A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a failsafe way of testing the market’s waters and validating your product before allocating valuable resources to it. Hence, it is a vital stage for any startup, and you shouldn’t take its development lightly.
Have you ever dreamed of having a million-dollar app idea and then developing it? That’s the dream! In this day and age, when mobile and software applications are becoming necessary lifelines for our day-to-day activities, it seems imperative for businesses, especially startups, to get that million-dollar idea and turn it into a very successful application. After all, if everyone is doing it, it must be super simple, right? Not quite. See, app development is no small undertaking. Applications take extensive time and resources to build. Even if it’s a small, simple product, it requires quite a lot of planning, brainstorming, researching, designing, and prototyping, to name a few, all of which take a lot of human resources and time, and will probably not come for cheap. And even if you choose to invest the big bucks, nothing guarantees your app will be successful and that your target audience will love it. So what, then? Are all your resources doomed to go to waste no matter what? Luckily, that’s not the case, thanks to the Minimum Viable Product or MVP.
Developing an app can be a risky investment but no riskier than any other business venture when approached with care. Nobody can guarantee that any product, whether digital or otherwise, will be successful. All you can do is make sure your app development partner has the tools and knowledge to do proper research, plan, test, and understand your project to minimize issues and optimize its chances of success. In that sense, MVP development can be the best way to get your feet wet and test how your audience reacts to your app without risking everything.
So, before you dive into expensive, unplanned app development, read this article to learn what an MVP is, how it works, and how to develop it correctly as your product evolves. Let’s get started.
What is an MVP?
What do Amazon, Facebook, Airbnb, and Uber have in common? Aside from them being internet giants, they all had humble beginnings. Believe it or not, these, and many other successful app behemoths, started out as MVPs. They knew they were better off focusing on developing a simple product that fulfilled a particular need. In that sense, Amazon started as a book-selling platform, Facebook was Harvard’s social platform, and Airbnb started out as a rental application for its owners’ living room.
These companies identified a single, specific need and developed for it. They saved time, money, and other valuable resources by starting with a simple MVP consisting of only the essential, most necessary features and testing it, scaling as needed, and adapting to the market’s changes before going full scale. The rest is history.
As we already stated, MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. As its name implies, an MVP is a strategically scaled-back, elemental version of your mobile or software product that only includes the minimal, most fundamental components and features it requires to function correctly. Once developed, an MVP is released to your target audience to validate and test the application’s features and components and gather enough user feedback to assess the product’s viability on the market. That being said, an MVP, however simple, will still directly target the core needs of your end-users and will have enough capabilities and functionality to work just as a full-fledged application would. The main thing here is leaving out any extra features that may bloat the product unnecessarily. Doing so can help you save time and money and allow your development team to simplify the development process, releasing your product as fast as possible to collect valuable feedback from users with the least effort.
That last aspect is one of the reasons why building an MVP is so important. Why? Because startup failure rate is higher than you may be aware of and saving resources from the get-go may help you avoid becoming a statistic. In fact, according to studies, around 90% of startups fail. Approximately 10% of those close during their first year, and up to 70% don’t go past the five-year mark. The most common reason for failure is app owners misunderstanding the market needs, with more than 40%, a figure that only serves to highlight the importance of testing your product on real users before blindly investing all your resources in it. MVP development is the best way for companies, especially startups, to bypass these pitfalls and deliver products that can meet users’ needs and stand the test of time. But only when it’s developed correctly.
What does an MVP mean for app development?
Usually, app developers see the MVP very differently than our clients. No matter how hard we try to explain its importance and how valuable it is for product development, most clients never fully comprehend the essence of the MVP. We’ve actually had clients agree to develop an MVP but then start demanding countless unnecessary features and functionality without market feedback in a quest for success wrongfully driven by the old adage that more is better. Unfortunately, in app development, more is usually never better, and the purpose of this article is to help you not only understand the concept of the MVP but help you see why your app development partner, should you hire one, will likely start by building the simplest version of your product and build as they learn.
There’s a popular metaphor that accurately explains the essence of the MVP and the importance of iterating slowly. Think of a customer of yours who wants a car. In this scenario, the intelligent thing for you, especially if you’re a startup, isn’t to go ahead and blindly build a car from the get-go; this can get pretty expensive, and you have no idea what kind of car they want. Instead, the logical starting point would be to identify that client’s underlying need, which in this case would be getting from their home to their work faster. So, we start by building the smallest, simplest vehicle that fully works and can fulfill that need: a skateboard. Of course, your client won’t be instantly happy with it, but that’s ok; we’re learning, gathering feedback, and building in small viable increments to save time and money.
Anyway, your client thinks the skateboard is fine; he got to work in one piece but struggled a bit with balance. So, you add a scooter-like handle to your skateboard. Your client got to work without falling off, but he still kind of wants that car, which is fine. He’s using your product, testing, and giving us valuable feedback so we can keep building with logic. Next, he tells us the scooter/skateboard is too slow. He needs something faster, so we tweak the product, add features, remove any unnecessary elements, and finally give him a bike. He loves it, especially the feeling of the wind on his face.
