What is MVP in Software Development?

Agility is the feature that matters the most in the tangled world of software development. An ability to move fast, adapt to the situation and predict possible turn of the events gives your business a strategic advantage over the competitors. One of the elements that enable agility and secures successful proceeding is MVP aka Minimum Viable Product.

You might ask “How so?” - well, here’s the deal.

Getting the product to the market is always a gamble. Even though there is a healthy share of research, business analysis, risk assessment, market projections and sheer belief in the produce, there is a possibility that it might not work out the way it was planned. There are many reasons at play.

Sometimes initial market research shows one thing but in reality, it is slightly different and it drastically affects the performance of the product on the market, which leaves a lot of questions about what went wrong.

So what exactly does MVP do? 

What is MVP?

Minimum Viable Product is what can be described a version of the product that contains basic minimum required set of features that constitutes the essential elements of the product - i.e enables its value proposition and makes it useful to the target audience. MVP is one of the results of implementing agile development philosophy to the process and key element and retaining a certain level of flexibility of the product.

MVP is a kind of a proof of concept prepared for the market and specifically designed to test market performance and target audience reception.

Usually, MVP is aimed at early adopters' segment who’s got the knack for tackling something new and can generate additional buzz around the product, but it can also be tested among a broader audience.

minimum viable product example

Minimum Viable Product vs Prototype: What is the Difference?

The difference between the prototype and MVP is somewhat vague and highly dependent on the context in which the terms are used. Commonly speaking, MVP is a functional prototype. The one that is prepared specifically for the market in order to understand its prospects based on the audience reaction and less so in comparison with the competitive products.

However, a prototype can be also interpreted as a non-interactive version of MVP designed to show what is where and how and why (also known as clickable prototypes or sketches.) Basically, a presentation to the client aimed to show how an idea can be realized in a certain configuration.

Why is Minimum Viable Product Important?

MVP can be best described as a mid-point between the earlier stages of the development process (including prototyping) and the final product. In a way, MVP defines the direction in which the product will take later on. In all seriousness, it can be considered as the most important stage of the entire development process.

Basically, MVP aka “minimum viable product” is MVP aka “most valuable player” for the project.

Here’s how it goes - you have the project with some forecasted goals and approximated expectations. However, this whole thing is theoretic with the references to competitive similar products. All this should be solidified according to real data and that’s where MVP kicks in.

MVP is a full-scale test of the product at its most basic in the real market situation. It tests the engagement with the target audience and measures their interaction with the product with a special attention towards the needs and demands.

The trick is that doesn’t have to be entirely successful in order to succeed. In case of an MVP, commercial success (purchases, downloads, or other conversions) is merely a consolation prize.

Either way, it will be valuable for the project. How? No matter the quality of the performance - it gives the information that constructs the big picture:

  • what is working and what is not;
  • what can be improved;
  • what should be added or removed.

This forms the basis for the subsequent developments. In one way or another, minimum viable product development makes a positive impact on the project.

Also, it should be noted, that in cases of the project with bigger scope and higher stakes, there might be several iterations of MVPs before releasing fully-fledged product.

How to Build a Minimum Viable Product: TAS Recipe

While there are many elements that depend on the context of the project, there are several components that remain the same in every project. In this part of the article, we are going to explain the key ingredients that constitute the development of an effective MVP.  

First of all, before any rumblings about MVP will start, it is crucial to clearly define its basic - what, why, how and what’s then.

In essence, the whole process can be summarized by the following checklist:

  • What is the target audience of the product?
  • Which segment of it can be used for testing?
  • What is the value proposition of the product?
    • What kind of “problem” it “solves”?
    • What is the core functionality that enables value proposition?
    • How is it different from the competitive products?
  • How can the product generate revenue? How much revenue can it draw in the long run?
  • What are the measures for success and failure of the MVP performance?
  • When can it be launched?

Now let’s go through key elements you need to be 100% sure of.

Define the Purpose of Minimum Viable Product

While defining a purpose of a particular element of the project might seem like an obvious thing to do - there is a catch. 

It is natural to think that if the overall purpose of MVP is to do a streamlined test run / crash test of the product in a real user environment within the actual market situation, then MVP should be just a smaller version of the final product.

Technically, it is true because both MVP and final product represent the same value proposition. But in reality MVP’s purpose is much more multi-faceted. It is a test of various elements of the product.

The purpose of MVP can be to:

  • validate the idea
  • test assumptions
  • gain feedback
  • showcase the potential

This neatly translates into the following technical terms:

  • Reliability
  • Usability
  • User Experience

Each element contributes to the product. Because of that, it is important to clearly define your expectations beforehand in order to get what you want.

