MVP design for startups
Posts like “I have a great startup idea. What should I do next?” are popping up on Quora and reddit every day with the same pattern mentioned across most of the answers (crashtest the idea → built MVP → gather feedback → pivot or not and pitch, pitch, pitch). If MVP development is covered extensively across the Internet, startups design aspect clearly needs some elaboration. In this article we share tips on creating MVP design for startups.
For a start, if you’d like to learn about MVP product in general, see our article where we define minimum viable product and discuss successful MVP examples from around the world and from our own portfolio. If you are pretty confident with the concept, go ahead with our MVP design tips:
1. Design should be there
By making a poorly designed product you are setting up your agile MVP. Minimum doesn’t mean that you can neglect such vital steps as research, wireframing, prototyping and testing. If you’re creating web UI, make sure you’re familiar with user interface web design principles. MVP design should also be in line with other elements vital for an early-stage startup: its tone of voice, images used in social media and newsletter design. Consistency is what will help you to define your early stage company, make a statement and contribute to building a strong brand.
When mobile was only coming into spotlight, startups could allow themselves to create something like this MVP application:
But now, as the competition grows higher and higher with over 1,000 apps added to Apple Store daily, MVP app or MVP website is expected to look closer to a finished product.
2. Establish the brand
Brand is the face your startup. People won’t recognize it among others if you put on a “face” from a toothpaste commercial. Meerkat might not be as popular as Periscope, but you can definitely recognize this video streaming app among tons of others due to its friendly icon and interface:
From left to right: Younow, Stre.am, Meerkat, Ustream
See our article on app icon design tips to learn more on how to start up with icon design and make your app stand out. Marketing and design go hand in hand and it would be hard for you to engage the audience with a half-baked design.
3. Emotional is good
We all have heard that a startup should solve user problem with a unique value proposition i. e. address a vital pain point with a solution no one else offers. But how come startups like Petcube and Whistle get so much attention, not to mention funding? The secret is simple: they are emotional. So even if the product seems to be not very touching on the surface, find emotional value proposition you can build into your MVP design. To do it, answer the question “How should user feel when using this startup product?”:
- App for tracking family members should make users feel safe.
- Service for finding a doctor should provide confidence.
- App for job seekers should offer hope and encourage for active job search.
That’s why sometimes founders prefer to speak about minimum lovable product vs minimum viable product. We believe that no matter how you call it, your product needs to be emotionally attractive. And it’s something that can’t be faked. Happy Startup Canvas we wrote about earlier is a great way to start with identifying the mission and values of your startup.
4. Features that need validation go first
Although MVP software is created to validate a specific hypothesis, it often contains some standard product feature like registration box or saving data for offline access. Those are not part of the hypothesis but since MVP can’t do without them there’s a temptation to make them exceptional. Don’t do that. Most early users won’t remember the creative Instagram-like login screen plus you’ll be spending valuable time on things of secondary importance. Instead focus on what’s vital:
- If it’s a chat software, chat windows and contact list is what should be designed first of all. Here’s Thismo case study on exactly that.
- If we are talking about online publishing tool, a good idea would be to prepare a sample publication including all the components the tool allows to use. See our case study on CourseYard.
5. Test MVP and change
With MVP you should be ready to implement changes in a quickly manner since they can be vital for the startup success. Your efforts should be led by MVP testing and use feedback. For example, when developing app for finding a doctor we conducted hallway user testing and found out what was wrong with the mockup. You can read more on it in our IsDocIn case study. A good idea is to record sessions so that you can have all the raw data on startup design available to you:
If design aspect is overlooked when creating a startup, it can undermine its effectiveness since you can’t make first impression twice. That’s why you should:
- Allocate time and resources for designing and prototyping.
- Make sure MVP design reflects your core values and evokes right emotions.
- Focus on designing features that reflect your hypothesis.
- Test and improve design based on user feedback.