By now, we’ve built a product that takes less time to construct and costs significantly less than a car while learning some valuable things about our client along the way. We learned he needs to get to work fast and loves the feeling of the wind hitting his face, which makes the bike perfect for him. However, he tells us he sweats a lot from pedaling all the way from home, so he has to pack a change of clothes and change once he gets to work, which is becoming a hassle. So the next iteration takes us to add an engine to eliminate the need for pedaling and give your client a motorcycle. This time, he has no complaints; he’s absolutely thrilled. He spends less money on gas than he would with a car, can park easier, gets to work faster, rides to his cabin on the weekends, feels the wind on his face, bypasses traffic, and looks cool. He doesn’t want a car anymore.
So what happened? We just saved you a ton of money, delivered your product sooner, and made your client happier by going with the MVP approach. Developing a car would have required us to implement complex features and functionality that your client would never use. So instead, we gave him exactly what he needed. This iterative approach, called the MVP, is the best way to find the most straightforward and cheapest way to solve your users’ problems. And, if your client realizes he needs a car down the road, we can use our knowledge to add or eliminate the necessary features to develop a car while keeping costs to a minimum and still meeting his needs.
What can an MVP do for your startup?
By now, you’re probably starting to like the idea of MVP development. You know what it is and how it works, but how can an MVP actually help your startup release a better product? Let’s find out.
1. It can save you money.
As we already learned, funding problems are one of the main reasons why startups fail. So, making intelligent monetary decisions from the get-go is crucial to ensure your budget’s integrity. That being said, one of the first questions you’re probably asking yourself by now is how much an MVP costs. Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all pricing for mobile and software products, there isn’t one-size-fits-all pricing for MVPs; that figure depends on countless factors. However, the average cost ranges anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000; sometimes, it can be more, and sometimes it can be less. On the other hand, a full-fledged application can set you back between $50,000 and $100,000, with more complex apps costing up to $300,000 or more. See the difference?
Foregoing all unnecessary features and implementations will not only reduce your initial costs but also significantly shorten your time-to-market, which can get you capitalizing on your app sooner. And, if, for some reason, your MVP turns out to be unsuccessful, fixing any mistakes or even starting over will cost you significantly less than starting over will cost you with a fully-developed app.
2. It gives your product a faster time to market.
Think of the MVP as a valuable way to give your product an edge over your competitors. While some of them may be struggling for months or even years to ship a complete application with all the bells and whistles, you can release your product and start outpacing them. This way, the faster you take your product to your market, the quicker you can begin to amass potential users, reach them, and interact with them in a quest to gather valuable insights to help your product scale. This ability to release your application earlier not only places it ahead of your competitors but can also start gaining you some valuable bucks sooner than you expected. In fact, MVP development takes, on average, around three months, a significantly shorter time frame than it takes to build a full-fledged app, which gives you a competitive advantage that, in the long run, can define your product’s success. After all, it’s how they say: time is money.
3. It helps attract investors.
Wouldn’t it be great to have millions at our disposal to make whatever idea crosses our mind a reality? Sadly though, that’s not the case for the majority of us. Chances are, you either have entrepreneurs investing in your application or you are seeking them. At any rate, investors are much more likely to believe in your product if they see it as a reality instead of an abstract idea or a work in progress. So, ask yourself, would you rather invest your hard-earned bucks in an actual product that’s already on the market, gaining traction and growing, or in a product that’s still under development and has no clear, tangible market presence? The answer is obvious, and any investor would feel the same way. So, MVP development is the perfect way of providing your current and potential investors with a functional, genuine product that they can see, use, and test, thus giving them a good, observable reason to believe in your project.
4. It allows you to test your product on real users.
We can’t stress this enough, one of the main reasons for developing an MVP is testing your idea on real users. You may think your app idea is perfect, and you may be right; any idea can be great on paper. But the truth is that it’s your users who will ultimately judge how good your app idea truly is. They’re the ones who decide what works and doesn’t, and that is the main reason an MVP is so valuable for any business. Remember, one of the main reasons startups fail is a lack of understanding and research of the market’s needs, so listening to your users and what they want can make the difference between failure and success.
Upon the release of your MVP, that initial user feedback is the best way to determine if your application actually has market relevance and fulfills a real need. You can keep gathering these insights to improve your product iteratively and avoid wasting time pursuing unfruitful developmental avenues. In a nutshell, an MVP helps you improve what works and drop what doesn’t, all without wasting your valuable resources.
A crucial MVP development mistake to avoid
During our years of experience, we’ve developed countless MVPs, which later became full-fledged, robust, innovative applications. However, we often see app owners get overly excited about their product coming to life. As we start showing them prototypes and early versions of their applications, new ideas come to life. Often, those ideas revolve around injecting too many unnecessary features and over-the-top design elements into an otherwise lean MVP.
