Best Practices for Building a Successful MVP

Every successful startups built a great MVP as it shortens the learning cycle to create the best version of their product

Mobile App
13 December 2019

A Minimum Viable Product is the cupcake version of the grand and fabulous wedding cake. Success stories of Amazon, Spotify and Airbnb show how little sweets became enormous pastries. 


What is MVP?


A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, while also providing feedback for future product development. Building an MVP is a great way to test your product in the market. Gathering insights from an MVP is often less expensive than developing a product with more features.


Purpose of MVP


Building a minimum viable product (MVP) is an iterative process designed to identify user pain points and determine the proper functionality to address those needs over time. An MVP provides quick market entry and a foundational user experience that allows companies to learn how users react to the app’s core purpose, and with this insight, make logical decisions about how to achieve both business and product goals. 


While building an app, you must understand that the whole idea of MVP is divided into two main parts. The first part refers to business and marketing; because of the MVP, you are now able to launch a survey to find the best marketing approaches and the advertising platforms that could be used for the advancement of your product.


The second part refers to the technical aspect. Through an MVP, you will be able to execute important programming and designing features, which, in turn, will help you make your product unique.


What are the Key Types of MVPs?


There are several special variations of MVPs, which could be used by the programmers to advance their projects. Usually we can identify five main types of them:


1. Wireframe

2. Mockup

3. Explainer Video

4. Landing Page

5. Software prototype

Steps to Build an MVP


Today’s most successful apps use an MVP process to show beyond a doubt that people will use the product and build functionality over time based on user testing data and feedback. 

1. Build an MVP for a core set of users


Consumers often don’t know what they want from a product until the concept is introduced to them. For this reason, it’s difficult to validate a product; people aren’t explicitly telling you what they need. Many companies have released apps over the years only to discover that users don’t need or want the product, and as a result, waste a lot of time and money. 


It’s important to identify who your customers are; if they need your product, how often they’ll use it, which features and functionalities they like the most, and which ones they dislike. By focusing on a targeted user base, you’ll be able to accurately refine your findings to improve your app with iterative updates. 


At times, it happens that ideas do not fit into the market needs. Before you initiate an idea, ensure that it fulfills the target users’ needs. Conduct surveys, because the more information you have, the higher your chances are of success.


2. Market research


Defining your target demographics requires not only understanding who your users are, but also their full backgrounds, specific needs, and which devices they use. Based on these findings, organize bite-sized pieces of common characteristics into user stories. 


Examples could include: 


“The user needs to move efficiently from one destination to another during rush hour”

“The user is a smartphone owner and uses multiple apps"


User stories like these are useful tools for discovering your customers’ pain points and what they serve to gain from your product.


Also, do not forget to keep an eye on what your competitors are offering, and how can you make your product idea stand out.


3. Create a product roadmap

A product roadmap is essential for guiding the strategic direction of your mobile app development. A roadmap is designed to communicate the “why” behind what you’re building. When you begin your project, it’s important to remember that a roadmap is not set in stone; instead, it is made to accommodate ongoing change. It’s a complicated process determining what aspects of your app will be the most valuable for your user base.

 

The most important step in creating a roadmap begins with product discovery. Product discovery will help you articulate and defend your product’s mission, the problem it solves, its target users, and its unique value proposition. Start with a high-level strategic vision. During product discovery sessions, you need to come up with a plan for what your app will accomplish, why, and for whom. Don’t stress the granular details, or feature requirements for that matter, instead focus on how the roadmap fits with the strategic direction of your business.


This top-down approach to planning makes it easier to identify priorities, as well as elements to set aside for later product releases.


4. Consider the design process & user flow

Design the app in a way that is convenient for users. You need to look at the app from the user’s perspective, starting from opening the app to the final process, such as making a purchase or delivery. In addition, user flow is an important aspect as it ensures you do not miss anything while keeping the future product and its user satisfaction in mind.


To define your user flow, it is necessary to define the process stages; and, for that, you need to explain the steps needed to reach the main objective. Your focus should be more on basic tasks rather than features such as finding and buying the product, managing and receiving orders. These are the goals that your end-users will have while using your product. When all these procedure stages are clearly laid out, it is time to define the features of each stage.


5. Prioritizing features for an MVP

When you begin prioritizing the features for your product, you should start by answering these questions: what is the number one problem my users are experiencing and how will the functionality of my product solve that problem? During the MVP planning process, it’s critical to limit the number of features you’re prioritizing and focus on only what’s necessary to take your app to market.


To identify the features that support your MVP’s core functionality, it’s recommended to create a master wishlist of all the features you want your product to offer eventually. From here, you can start organizing and cutting features to keep your MVP lean. A common best practice for determining the necessary features for an app MVP is employing the MoSCoW matrix.


MoSCoW is a prioritization method that stands for must, should, could, and won’t. This method is used to determine what features need to be completed first, which features will come later, and which features to cut entirely. Identifying the essential requirements for your product up front dramatically reduces scope creep. Often as a project progresses, more features come into the light, and if you can’t scale back the features in the should have or could have sections of your MoSCoW matrix, it could blow up the MVP. The MoSCoW method keeps the scope of your project on track, and if too many features are unnecessarily deemed a priority, the timeline, the budget, and the ability to achieve business goals suffer.


6. Build, gather feedback, measure and make iterations

Once you have decided upon the main features and have learned about the market needs, you can create your MVP. Keep in mind that a prototype is not lower quality than a final product, and still needs to fulfill your customer’s needs. Therefore, it must be easy to use, engaging, and suitable for your users. 

