Each of us is probably familiar with at least a couple of startup success stories that have started with an MVP. But in practice, about 70% of startups fail during the first years after launching. In order for your MVP to be useful and successful, you have to do it right, and here’s where our guide comes into play.
There is Something First-Founders Miss Before Building an MVP (But You Won’t)
In fact, there are several processes that some careless entrepreneurs forget to do before building an MVP for startups. As a result, the created product does not meet the expectations of either its owner or end users. Please take them into account so as not to repeat other people's mistakes.
Start with an Extremely Simple Product
Your first steps should be small to test the basic concepts and ideas. This means that instead of filling the future product with secondary functionality, it is important to implement only what represents its main purpose (e.g., the prototype). And only after the end users have successfully tested this concept will you be able to refine and improve your product.
Attract the Early Adopters Instead of Focusing on Attracting First Customers
MVP is primarily a research tool, not a marketing approach, so focus on the potential customers that can give you helpful feedback. This means that launching an MVP for public use is not the best idea, and it is much better to immediately decide on a focus group that will competently assess the viability of the created solution.
Skip the Long Market Research
Spending time and resources on passive research is less effective than testing the business idea hands-on. Even though you will spend more money on MVP development than on ordinary marketing research, after testing it, you will be able to build a very accurate, cost-effective model for optimizing and further developing the product instead of building your MVP launch strategy on guesswork.
Avoid Going Back to Well-Known and Familiar
Especially if you’re an expert in the field, avoid falling on the established practices instead of testing the unique approaches and listening to the users. Indeed, experts with many years of experience often think in a formulaic way, which prevents them from coming up with non-standard, innovative approaches.
Focus on Getting Feedback
Getting user feedback and properly using it is the essential part of creating a minimum viable product, and it will most likely help you design the final product. Thus, you need not only be guided by random reviews but to draw up a detailed test scenario and evaluate its results.
Goals of Developing a Minimum Viable Product
Now, it is important to understand what goals you will achieve thanks to an MVP. This approach will help you prepare competently for the MVP product development process.
Launch in Weeks, Not Months
Time is money, and when you launch an MVP, you can save both. Define your idea, collect feedback, and build on the foundation you’ve created and you will definitely outrun your competitors. Plus, with fast launching, you can be one of the pioneers in your niche business.
For example, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg states, “Done is better than perfect,” which means it's better to create an MVP app (it can be rather simple and just work) than to spend a lot of development time getting the perfect result.
Find Your First Customers
If your MVP is found by the early adopters, it might get spread by word of mouth (if your idea is interesting enough), thus gaining an interested and faithful audience. In addition, you will receive the most detailed feedback from your target users to improve the existing functionality.
Would you like to know how effective this advice is in practice? Just remember the legendary Apple products and the quote from the founder of this company, Steve Jobs: "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new." This means that instead of analyzing the needs and pain points of potential clients for a long time, it is more important to offer them something that works, which they can evaluate in practice and approve.
Get the Feedback, Especially if It’s Bad
Don’t dread the negative comments. Treat them as constructive criticism, and improve. After all, bad reviews are the most effective and powerful engine of any business.
For example, Microsoft founder Bill Gates states, "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
Iterate Until the Problem is Solved
Everything in our lives is cyclical, so why not adopt the same approach in development? So iterate until your target audience validates your solution. In addition, the iterative approach allows you to eliminate existing errors with the least risk, especially when it comes to complex projects.
The importance of this recommendation became apparent after we learned that Jeff Bezos invested a hundred times more money in usability testing when launching Amazon than in marketing.
Avoid Hard Turns
At this stage, you might come up with a brilliant idea that might not suit this particular project very well. It is better to leave it as a plan B rather than doing a hard pivot. Thus, you insure yourself against high costs and possible setbacks.
In particular, Elon Musk tweeted one day: “It's OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket,” which meant that it was better to follow one idea because it is easier to control.
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Biggest Mistakes First-Time Founders Make
It seems that we figured out how to act. Now is the time to find out what mistakes you may encounter on the way to implementing the MVP.
