If you came up with an idea of excellent service or app solving user problems, don’t hurry to spend money on developing a fully-fledged product and don’t prepare yourself for months and months of hard work behind the closed doors. According to lean startup methodology by Eric Ries new product development starts with finding an answer to the question “Do users actually need this product?”. And MVP concept will help you do it.
What is MVP?
MVP (minimum viable product, sometimes mistakenly referred to as minimal viable product or minimum value product) is a product that allows you to receive a meaningful feedback from users, understand what they need and avoid creating something they won’t use.
According to this concept the idea of your startup is a hypothesis. In order to check it you need to follow these steps of startup product development:
- Clearly state your hypothesis.
- Identify criteria used to test it.
- Create a minimum viable product to test you hypothesis and launch it.
- Check effectiveness indicators.
- Draw conclusions and check the next hypothesis if necessary.
MVP for startups doesn’t mean a product that is raw and was created in a hurry. Minimum here means that minimum time is spent on development and the product itself has only key features available. Those key features correspond to the hypothesis you are checking. A research showed that 60% of features are actually never used and consequently aren’t vital to the end users. MVP concept allows you to reduce startup project launch time by concentrating on the key features only and start receiving feedback on your product.
But getting feedback is not the final stage. MVP is a part of the lean methodology which is based on following the repeating cycle of development, measuring, learning and getting feedback. That’s why the next step would be improving your product based on the feedback from users and re-testing it. If it goes as planned, you can create a fully-fledged product and start winning the market.
Why startups need MVP development?
Even the most unique idea is simply a concept and not the end product. By building MVP you can:
- Save up money by not investing into a project bound to fail.
- Check whether the product you envisioned is appealing to users.
- Find out using iterations which of the possible development courses will lead your product to success.
- Gather information about potential clients and find early adopters of your product (also known as “lighthouse customers”).
Steve Blank, the author of customer development methodology, says that the main reason why promising projects doesn’t make it is that they fail to invest time and effort into deeply understanding their customers. Instead of learning about their vital needs through MVP product development and launch startup founders draw themselves in work centered around perfecting the initial idea which was not tested in the wild.
Companies that started as MVP products
Spotify MVP developers sticked to the main function: online music streaming. After learning closed Windows app beta-testing results developers managed to secure deals with big record labels and gain substantial investments for their startup project. Today with 60 million current users Spotify is worth $8.4 billion.
Spotify is also one of the large websites using Symfony2 PHP framework.
Foursquare MVP product had only one feature: check-ins and badges for them. After studying user reaction MVP developers started expanding it and added recommendations and city guides. Today service brings together 50 million people that checked in 8 billion times.
Service offering short-time rent to travelers started with its owners renting their apartment to few participants of San-Francisco design conference. They made photos of the place to create MVP in a form of a simple website and soon were welcoming the guests. This way startup owners managed to check whether their idea of short-term rental would appeal to users.
Before checking their hypothesis about group discounts, Groupon creators started a website called The Point aimed at finding like-minded people to accomplish some goal that can’t be reached otherwise. But the idea needed to be more focused. So Groupon founders created a customized Wordpress blog to manually post information on group discounts. After users signed up for a particular discount, a PDF file was sent to their email address. This way Groupon founders managed to test their hypothesis (users like the idea of getting a good bargain) with minimum effort and investment.
Today MeinFernbus is a leading company on German long distance bus transportation market. In 2015 it merged with Flixbus with new company covering 76% of the respective market. But MVP we developed together with MeinFernbus IT team was quite simple:
- User goes to the website.
- Chooses route and date.
- Buys ticket.
- Prints it out.
- Shows the ticket when boarding the bus.
MVP allowed to buy tickets only for several buses going between Freiburg and Munich. Some of the operations were manual and users could only pay with euro.
When MVP was successfully checked on practice, we started expanding it:
- It became possible to reserve place for bicycles, use vouchers, return tickets and make changes to them.
- The number of routes increased and project architecture was rewritten to work with higher loads.
- A separate portal for partners and agencies was created and we developed apps for Android and iOS.
When buses started going to Switzerland, support for Swiss franc and new payment options were added. A complex system of financial reporting was created. Nowadays the company continues using procedure for buying tickets that was tested with MVP but underneath it lies a very different and complex system.
See our case study to learn more about MeinFernbus project.
MVP for CourseYard was an e-publication tool with formatting and inserting interactive content features.
We have also prepared a sample publication and developed an Android app for viewing publications on the go. See our case to learn more about CourseYard MVP project.
According to the research that studied 3200 fast-growing mobile and internet startups, in 74% cases the reason of the startup failure is a premature scaling: company revenue from new users turns out to be lower than expenses incurred by providing services to them. This problem emerges from the lack of knowledge about the needs and preferences of the target audience. But you can evade it: order MVP development and adjust your initial startup hypotheses according to the actual data gathered with MVP.
Studio stfalcon.com offers MVP application design, web and mobile product development for startups. Our team will be happy to help you succeed as a digital entrepreneur.