Review everything thoroughly after launching the MVP, i.e. collect your client’s reaction to the release. User feedback is a gold mine of information to help you pinpoint the areas where your product is doing well and what areas you need to improve. This information will help you decide to stay on the track you’re on, or pivot and change direction entirely. Examining user feedback and tracking user behavior will tell you more about what your users want and what they need from your product.


When your initial product is minimal and features updates are iterative and driven by real user feedback, you’ll be able to adjust your product roadmap and respond properly to market demands. Developing an app iteratively is the best way to identify user needs and build quickly. 

  

Companies with Successful MVPs


We’ve gathered these 4 examples of successful MVPs to show what startups should focus on when it comes to developing that key MVP feature set.


1. Airbnb

 

Shortly after moving to San Francisco in October 2007, roommates and former schoolmates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia could not afford the rent for their loft apartment. Chesky and Gebbia came up with the idea of putting an air mattress in their living room and turning it into a bed and breakfast.

 

The goal at first was just “to make a few bucks,'' as they said in interviews, but then they realized that matching bed and breakfasts with customers could be a goldmine. Brian and Joe took a few pictures of their loft, created a simple web page and soon enough had 3 paying guests. They put together a website, but they kept struggling to find people to use their platform. So, the San Francisco company chose to target the audience of Craigslist. By providing an option for homeowners to automatically post to Craigslist, Airbnb reached lots and lots of prospective users. Cutting out the middleman and providing short-term renting is the key mission statement behind Airbnb. 

 

The rest is history. Today, Airbnb has a yearly income of $2.6 billion (2017).

 

2. Amazon


Sometime in the beginning of the 1990s, Jeff Bezos read a report about the future of the internet that projected annual web commerce growth at 2,300%. Bezos created a list of twenty products that could be marketed online. He narrowed the list to what he felt were the five most promising products, which included: compact discs, computer hardware, computer software, videos, and books. Bezos finally decided that his new business would sell books online, due to the large worldwide demand for literature, the low price points for books, as well as the huge number of titles available in print.



Hence, Amazon was founded in the garage of Bezos’ rented home in Bellevue, Washington. The website was very simple: just a catalogue of books. If a customer ordered one, Amazon bought it straight from the distributor and shipped it. In the true spirit of a minimum viable product, they kept iterating on it. They made it better and better and better, each time driving costs down and margins up. Each time, delighting more and more customers. Each time, growing bigger and bigger.


Over the years, Amazon started to sell more products, bought warehouses, and personalized their website for each visitor. According to Forbes, Amazon is now the world’s largest retailer.


3. Dropbox


In his book The Lean Startup, Eric Ries, co-founder/CTO of IMVU talks about how Dropbox tackled the question of market viability by demonstrating their product in a video.


Dropbox decided not to make any product at all. Instead, they pretended they had it ready by creating an explainer video. They wanted to check if their file-syncing idea is anywhere close to being interesting to people. They could've built a whole hardware infrastructure, develop apps and so on, but that was a risk they weren't willing to take. If the idea would have failed, Dropbox founders Arash Ferdowsi and Drew Houston would lose precious time, a lot of effort and money. Overnight they attracted over 70k of people who left their emails and wanted to get the products as soon as possible. 


Their explainer video served as a brilliant validation of the market before the founders ever had to invest in the infrastructure and development needed for a high-tech product like theirs to reach a functional level in the real world. It walked potential customers through what the product is and clearly demonstrated how it would help them, eventually leading to why they would want to pay you for it.


When it comes to product development, it’s easier said than done but when you’re building an MVPs, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


4. Spotify


Spotify is another great example of how implementing only one core feature, instead of getting distracted by different cool features it would be nice to have in your MVP, can help you to succeed. They wanted to build the best music streaming service and for their MVP they concentrated on a single most important feature - music streaming. Spotify developed a desktop app and run a closed beta to test the market. While the MVP product and a freemium price model was proving to be exactly what people wanted, Spotify team spent time on signing even more artists, simultaneously developing mobile apps and going overseas to conquer the US market.



Currently, Spotify lays claim to 248 million active listeners and 113 million subscribers in 79 markets globally. The Spotify mission is to unlock the potential of human creativity – by giving millions of creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it


How did Spotify get where it is today? The answer is simple. Spotify grew into the app it is today because of the company’s ability to act on user feedback and learn from in-app user behavior.


Successful apps follow the “build-measure-learn” cycle for the purpose of developing a small, quality product to test. By using the principles of MVP development, Spotify could release iterations of their product to ensure long-term value and user alignment, gradually. Over time, Spotify discovered new ways to add value to the listener experience while helping artists use the mobile app to maximize the impact of their music at every stage of their marketing funnel. On top of incorporating new features to delight users, Spotify also strategically aligned every addition towards achieving specific product goals. 


Conclusion


An MVP aims at solving users’ core problems with the app, by identifying the pain points and then focusing on offering viable solutions. The best way to build a minimum viable product is to use a manual-based approach, with landing pages, and email lists. All you need is brainstorming, planning, developing & designing, testing, and advertising for the product within a specified period. This results in maximizing your project’s value to potential customers. 


Building an MVP will help minimize project resources and maximize efficiency, ultimately leading to lower cost, fewer risks, and higher quality overall.


If you plan to build a new digital product, you should definitely consider this strategy. Don’t forget to have a professional consultation first, a qualified team will be a great decision here. Starshot Software team will help you build a cutting-edge digital solutions that harness the latest advances in digital transformation.


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