Selecting a Wrong Priority
You might spend a lot of time and resources solving the problem users don’t care about. Listen carefully to what they have to say and avoid personal biases. This way, you can not only avoid unnecessary spendings but also focus your attention and efforts on something really important.
A typical example of product failure due to this problem is Google Glass. Endowed with redundant features, products under this trademark were cosmically expensive for their target audience.
Working with an Unqualified Team
Even the best ideas can be botched by terrible execution, so choose your team carefully. In particular, when it comes to startups, it is better to hire highly professional staff rather than looking for budget specialists with little work experience. They can be included in the project at the optimization stage of an already tested product.
Want to see a real-world example of a product that failed because of this error? Meet Beequick. Due to poor management, the company could not cope with customer flows and soon went bankrupt.
Adding Excessive Features
A product overloaded with features will confuse most people, and the feedback you’ll get from the early users will not be as helpful. In particular, you run the risk of collecting most of the truly informative reviews only on secondary functionality at a time when it would be much more valuable to get feedback on the main features.
A typical example of this mistake is the Russian web project KupiVIP, which, due to excessive functionality, was unable to raise the required amount of money to implement its plans.
Delaying the Launch
The longer the MVP product launch takes, the more resources and efforts you spend and the less information you gain. Furthermore, you risk losing the advantage of being unique to your competitors. Therefore, choose only proven and experienced specialists who will definitely not let you down with the deadlines.
The canonical example of a failure associated with this mistake is the Electroloom project. Apparently, the project launch timeline was very limited, which led to an extremely poor user experience.
Ignoring the Research
Listen to the data whenever you can, even if it goes against your personal views and beliefs. It is great to have your own vision of the product, but if it is not approved by the majority of the end users, all your efforts will be pointless. So when you make an MVP app, don't let your emotions get the best of you.
Want real examples? For example, the Standout Jobs platform did not take care of collecting high-quality feedback (as a result, no one wanted to use their product), and soon after the launch, they had to sell their company.
Lack of Defined Goals
You need to have clear priorities in mind; aimless shambling in the dark is not the way. This is especially important when developing an MVP when you have some budget and deadline restrictions. This means that you simply cannot do without a competent and detailed business plan.
As for real-life examples that have made this mistake, they include the Essential Products startup. Probably, their development team did not meet the expectations of the real users and as a result, they didn’t provide them with an intelligent assistant and an alternative to Android and iOS operational systems - Ambient OS.
Life Hacks for Creating Minimum Viable Products Extremely Quickly
Let’s find out several useful life hacks that will significantly speed up the work process when you make a minimum viable product.
Implement the Bare Minimum
Let go of side ideas, implement the main one while keeping in mind to add stuff to the spec later. After all, as we mentioned above, spending time and money on secondary functionality carries with it some risks, among which is the likelihood of a competing solution entering the market earlier.
Document the Specifications
When you plan an MVP, you have to clearly understand your requirements for a future project. If you're having a hard time deciding on your specs – write them down to make it easier to stick to your decision. It's best to create a list of technical and non-technical requirements with your development company so you don't have to constantly refine your product vision.
Cut as Much as You Can
When you design an MVP, go through your documentation several times and get rid of an item at a time. So you will not only significantly reduce the scope of work for your development team, but you can also save on the project budget.
Try Different Development Approaches
When you create an MVP for a startup, you might like using sprint or developing ideas in a workshop – you’ll never know unless you try! In general, if you are working on a startup and planning to create a minimum viable product for it, you should consider all alternative approaches to software MVP development - perhaps the most non-trivial option will allow you to reinvent the wheel.
Choose a Different MVP Type
If your idea is too technically advanced for you right now – try making a concierge MVP or simply make a video on your main ideas. Thus, you will not miss anything important from your vision of the project, and a dedicated team of specialists will be able to grasp all the nuances of the future project that are extremely important to you.
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Product Development Cycle Basics When Building an MVP
And now it's time to learn the basics of forming an MVP cycle.
