The number one reason that most startup companies fail (42%) is that there is simply no market need for their product. Many visionary start-ups get excited about their software product, think that it’s what people want, and rush it out with no intention of gauging whether it’s actually something that people want or need.
Worse yet, they may spend hours, weeks, months, or years developing and reworking something that doesn’t end up wanted by anyone.
That’s where the MVP, or “Minimum Viable Product,” comes into play. It is effectively a means through which a product is tested to determine if it solves a problem, and if it is something that people will want and use.
It contains only the core features that make it work, and it is simple as possible. It doesn’t mean creating a bad product and shipping out as soon as it’s developed to determine if there’s market – though it doesn’t not mean that either.
MVP is not so much a “product” that is built. Instead, it is a process through which a start-up can determine if their software is something that will be used –wanted, even, or needed– that will solve a problem, and that will find its place in the market.
The benefits of MVP include saving time and money, and finding it if your time and money are even worth it. Maybe you think you have the newest, best software app out there, but if it doesn’t factor in a vision, customer-focused, or problem-solving paradigm then it may sink you.
How do I decide what core features to include in my software MVP?
There are several methods out there that describe how to use MVP, and we’ve distilled them down for easier consumption. Perhaps the biggest issue with the concept of the MVP is that its definition and process are ambiguous, confusing even – so we’ve boiled it down to what you need to know.
How to Build an MVP For Your App Idea:
1: Understand Market Trends and Research
- Figure out who your audience is, keeping it as small and simple as possible, and do demographics studies into their habits, behaviors, and preferences
- Find out what your place in the market will be.
The best place to start is to understand the market and figure out the level of need for the kind of software that you’re producing.
If it’s a video sharing app, then how does it compete with Snapchat or Vine? Is it different, or more of the same?
If it’s a photo-sharing app, how can it stack up against Instagram? Facebook? Shutterstock?
Determine what’s out there, and figure out where you fit into the market. Better yet, figure out who your audience is before you get started, and perform as much demographics studies as you possible can to figure out what they’re clamoring for. It’s best to start small.
Determining your audience will determine the problem they’ll want to be solved.
Talk to your customers! Talk to your friends, your employees, your potential audience and figure out what they want and what they’d use. Talk with them about your ideas and get feedback from them on whether it’s viable or not.
2: Develop a hypothesis
- Figure out what problem you’re trying to solve, and who you’re solving it for
- Don’t worry about proving yourself correct – worry about learning
This part is where you’re going to determine what problem your software is going to solve. What’s important in developing an MVP is not whether proving your hypothesis correct, but in learning what is right or wrong about it.
Example: I think that a software app for freelancers to help them manage their time and money is going to solve the problems surrounding taxes and getting overcharged.
Take that hypothesis and begin developing your product with its core features with the problem you’re solving in mind, and the audience that you’re solving it for. With the above example, you’ll need a time tracking component, and a money counting component. That’s it.
You’re solving the problem of freelancers losing track of the cash flow coming in and the time they’re spending on each project.
Remember that the hypothesis, and thus the scientific method you’re deploying, is about building, measuring, learning, refining, and repeating the process in a feedback loop. You want to keep refining your product to determine what the best manifestation of it is.
3: Take your MVP – or the Idea of your MVP – to market.
- Utilize low-cost methods of gauging interest in your software product
You don’t need to have actually produced your product to start learning. You just need to make sure it’s what some people want. You can do this through several methods.
Email Sign-Ups. Create a landing page that details the features of your product, and see how many people sign-up to receive it when you go to market. If it’s a lot, then you know you’ve got something special on your hands. Offer premium deals for those people who sign up to determine if you’re audience is into that sort of thing.
Google Forms. Crowdsource opinions and feedback. Get people to answer questions via survey to figure out what they want.
Focus on the Problem. Start big. Figure out the large problem your software is ultimately going to fix, and then finish small. Figure out what smaller component of the big picture your initial MVP can solve and take that one to market. If it gains interest, then you know you’ve got a solution to a problem that people are responding to.
Listening to Feedback. What part of your product is holding it back from ultimately achieving your vision and solving the problem you’re trying to solve? Figure out a way to get customer feedback and listen to what they like and don’t like, and what’s preventing your product from being the best iteration it can be.
4: Refine your MVP. Repeat the process.
- Take what you’ve learned and fix it
The most important part about the MVP is learning, taking your findings back to drawing board, and brainstorming new solutions to solve the problems your MVP revealed about your product. Do people not like the UI? Do people not utilize the push notifications? Do they enjoy the software but don’t want invasive in-app messaging?
It’s important to figure out measurable, data-based, and quantifiable metrics to gauge what is right and what is wrong about your software. Set measurable goals and objectives before going in to determine what needs to be fixed. Is it the number of people who sign up for an email newsletter? Downloads? Retention rates?
Keep iterating your MVP, changing and altering what you can based on feedback from your audience, and work towards solving more and more problems as you work towards the largest problem you think your software will solve.
It’s most important to remember that this a process that utilizes feedback, problem-focused, and customer-serving methods. It’s about learning, about figuring out what’s right and wrong about your product before you spend money you don’t have and time you can’t afford to waste before releasing your product’s final state with all the core features and bells and whistles.
This stage is about learning – not selling, not immediately solving the product, not gaining ten million subscriptions. Learning. It may take some time, but it’s worth the investment.