MVP software development opens the same door for you that YouTube, Spotify, Dropbox, FourSquare, and Groupon walked through.
Are you an IT startup? Then you and a tightrope walker share similar courage. You have a great idea and vision. Are you sure you will successfully reach your goal?
No. No one ever is 100% sure. But there is a way to find out if your idea will catch on.
Start with MVP development services.
MVP software development helps you find out if your product is a welcome addition to your users’ app world before you invest too much in your idea.
“MVP” stands for “minimal viable product”.
MVP is a minimal functional version of a new product that can collect user feedback.
Successful startups react in real time to user feedback. Fundamental studies show that 93% of startups changed their initial business model based on user feedback (Amar Bhide, professor at Columbia University in his book “Origin and Evolution of New Business”). Successful companies consciously or intuitively follow the MVP principle.
You are not the first startup in the world. Those who preceded you—and succeeded—have already formulated strategies for startup success. Learn through their experience and listen to their advice.
In this article, we review the basic ideas of an MVP in general and the role of MVP in software development for startups.
1 What is an MVP?
MVP – the classic definition
The main idea using an MVP first is to test the market with a bare bones version of your product. This MVP version could be quite simple.
But it must contain the core feature on which your great idea centers and upon which you stake your future.
An MVP contains one core feature set you want to present to the world. One.
It is a very interesting and nontrivial question when a product becomes an MVP.
Eric Reis, author of “Lean Startup”, gives the following advice:
Invent a product
Cut half of the product functions
Cut half of the remaining functions one more time
Again, cut half of the remaining functions
Finally, you cut your initial product eight times. Simple?
Suggest an MVP to your target audience. Find out if they need it. Find out if they like it. Learn exactly how they would use it.
Research results might surprise you!
Here is an insightful video from Eric Reis discussing the realities of building minimum viable product.
MVP – the things you should remember
Please, pay attention to three focal points:
- An MVP must work. It cannot be a half-developed or non-functional product. Rather, an MVP is the simplest version of the total desired functional product—a hint of great things to come! It should be able to tackle users’ need/desire, at least at some level.
- Your product should be not only an MVP, but also MLP – minimum loveable product. This means that customers would love to use it—even at a basic level.
- Track user clicks through your MVP software screens. When collecting user feedback, pay more attention to what users DO than what they say.
- Pay little heed to user answers in feedback polls. In-depth research shows that people might skew poll information for various reasons. For example, they might want to please you, not offend you.
MVP – the life cycles
The whole MVP life cycle includes the following five steps:
“Rinse/repeat” until your target audience values your product. Or, until the product proves to be inviable.
Do not let negative feedback mislead you or throw you off. Just take it into account and generate a new idea for the next MVP cycle.
There is always a chance to pivot and improve in the next round. This is the essence of an MVP!
Going through MVP cycles, you will understand what your target audience needs and wants.
And, what they are willing to pay for.
2 MVP software design – what you need to know
It is interesting to learn how large successful companies grew from an MVP into scalable software solutions with millions of dollars invested in them.
For example, Dropbox started with a 4.5-minute marketing video. It described their unique file sharing idea. And, it brought the young start-up overnight success getting thousands of subscribers the first night. With that, they were able to develop the minimum viable product described in the video. This fabulous video is here:
Each of the successful companies mentioned at the start of the article repeated the MVP cycle many times offering new and different features. They repeated this step until user feedback was substantially positive—positive enough for them to make business decisions to move forward.
In other words, they used the “rinse/repeat” process of software development.
The minimum viable product development process has its own rules. Take them into account when developing your software MVP.
These rules are:
What does this mean for your MVP?
1) Your MVP must be scalable.
This means your MVP must allow seamless and easy addition of new functions on top of it in new cycles. To do this, developers include a scalable architecture in your MVP application. They do this from the very beginning.
Scalability is never an afterthought.
Yes, you are building a small MVP, but aiming for another Dropbox phenomenon, right? Let your MVP serve as the base for future development, not just a one-day launch.