Restrict to Core Features

Every product consists of a feature set divided into categories. Core features that make it valuable, features that enable customization and make the product convenient, engaging or anything else to the user and so on.

The thing with MVP is that it is always tempting to take a little bit more instead of focusing on what matters. While there is nothing wrong with trying to test as much as possible, chances are that you will dilute the feedback and in the end get less focused insights.

Here’s a breakdown of prioritizing features that can help to define which feature is which: 

  • Must have - speaks for itself;
  • Should have - could live without but will be nice;
  • Could have - within the realm of possibility but inessential;
  • Won’t have - something possible that the product could live without.

Each category is important in the long run, but there are core features that make the product and there are features that augment the use of the product. Core features are the most important and require full confidence thus must be thoroughly tried and tested.

Know What to Expect and How to Measure It

The purpose of MVP is to get a glimpse of how the product is perceived by its target audience and how it might perform on the market. Given that - it is important to define what is expected from MVP to accomplish beforehand and not in the process.

Why? Because you need to know what are you looking for?

There are several possible directions:

  • You might focus on core functions and user experience.
  • You can make a try-out of several design schemes. 
  • You can even make a dry run of monetization techniques. 

The thing you get either way is feedback and it is important to know how to measure it in order to understand what is right, wrong and what to do next.

While feedback can be represented in a textual form of comments, reviews and other types of responses, there are also several internal metrics that are important to keep an eye on. Such things as retention rate and bounce rate are key to understanding what can be improved in the product.

Embrace Feedback

Customer feedback is the key element of improving the product. It is a little bit of truism but there is a reason why it is so important.

Feedback matters because of a biased point of view you might have after spending a lot of time developing the product. The thing is - you can’t see much of your product actual state after you’ve spent some much time nurturing it.

On the other hand, those for whom this product was developed are able to see through it and point out its problems.

How? It is relatively easy to read patterns in responses and reactions. These patterns reveal more than words. Even the most negative review got a bit of reason deep inside. However, it is not the case with clearly insulting responses. Those are just garbage.

MVP launch gives you an opportunity to make a better product and adjust it even more to the demands of the target audience.

Make a Small, Contained Launch

One of the biggest difference between MVP and the final product is the ways it is launched. The main difference comes obviously in the goal of the release.

In the case of the final product, you present the product itself, promote it, et al.

In the case of MVP, your mission is to watch how it will perform on the market and what customer feedback will be. As such, there is no reason to go to Broadway. Quite an opposite - it makes sense to make a smaller launch aimed at the most hardcore part of Target audience that will surely provide legitimate feedback.

What Are the Advantages of Minimum Viable Product?

A Swift Check of the Product Viability

The single biggest benefit of deploying MVP is that it gives you an opportunity to see how your product performs in the real market situation. Given the fact that in order to compete you need to offer something valuable and distinctive to the target audience it is better to know whether it will get over before you go all guns blazing.

While it is not exactly a priority to build a successful product at this stage - in case if MVP performs poorly, it can expose the weak points of the project and show which elements must be improved before moving on.

A Better Understanding of the Target Audience

It is one thing to know what your target audience needs and wants in the particular service segment according to interactions with the competing products. It is a completely different thing when they interact with your product and provides some form of a feedback (downloading the product, leaving the comments, even reviewing, etc). MVP helps to clarify the needs and demands of the target audience and put it into the context of the product, which is invaluable for its future prospects.

Also, MVP helps to develop a more focused marketing campaign and target it precisely to the target audience with the most engaging messages.

Time  / Money Saving

One of the most challenging things in software development is to get the budget right and minimize possible overspending. MVP can be helpful because it requires slightly less time to produce and can provide valuable information regarding what features or elements of UI can be improved upon directly from the target audience.

This tactic gives you an advantage in the long run because you will avoid dedicating time and spending money on something that will not be beneficial to the product’s users.

Generating Early Buzz / Establishing the Product

There is nothing tougher than trying to establish the product in the segment from the ground up. Even if the company has a reputation - each product requires their own build-up in order to succeed.

MVP can serve as more than feasible means of generating an early buzz. This is the first step in establishing the product and if the first impression is positive it may lead to more organized hype campaign that will lead to a release of the finished product.

How does it work? Via early adopters. You see, there is a specific audience that is interested in all things new and unknown. You can use them for the benefit of your product. Not only early engagement can lead to a more productive relationship (up to brand ambassador) but it is also an easy way of generating early buzz through credible influencers.

Conclusion

That is what MVP is about. If you want to know in detail How to make a successful MVP - we’ve got something of a one-size-fits-all evergreen recipe for your consideration.

Also - if you have an idea that can be potentially transformed into an MVP - you can count it down with a little help from our web calculator.

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