When you commence a custom software development project, your development company may suggest starting with an MVP, or a Minimum Viable Product. What is an MVP? Why invest time into developing a product that, as its name suggests, does the bare “minimum?” Why not use the time, money, and resources to push full-steam ahead with a full-scale application? Because ultimately an MVP is the simplest thing you can do to validate the purpose, value, and efficacy of your application to your customers, superiors, or stakeholders.
A minimum viable product, or MVP, is an early prototype of an application that features just enough limited functionality to validate your concept before the full development cycle begins. Maybe it’s one screen of a mobile application or one workflow of a CRM. No matter what it is, it should answer: Will this application perform as expected? Will it meet the goals of our customers? Are users engaging in the way we expect them to? If they’re not, where should we course correct?
During this phase, you’ll observe users, collect feedback, and brainstorm how the product can be improved. Maybe you’ll realize the app doesn’t accomplish the goals you set out to achieve. Or maybe you’ll realize your real users have entirely different goals than you originally imagined.
So why invest the time, effort, and resources into an MVP? As Agile Alliance says, “seeing what people actually do…is much more reliable than asking people what they would do.” Seeing is believing, and with an MVP you’ll develop an understanding of your users’ workflows and engagement without building a full-fledged product.
It may be easier to look at an MVP as a process, not a product. You’re identifying the application’s most challenging feature, forming a hypothesis, and then testing it as you would any science experiment. Using the data and user feedback you gather, you move forward. Or maybe you take a step back. At best, you’re proven right: users not only love the app but understand it. At worst, you may be forced to scrap your initial product idea and start fresh. But it’s better to discover this two months into your product development cycle rather than 12 months.
An MVP doesn’t only prevent you from developing features that don’t work, but also prevents you from spending time on features you don’t need. On average, over 60% of the components or functionality built into an application are not used at all. What if instead, you could devote those months of development to enhancing the features that do matter and improving the user experience?
If you still think an MVP isn’t worth the effort, some of the world’s most popular applications started as an MVP. Airbnb’s founders created a small website showcasing their own apartment to see how users would react. They received guests immediately. Meanwhile, Uber started in 2009, limited to the San Francisco area and only available with SMS. The team watched user behaviors, gathered data, and used this information to scale to over 80 countries.
When approached correctly, there is very little downside to an MVP. However, some teams focus too much attention on the “minimum” and less on the “viable product.” Limiting functionality too much will make it impossible for you to accurately assess your user base against your hypothesis. You need more than just a user interface or a button on a dashboard. You need enough functionality to see whether the larger vision for the application holds firm even after potential users test it.
So how can you ensure that you develop an MVP that doesn’t blow your budget, but remains a viable test of your bigger picture?
- Identify your stakeholders’ basic needs; what is the “job to be done”?
- Define your user journeys and user stories, or “personas”
- Create a list of the core product features
- Build and launch an MVP based around these core features
- Ask: “What will make this project a success?”
- Collect customer feedback through observation, interviews, and surveys
- Does this user data meet your definition of success?
Here at KDG, our award-winning software development team can help bring your vision to life. Our product development strategy has helped Fortune 500 businesses and other large enterprise companies build successful and effective CRMs, ERPs, and other business intelligence solutions. With two decades of experience and not a single abandoned project in the last five years, KDG is the only company that has the tools, knowledge, and technology to take your idea from concept to completion.