So you have your product idea, and you’ve done your due diligence (market research, competitive analysis, user research, and refined target persona.) What now? Building your Minimum Viable Product (MVP.) And that’s where MVP product management and MVP product development come into the picture.
The royal gardens of Versailles have maintainers to tame unruly hedges and architects that design the thing. And, probably—I’m clearly making this up as I go—head gardeners to direct the implementation of the designs.
They probably—you know, in the 1800 century—tried concepts out on a small plot of the lot. They tested different features and how they work with irrigation, functionality, and aesthetics. And then they spread them out to the rest of the garden.
…and with that overstretched analogy over, I’ll leave it at this: an MVP is the most stripped-down—functionality-wise—version of your application. But, of course, it’s still designed and useful (in fact, that’s the whole point—that it is useful, even in its most basic form.)
But with an MVP, you’re testing the waters, trying to (in)validate everything you’ve previously learned about users in practice.
And MVP product development means developing that stripped-down version, isolating the most important features, and executing them beautifully.
What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
So let’s define it more precisely—without any gardening tangents.
The term ‘minimum viable product,’ or MVP, was introduced by Eric Ries as a part of his Lean Startup Methodology. And, it’s defined as the “version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least amount of effort.”
With it, you’re trying to create a version of your product that provides enough value to early adopters, so you promote usage. So, you’ll be able to validate your idea early on in the product development cycle. Then, from your customer’s usage data of the MVP, you’re able to (in)validate the learnings you used to create it in the first place.
And from there, you’re able to iterate. So, you’ll know what works with the product idea and what doesn’t. Which features are most used and which aren’t. And, you’ll learn how to invest the rest of your product development resources moving forward.
With 38% of start-ups citing cash flow as the reason they fail, wise allocation of resources is imperative at all—but especially early—stages. The second greatest reason for startup failure, you may wonder? 35% cited they found there’s no market for their product.
So the goal of the MVP is to help you refine your offering and achieve engagement, retention, and product-market fit—early on. And, if you’re aiming for product-led growth—MVP product development is critical.
Your MVP is crucial for testing, designing, and delivering your final product. This is because you’re looking to whittle down how to deliver your solution best and add value to your customers in the most simple and straightforward way.
So, MVP product development helps you both on the proof of concept front and the business and market validation end.
How to Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
1. Market Research
We’ve covered market research at length—but it’s so important we’ll emphasize it here as well. One simply can’t build a product without knowing their market exceptionally well so that they can create for it.
It’s not enough to simply have a great product idea—it’s also essential to know what the market needs and what the target users lack. What gap is there to fill? Who else is trying to fill it, and how well are they doing it? Do they actually have the problem you’re trying to solve for them?
So, this is where you’ll want to pull out your notebooks and begin compiling as much robust qualitative and quantitative data on your target market as possible.
Moreover, this process encompasses primary research—user interviews, surveys, etc.—as well as secondary research, such as competitor research and any information that’s already out there about your market.
And, remember—it’s essential to (in)validate any and all assumptions you have about your target user—those you think you’re making and those you don’t believe you’re making. So, make a list of your assumptions, and begin proving or disproving them with the data you aggregate.
2. The Value Add
Questions to answer here would be: what does the product add to your users that they don’t have access to already? How does the solution benefit your users, and why would they choose to spend their hard-earned money on it?
Answering these questions will help you distill your value proposition—on which you’ll base the concept of your MVP product development.
Of course, you may uncover more information later, from releasing your MVP and getting actual user data. And with that new information, you may have to iterate on both your value proposition and your product build. But for now, you’ll have to work with the knowledge to which you have access.
3. User Flow Mapping
Or—how will users go through your app? What step-by-steps are for them to access different features, and what do they need to know or do to get the most value out of the application?
This step in MVP product development is crucial to the next (feature prioritization and ice boxing) because you need to know which features are the bases for the rest.
For example, if the user needs to land on a home screen to access the feature screen, which allows them to reach a secondary feature, you definitely need at least the home page in your MVP.
That’s a very elementary example—but you get the point. It’s all to do with how the user moves around in the app to reach certain objectives. So, keeping user flow mapping and information architecture in mind as you plan and organize your MVP features is essential.
4. MVP Feature Prioritization and Ice Boxing
When you go house hunting, they always tell you to have a “wants and needs” list. That applies here very well.
What features need to be there for the user to actually understand the benefits your product offers?
If you want to build a product that will serve as an early mechanism for adoption and retention (and you do—especially if you’re in the market for venture capital), you must consider which features are the most important for delivering value.
And the rest? Well, we like to call it “ice boxing.” Meaning throwing them to the side for future development, once you have more resources and more information.
Ice boxing is the best way to ensure you’re investing in the right things (features, designs, etc.) and walking into future product development equipped with all the user feedback and data you can possibly have.
Ergo, it’s time for some cold-hearted prioritization. First, list out your features, and rank them from high to medium to low priority in terms of adding value.
Then, in tandem, balance your priorities with your budget and, if applicable, your timeline. And from there—well, you’ve got yourself an MVP product development plan.
5. MVP Launch + Learning
Finally, it’s time to launch your MVP. But the buck does not stop here. Your MVP needs to function and fulfill your users’ needs as well as the full thing you imagined—so don’t compromise on its quality just because of its distilled feature set.
Make sure you’re doing usability testing for the designs before programming the thing and QA testing the MVP before launching it into the market.
And from there—well, it’s what we’ve been talking about this whole blog. It’s time to begin aggregating as much data and as many learnings from your new, actual users. In-app, optional surveys are an excellent place to start—but so is analyzing user behavior in the app, looking at usage flows, task time, task success rates, and overall engagement (churn, NPS scores, etc.)
With all of that precious and practical information, you’ll be set for your next iteration. You’ll know whether to unleash your frozen features from the icebox or pivot slightly (or a lot) to a different direction. But what’s most important here is to learn—learn from what you’ve built, measure how users reacted to it, and iterate to find your product-market fit.
Well, this was a lot. We know.
Coincidentally, hi, we’re Goji Labs—a product and software development consultancy with experience in designing, “rescuing,” and deploying hundreds of products.
Have any general questions about who we are and our authority on the subject?
– Goji Labs