Define the Cycle Length
Planning the cycle will help you to control the development process and make sure the job is done efficiently. To do this correctly, you had better discuss all the details of the project even before the list of specifications is drawn up. In this case, you will get an accurate understanding of when the MVP can be launched.
Identify the Product Goals
Clear goals will make for a great lighthouse your whole team will go towards. That's why you don't need to distance yourself from your dedicated development team for a long time - this way you can not only follow the progress of the project but also motivate them in the right direction.
Brainstorming is great both for idea generation and solution determination, as it allows you to see the problem from a different point of view. To implement this event, you should invite specialists from different niches to get a comprehensive overview of the problem of a potential client of your product and on the ways to solve it.
Agree on Ideas for the Next Sprint
Each iterative cycle should have a clear beginning and end to make it easier to quantify the progress. To get a better understanding of how long the iteration should be, start from the main provisions of agile methodology, and after splitting the entire project into subtasks, allow them to be completed from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Determine the Measurements of Success
Establishing clear success metrics will make it easier to strive towards them. In particular, you should discuss them with the software testing team, who will test the product against specifications and common software quality metrics.
Test a Lot
Testing is important because it is the best way to determine whether the resulting solution can compete with its counterparts in the market and, in general, whether it will prove useful and viable in the eyes of the end users.
Spell Out the Results
Whether the project is successful or not – you need to face the results directly and learn from them. You may even have to postpone the release of the project to make changes, but trust us - if the edited product meets the needs of the end users as much as possible, it will definitely pay off in the very first months after its belated launch.
A Design Approach that Helps to Understand Your Users When Launching an MVP
When it comes to MVPs, focusing on quality UI UX is more important than spending time and resources developing a catchy and non-trivial user interface design. Leave that for later if you need it - at the stage of creating an MVP, it is much more important to create a product that would be easily used by an end user who was not previously familiar with it. In addition, with this approach, you will reduce the product implementation time because sometimes a non-standard interface requires a more complex technology stack.
Steps to Build a Minimum Viable Product
Finally, we have come to consider the main steps to build an MVP app. You can also learn more about how to build an MVP in our blog.
1. Create the User Persona
This is the first step of our “How to build your MVP?” guide. Note that MVP is not meant for a large audience. The point is that too many conflicting user reviews make it difficult to find a working product model. Therefore, you should narrow down your audience as much as possible. To do this, you need to form a portrait of an ideal user - a person who will definitely be satisfied with your decision. The more accurately you describe your customers, the better. In particular, you should be aware of the following data:
- habits, etc.
As a result, at the stage of testing MVP, you will be able to offer it to the most interested audience, which will leave you with detailed feedback.
2. Map Out the User Flow
After you analyze the target audience of your product, at this MVP stage, you need to understand the order of actions of real users at the moment when they first decide to use it. Here you will need to create a so-called user flow - steps to solve the problem for which your product was purchased. This flow should be short, simple, and convenient.
As a result, a detailed description of all the client's actions will help to understand what elements are missing and what details in the interface are redundant.
3. Prioritize the Features
As practice shows, an excessive number of features at the testing stage can confuse consumers. Therefore, first, highlight the main functions that allow you to solve the main problem of the product.
There should not be many such functions - one, two, three - and they will form the basis of an MVP. Sort all other features according to their importance - you will add them after the initial launch of the product and analysis of feedback from real users.
4. Build the Product
There are four main approaches to develop an MVP:
- Lean. This method assumes iterative development, which takes into account feedback from the end users at each stage;
- Scrum. This method is also based on an iterative approach, but in this case, after splitting the full fledged product into sprints, the first sprint is dedicated to creating an MVP. In turn, during the remaining sprints, the product is being finalized and improved;
- Kanban. This approach involves solving problems as they arise (one problem is one negative point of feedback from the end users). It is advisable to use it after the launch of the first version of the MVP to create the final version of the product based on feedback;
- Extreme Programming (XP). This approach is based on code simplification and constant team communication, testing, and frequent releases. Development cycles with this approach last no more than one week.
