MVP Development Do’s and Don’ts: Startup Survival Kit
While many startups begin with a dream in their pocket and a twinkle in their eye, not everyone makes it to the top. Hoping for an easy ride, tons of tech entrepreneurs get bummed out when things don’t quite turn out as expected. Their polished products, jam-packed with cool new features, create little or no value, and ultimately turn into sheer sadness. Companies go under and startups tank because there’s no need for their product in the market. If only there was an easy way to start simple and small, see if your idea rocks and build momentum! Thankfully, there is – it’s called the minimum viable product (MVP) and it’s a game-winner!
From zero to hero?
Launching your very own startup has probably been on your bucket list since forever, and now you are ready to shoot for the moon! In pursuit of your tech dream, you’ve set your mind on building a well-architected, fully-designed and ready-for-use product that will blow the market up and get customers and investors flocking. After all, shouldn’t you roll out your very best idea right out of the gate? Well, this is where dreams often remain just that – dreams…
There’s nothing worse than burying yourself in your laptop for months refining and perfecting your app, only to discover no one wants your ‘final’ product. While risk lies at the heart of every entrepreneurial venture, your idea should be market tested well before you invest an inordinate amount of time, effort and money into building something nobody cares about. Your first job isn’t about building the world’s prettiest app. It’s about validating your assumptions without losing your shirt. There’s a world of difference between what we assume our customers want and what they actually want. A quick launch can show you if your business idea is worth pursuing. That’s where MVP development comes into play.
Rome wasn’t built in a day
Believe it or not, the Twitters, Facebooks and Instagrams of the world have come a long way since their humble beginnings. Their earliest versions looked nothing like they do today. Prosperous companies don’t just spring up from nowhere. They all get started with a simple MVP app to get things off the ground. An MVP is the customers’ first exposure to your product, an experiment, if you will. Even if it’s a little rough and rocky at first, it’s easy to tweak into a better version for release, as it gets adopted.
Perfection through subtraction
Building an MVP is about doing the least to learn the most. In other words, you scale your product’s grand vision down to the bare minimum of core features to test your concept with real users, get immediate real world feedback and iterate until you have a product that your customers will fall in love with. An MVP helps you work smarter not harder. It takes less time and money to get your product to the market and gives you the most bang for your buck.
We have identified a set of MVP best practices that can help you validate your market hypothesis, maximize learning, and get people buzzing about your product. Let’s dive in!
Don’t get off track
The sky is NOT the limit in software development! As your app starts coming to life, your heart is swelling with euphoria and tons of ideas are swirling around in your head. “Why don’t we try…?” or “What if we added…?”. When this happens, you risk veering off the path of getting your MVP app into real users’ hands as soon as possible and start gathering feedback. It takes discipline to stay laser focused on what is essential to launching and validating your product. So, start basic and leave these adjustments for future iterations.
Do one thing well
If there’s one thing that startups are often guilty of, it’s trying to be everything to everyone. Yes, you want to start strong, but in its early days your product doesn’t have to be a catch-all. Focusing on fully addressing and viably solving one specific problem would be a good place to start. Another piece to building an MVP is narrowing down your audience. If you try to target too many users, you’ll never launch anything.
Here’s the key to MVP development: do one thing that matters, but do it really well. Make sure you’re giving users the end-to-end functionality needed to perform a specific task. Keep it simple and usable. Lock down the scope of your MVP, get the core right and give it to the public to test. Just wait until your customers tell you what to build next.
Don’t wait until your product shines
No one knows what perfect looks like. So, don’t let perfectionistic thinking get in the way, if you want to move fast. An MVP is all about getting your thing out there quickly to see if people really want it, even if it’s just the bare bones. Polishing your MVP app until it’s nice and shiny can turn into a waste of time if the idea needs to be pivoted. You can always add the niceties later, but now your goal is to learn as much as possible, as early as possible.
Trim the fat
A good MVP cuts out all the fluff that isn’t part of your product’s core value offering. One way to do this is to split your features list into:
These are the bare necessities, the absolutely essential functions that constitute the backbone of your MVP. You only focus on building those features that address your users’ primary pain points. Limit the first phase of MVP development to the Must Haves and test with your audience. This is how you ensure you get hold of the vital information for the smallest possible investment.
The features that end up here eventually should go into a finished product, but are not essential for an early-stage iteration. Ask yourself, ‘Can I hold off on these for now?’ or ‘Can we do this manually?’. If so, keep going! These features aren’t going away. You’ll get back to them later.
This is where all the bells and whistles go. I know you can’t wait to stuff your app with all those nice features that you just know your customers are going to love. You are free to do whatever you want, but only after you’ve tested the core functionality of your product. Otherwise, you risk taking things too far and may end up discovering that many of your app features (much less the app itself) are completely ignored by users.
These are the things you won’t do for your MVP. Constraints remind you what your product isn’t.
Now that you know what’s in and what’s out, you can move to building an MVP. If it proves popular with your users, nothing can stop you from chasing down your dreams.
Go from viable to loveable
If your MVP app is just a half-baked product with most of the features chopped out, poor design and the UX that sucks, users will soon give up on it and might not give you a second chance. So, don’t screw up the first time. Build a minimum awesome product that will make your customers smile. It’s not so much about having the right set of features or impeccable design, as delighting users with the quality of experience, even if you leave them wanting more. MVP development means striking the right balance between minimal design and maximum value and experience.
Build your tribe
Happy customers will happily tell their friends about your product. Word-of-mouth marketing happens around the clock if you have built a community of passionate customers around your business. Get people interested by telling them about your proposition in the explainer video, launch a landing page, extend your social media presence, get them to try out a prototype and collect their feedback, engage and inspire your users through blogging, encourage them to spread the word online, host a fundraiser campaign – grow your tribe of loyal users and brand advocates. It will go a long way.
Build, test, and learn
Think of an MVP as a series of experiments where you put your product in front of real users to test the concept and see where they find the greatest value. They are the only people who can actually tell you what you need to improve or remove. As user feedback comes is, you are likely to get tons of insights into missing functionality and unnecessary features. It will help you iterate or pivot your MVP to align it with your user’s needs. So, if they want a bunch of other features you never even thought of, then go for it by rebuilding your MVP app into something your users actually need. The product you’ve started with may not be the same product you will have in the end. Just so you know, it’s OK. With each iteration, you’ll draw closer to a fully-fledged quality product that customers will be stoked about.
A final word on MVP development
Building an MVP is a tricky business. So, don’t get discouraged if you have realized you’ve been heading in the wrong direction. Cheer up! You’ve just failed yourself a bit closer to success. An MVP is a stepping stone, not an end goal. The point is to learn and improve your product. Eventually, you’ll get it right.
Get off to a good start!