.
Ultimately, you want your MVP to fulfill its purpose for existing. While you may be releasing it to collect feedback to refine your idea, you still need it to successfully address the overarching business goals the product itself is supposed to meet.
2. Does It Address My Minimum Requirements?
With the word “minimum” clearly in the name of this product, it should be obvious that it’s a no-frills version of your idea. That means that it must meet all your absolutely critical requirements — the ones that are in the very definition of the product itself — and contain none of the bells and whistles that are “nice to have.”
Once you’ve proven that your idea has merit and can succeed in a real market, you can work on incorporating the features that aren’t critical but could make your product even better. In fact, an MVP will be helpful in determining which features will actually allow your product to thrive.
3. Does It Solve a Problem?
Hand-in-hand with the minimum requirements is the problem your product solves. When you came up with the idea, you defined the objective — the issue you planned to address by creating it. Even though your MVP is an early-stage version of the product, it must still address that core objective and, at the end of the day, solve that so-far unsolved problem your consumers face.
4. Have I Tested It Internally?
Just because this isn’t the fully fleshed-out product, it’s still one for public consumption. Because it’s NOT a prototype — one for internal use — the MVP should be thoroughly vetted by your internal team. It must go through all the proper channels, including quality assurance (QA) testing to clear it of bugs and defects and ensure that it functions properly.
If possible, you should also test your MVP out on internal audiences that aren’t closely involved in software development. For example, perhaps your marketing or finance teams could try it out and offer feedback from a non-technical perspective before you put it in the hands of real users.
5. Have I Garnered a Trustworthy Audience?
An audience you can rely on is key to getting what you need out of deploying your MVP. It’s important to gather live users and consumers who will give you honest, meaningful feedback. It’s a good idea to pinpoint people who are actually interested in your product and might really use it through market research vehicles like targeted advertising.
Once you have an audience to provide meaningful feedback, find ways to solicit it. For example, match the problems you want to solve or the type of feedback you’re looking for with open-ended questions to ask about them. Be sure to investigate how and why they would use the product, as well as improvements they can suggest.
6. Do I Have a Roadmap for Improvements?
Before you deploy your MVP and find out what exactly you need to do to refine and improve your product, create a plan for how you’ll actually go about implementing these changes. You should, for instance, have a clear methodology in place for determining which suggested features you’ll incorporate, having a system for establishing a hierarchy. You should also determine which channels the improved product will go through before the next release.
In other words, you don’t want to have useful feedback available to you without knowing how to act on it. Creating a roadmap before it’s out of the gate will allow you to make meaningful adjustments quickly.
An MVP is a critical step to take before releasing your product to a wider audience, one that will allow you to help your product be the very best it can be. If you’ve answered “yes” to all these questions, then it’s clear: it’s time to get it out to your audience.