2) User Interface design. The MVP should also be an MLP. (Remember?) Easy and intuitive wins every time. Also remember to program user Interface design to allow interface scaling in the future.
3) Testing. Yes, even small MVPs need testing to ensure users will get what you want them to.
4) Timeline. Develop the most basic piece of functionality first. But there are many necessary actions to take during your MVP software development. These include architecture, design, programming, testing, management. Thus, it is necessary to find out the shortest possible development cycle for your MVP creation.
5) Budget. Budget for an MVP varies depending on your resources on one hand and the complexity of your idea on the other. Your MVP must illustrate the technical viability of your idea. Sometimes the MVP idea might be quite innovative and challenging for implementation. Sometimes, it is necessary to test if it is possible at all! In this case, be prepared to pay until tests prove that your idea works.
6) Management. Managing cyclic MVP development with all the constraints described above should never be undervalued.
To keep your minimum viable product development secure and on track, find an experienced team with a good management track record.
Is it possible to combine all the factors above in a single software development process?
Yes, our experience shows that Agile development methodology permits this.
There is a special management philosophy behind Agile. It is a team-centric philosophy. This allows organizing a flexible development process from within the team. High standards and continual interaction make this a formidable process.
MVP Agile development has the following advantages:
- Development work is organized with short iterations. This fits perfectly for MVP development. Each iteration has a new and improved MVP at the end. This allows a continuous development process with an unlimited number of MVP cycles.
- Each iteration is a mini project and takes from two to three weeks. This is the shortest possible time to produce a functional completed piece of software.
- Each iteration includes architectural changes, design, development, and testing.
- Each iteration is budgeted separately. This gives you time between iterations to find investors and funding for future iterations, if necessary.
We have used and continue to use Agile development methodology to develop MVPs for many of our clients. We find it to be very effective, convenient, and cost saving.
For example, we have been working with Peakfactor, one of our greatest and oldest clients from Germany. It is precisely based on the Agile method.
Our cooperation with them started with a small intranet prototype. The client requested a basic example of a custom network for a closed community of pharmacists. We developed the prototype as a classic MVP. The MVP was successful, and the product has grown considerably since then.
Now we continue working together. Based on the Agile approach and iterations, of course:). You can read Peakfactor case study here.
Do you also want a reliable team who takes good care of the technical side of your MVP?
3 MVP software development – way to go, brave startup!
Let’s summarize the main facts about an MVP:
- A minimum viable product software is a good strategy to develop your startup.
- MVP lets you test your ideas with the least amount of investment. With an MVP, you can make effective business decisions based on feedback from real users.
- The technology of MVP software development has tested and proven rules.
- Agile development methodology is a good way to proceed with software from an MVP creation.
- Of course, you need a technical partner who can implement your ideas. But not just any technical partner will do. You need a technical partner with in-depth experience who gives you suggestions on how best to implement those ideas in a minimum viable product.
- Do not be afraid to make mistakes and get negative feedback from your MVP users. Do not be afraid to change your ideas. This is exactly why you chose an MVP!
It is far better to change your idea after the first or second MVP than to spend a lot of time and all your resources on a finished product that the market neither likes nor needs.
Only 40 % of startups become profitable. 20% of all fresh-baked startups are out of business just within the first year of operations. A discouraging number, yes?
How do remaining startups succeed?
Starting with an MVP!
Remember – 93% of them change their initial business model during the early stages. They use an MVP to understand market demands and to choose the best way to grow. Learn from their experience and be open for experiments!
How long should it take to build an MVP?
This depends on scope of work. Launching a simple MVP is possible with 3 – 5 months of software development. If an MVP requires extensive work on back-end development (e.g., heavy calculations and/or a big number of users is expected), MVP development timeline can be extended to 9 – 12 months.
Is MVP agile?
Yes, MVP is an Agile way to market test a business idea. The MVP concept rests upon letting users try the core of a product. Still, a startup continues to improve an MVP based on user feedback until a sustainable business is possible. A sustainable business is unlikely within one try but it becomes a reality after a series of experiments. This is why startups must be flexible and agile when creating and reworking their MVPs.