5. Test and Iterate
After completing the MVP, it is best to first suggest testing it on a small group of consumers (up to twenty people). If everything is ok with the product, you will be able to present it to real consumers.
After one to two weeks, you should process the feedback and suggestions for improvement in order to come up with a clear plan for optimizing the existing version of the product. These procedures must be repeated iteratively until the product meets the requirements of the main part of its target audience.
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MVP Design and Development Cost: Market Benchmarks
In order to determine the MVP average cost, you need to account for the complexity of the features you plan to include, how much time it will take to make them (both from the frontend and backend perspectives), and which technical solution you’re planning on using. Furthermore, you need to remember the QA aspect and analytics you will have to gather to make your MVP.
The location of your development team is also important, because, as you know, specialists, for example, from the USA, Australia, Canada, and Western Europe, possessing the same skills as their colleagues from Eastern Europe, have many times higher rates.
You can see this for yourself by calculating the cost of your project with a team from a country with a strong economic position and, for example, with our specialists. In general, the cost of MVP development usually starts from $4,000. But when it comes to websites and you plan to build an MVP website only (for example, a landing page), the costs can be even lower.
How to Measure Success After Building a Minimum Viable Product
Depending on the type of MVP you’ve used, the success metrics might include the engagement and sign-up rate as well as the number of users that are willing to pay for the product and how many good reviews it has.
For example, there are a number of objective averages of success for a free mobile app:
10% of registered users must open the application at least once a day, and a third - at least once a month;
- about 1% of users should leave reviews in the App Store;
- the cost of attracting a customer should be no more than a third of the customer's value (this is about $0.75 per user);
- at least 1.5% of users must make in-app purchases (if this is provided by the functionality of your application);
- the average daily profit per user must exceed $0.05.
Why Building an MVP with EPAM Business Anywhere is Different
EPAM Business Anywhere is not just a team of randomly hired professionals. Each of our professionals is an integral part of a single super-intelligent organism, which, thanks to its systems thinking, creates advanced solutions for different business niches.
Our people are constantly improving their practical skills to offer you advanced approaches and technologies for software development. And our efforts are justified - all our clients are extremely satisfied with the cooperation. Now, let's look at some specific examples.
In 2017, New Era decided to rebrand and expanded its services to direct sales to consumers. Through a partnership with EPAM, the company has received an advanced B2C e-commerce platform powered by SAP Commerce Cloud. As for an MVP, its implementation was completed in just 14 weeks. Then, just five months after the start of the collaboration, EPAM implemented a full-fledged website for North America (the USA and Canada), and a few months later, analogs for Mexico and Australia.
Therefore, the rebranding process involved some upgrades. In particular, the project team:
- provided top-notch, responsive, and intuitive B2C omnichannel platforms for North America, Mexico, and Australia with zero downtime;
- expanded the existing solution from B2B business model to B2C one;
- helped to gain a new image - a lifestyle brand;
- transferred existing solutions into SAP Commerce Cloud.
LV= collaborated with EPAM when they had the idea to digitally upgrade an existing solution. As a result, in just 13 weeks, the team carried out a massive market research study, and after 16 weeks, the team developed a three-year transformation strategy. In turn, the procedure for designing a new platform was delivered in just 9 months, thereby increasing the company's online quotes by 30%.
Here's what EPAM's team achieved:
- provided a digital transformation strategy, content strategy, and a roadmap;
- improved visual identity, design language, and tone of voice;
- conducted a 13-week customer research program;
- defined a new web architecture on Microsoft Azure and launched modernized LV.com on Sitecore;
- developed proposition for a new insurance product;
- created a data and personalization strategy;
- supported ongoing transformation through managed services.
We guarantee that you will join the ranks of those who have taken their business to new heights of success through cooperation with our team. So, if you are looking for the perfect development team, know that you've already found it. Contact us now to discuss the details of your project.
As you can see, the idea to develop a minimum viable product can be a great opportunity to research the market and simplify project development. If you are interested in quickly and efficiently testing your business idea with real users, contact us. Our team will implement an MVP in the shortest possible time and will prepare an excellent foundation for further optimization and scaling.