6 Steps to Achieve a Minimum Viable Product

From an Idea to a Design

Unfortunately, not all ideas, even good ones, are a hit with customers. A company may have a great product in mind that solves a known problem, but, for any number of reasons — including timing, pricing, or presentation — customers just don’t agree. If a company spends time, money, and effort building the product and it’s a flop, they’ve done all that work for nothing. 

That’s why it’s smart to start with a version of the product that gives customers an idea of what it is, without putting too much into it upfront. This initial product version is known as a minimum viable product (MVP). In addition to reducing costs, an MVP can help companies establish a customer following, gather their input, and test the product. It can also serve to attract investors. 

At BairesDev, we use the MVP process for our clients to test their software development ideas. Here’s how we do it. But first, let’s explain a bit more about MVPs. 

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What Is a Minimum Viable Product?

A minimum viable product, or MVP, is an initial version of a new product that functions well enough to be used by customers but may not yet have all the features that will enable it to compete more aggressively in the marketplace. The purpose of an MVP is to enable customers to use its core features and provide feedback on how it could be better. 

An MVP differs from a prototype in that it is actually released for customer use, while a prototype is only built for internal demonstration and discussion purposes. 

In software development, before making a commitment to deliver a fully-featured product, companies create an MVP that customers can use well enough to test the concept and offer suggestions on what would provide them with a better user experience (UX). 

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive into the different steps you have to take to build an MVP.

Define a Problem

Whether you’re talking about shoes, cars, or software, the key to making a successful product is the same: solve a problem or fulfill a desire for customers. Zappos is a famous example of a company that started with an MVP. The defined problem was the inconvenience of buying shoes. The answer turned out to be the ability to buy them online. With software applications, the problem is typically a task that users want to accomplish or want to accomplish more easily. 

For example, a social media app solves the problem of not being able to communicate with multiple people simultaneously by enabling users to share information with friends quickly and simply. A recipe app solves the problem of having to search through multiple cookbooks or websites to find something to cook by providing a seamless search engine. 

In workplace environments, a project management application solves the problem of inefficiency by helping managers and team members understand workflow and stay on track with deadlines. An ERP solves the problem of challenges with resources management by allowing businesses to manage resources seamlessly. 

The first question to ask when starting the MVP development process is, what will your software enable customers to do that they can’t do now, or how will it enable them to do it better?

Study the Market and the Competition

If your software will replicate many aspects of existing applications, you must determine how yours is an improvement over existing options. The way to do so is to closely study the competition and learn how customers may still be struggling with what they’re currently using. Conducting a survey or hosting a focus group are good ways to gather information from potential users of your proposed product. 

When these sources tell you a feature they need, determine whether it should be included in the MVP. Remember that the “M” in MVP stands for minimum. Don’t try to integrate everything at this initial stage: just keep in mind that you can add more functionality in later iterations.

Design the Product

Use your knowledge of the problem/solution, your target market, the competition, and standard design principles to create a frictionless user experience. Again, the design doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles just yet. But it should still be a good concept that enables users to easily understand the interface and quickly perform each task. Imagine the software from your users’ perspective to determine visual and functional components.

Build the Product

While an MVP doesn’t need to have an extensive collection of features, those you choose should perform well and reflect real customer desires. Based on the design phase, come up with a list of possible features, and prioritize them according to customer needs. Then design the software with these elements. 

To ensure high quality, you should also test the software according to your normal process. During this phase, you can also be thinking about marketing and the strategies you’ll use to prepare potential customers for the release. 

Study Users

Now the product is ready for real users who will undoubtedly come up with use cases and scenarios you and your team haven’t considered. The ideal beta testers are as similar to your intended audience as possible. They should also be willing to be brutally honest with you about what works well and not so well with your software product. 

You can gather feedback in numerous ways, including surveys, focus groups, or just by watching them use the software, taking note of where they get stuck when trying to perform specific tasks. 

Refine and Launch

After you’ve launched and tested the product and received feedback from beta users, it’s time to ask yourself some tough questions:

  • Is the product good enough to pursue?
  • If not, could it become so with some reasonable adjustments?
  • If so, what additional features do you need to add to make it more competitive? 

This step begins a reiterative process of selling, receiving feedback, integrating new features, retesting, and selling once again. The key here is to continuously monitor product performance to determine what steps to take. At some point, you may decide the product is no longer viable, and that’s okay. The experience will help you bring to fruition your next great idea. 

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