We get it, it’s exciting to see your idea come to life, and you want it to look as beautiful as possible, but you must never forget, in MVP development, less is more. Just because your product doesn’t have fancy graphics, AI capabilities, and sophisticated interfaces doesn’t mean it’s not functional. If, after gathering user feedback, your app development partner determines your product actually does need those elements, then they’ll implement them. Otherwise, be confident they know what they’re doing and will always give you the best product for your users.
So, do you actually need an MVP?
Ok, so technically speaking, you don’t need to develop an MVP to release your product. However, going all-in from the start will almost certainly cost you down the road, and you’ll be risking significant losses that will almost certainly be much greater than if you had gone with an MVP in the first place. So in that sense, building an MVP should be the starting point of any development project. It is the best, most intelligent, and most efficient way of developing a low-risk and lower-cost product that you can escalate as you gather feedback. This feedback is priceless because it allows your development partner to build with a purpose as they collect and analyze actual market data instead of going in blindly. What’s not to love about that?
So, an MVP is your compass if you’re a startup and can’t afford to gamble all your budget on an application without knowing how your users will respond to it or what they want. It is the best way to test the waters without wasting money and secure a fail-safe entry into the mobile world. But do you actually need one?
MVP development is ideal for you if you:
1.Have budgetary constraints
As you learned earlier, an MVP is significantly less expensive than a fully developed application. Not only that, but it can also save you money in the long run by building only what’s necessary and leaving out unnecessary extras. So, if your budget is somewhat limited or you’re looking for investors, developing an MVP is perfect for you.
2. Have a groundbreaking product
Innovation is what makes the IT world go round. The more groundbreaking and innovative your app idea, the better. However, you need to be careful when you’re developing that idea into a mobile or software application. The rule of thumb in most relevant app development practices is that if your app idea is too new or too innovative, you need an MVP to gauge your market’s response to it. MVP development is the only way you can check if your idea has actual market value and see if it has a genuine potential of taking off. Trust us, the last thing you want to do is go full-throttle on a product that will later bomb because of a lack of market relevance. Also, new products and ideas have little to no competition, so you have no other way of validating your app’s offering and value proposition other than via an MVP.
3. Want to know what your users want
This point relates to the prior one. Whether your app idea is too new or you simply want to test the market before going all-in on your product, then an MVP is perfect for you. Yes, your app development partner will probably do a very robust research phase and gather all the relevant insights to build your product with a clear direction. Still, there’s no way of ensuring that focus is the right one until your product is actually in your users’ hands. With MVP development, you can invest a fraction of your budget in developing a functional but straightforward product and see how your users react. Maybe they want something different. Maybe they want additional features or less complex functionality. Whichever the case, you have real-time feedback and can learn and update as you go.
4. Need your app to hit the market fast
Not everyone wants to wait until they have a fully developed application to start capitalizing on it and start gaining users. Maybe your investors are waiting to see your product live, or perhaps you need to start earning those big bucks fast. Whichever the case, an MVP is the only way you can get a fully functional product in a couple of months and start seeing your investment in action. Nonetheless, no matter how fast you need to hit the market or how robust you want your app to be, it’s important to remember that MVP development is all about delivering a lean product. So, however, tempted as you might be to add countless features and heavy UX/UI design, if you really want to hit the market fast, you must trust your app development partner and learn to love your lean and simple but functional MVP; it is the only way to start capitalizing on your app soon.
5. Want to expand your user base early on
Having a good relationship with your clients is pivotal to achieving your business goals. Let’s face it; your clients are the ones who decide if your product, no matter how feature-reach it is, makes it in the market or bombs. In that sense, providing them with an early version of your app that is simple, straightforward, and solves their problems fast allows them to give you feedback earlier and allows you, or your app development partner, to gain insight from that feedback at an early stage. As a result, we have more time to adapt to that feedback and make the relevant modifications to build the product they want. Moreover, early adopters are more likely to spread the word on your product while providing feedback, thus allowing you to pave the way for an application that is fully user-centric.
Finally, taking the plunge and building your app idea is exciting. It’s easy to get overly enthusiastic when you develop your new product and be tempted to go full-steam when building a complex app from the start. However, before you get too invested in full-scale app development, consider building an MVP first. From our perspective and experience, MVP development is a foolproof way of saving time, money, and effort. It is a unique opportunity to gather priceless user feedback, check the product-market fit, and know your audience while verifying your app idea and building as you learn. Remember, developing a new product is challenging in and of itself. Add the plethora of competitors, budget tightness, and lack of market knowledge to the mix, and you have the perfect storm for failure. MVP development is the best way of sidestepping most of those issues, avoiding risks, and minimizing your expenses. So go for it! It’ll be worth it.
If you’re looking for an experienced MVP development partner, reach out to us! We have over ten years of experience in custom app development and can help answer your questions and understand all about MVPs.