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An MVP – or Minimum Viable Product – sounds likes yet another three letter acronym to get your heads around, in the increasingly complex world of app development. 

But in actual fact, MVP stands for a concept that you would be well advised to give some serious thought to, long before you start the process of developing an app or a website. 

So what is an MVP? And how do you go about defining an MVP for your business? 

The definition of a minimal viable product

MVP stands for minimal viable product which, as Amit Manchanda suggests, “is exactly what it says on the label: the product in its smallest, least featureful avatar that has just the basics, and only those functionalities, that demonstrate your product.”

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Chris Ciligot adds “MVP development follows a build-measure-learn process, which allows you to release a product that can be continually improved as you validate (or invalidate) assumptions, learn what users want, and build future iterations of your app that better serve your customers.”

Why would you want to create an MVP?

Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, actively promotes the benefits of an MVP, suggesting that “Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

Ciligot identifies three reasons for creating an MVP: 

  • an MVP will allow you to learn more about your end-user and the market you wish to enter as you test your assumptions
  • an MVP will also set the stage for future iterations of development and clarify the sequential steps to take in the project – whether that’s changing directions entirely, or continuing down your set development path
  • an MVP can also be used to showcase business potential and win stakeholder buy-in

What are the benefits of creating an MVP? 

Creating an MVP allows the business to launch quickly, with a small budget. And importantly, start learning early on what works – and what needs more work. With a minimum of risk.

An MVP therefore helps you find a balance between what you offer as a business to your customers and what your customers actually want themselves. 

According to Net Solutions, the benefits of creating an MVP are threefold: 

1. Validate early

With early launch, you get early market feedback to iterate and control your product evolution. 

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Is your app right for your target market? Creating an MVP allows you to test it earlier, with little financial and time risks in order to assess whether or not you get the green light to develop further. 

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2. Launch faster

Focus on building a set of core features that solve a definite product problem and allow you to go to market faster with your idea. 

This means that, with a slimmed down version for testing, there is less development time required, meaning you can launch in a fraction of the time it would take to development the all singing and dancing vision you have in your head!

3. Save money

Save valuable time and money by prioritizing the most important features – and shelving the new and useless.

By gathering user intelligence and feedback, you will have a much clearer idea about which features are most valued and which can be set to one side. 

What’s the best way to design and develop an MVP for a mobile app? 

When it comes to mobile app development, an MVP is the basic version of a mobile application. 

A new product is developed, complete with essential functionality, in order to test out how a target audience responds to it. 

Only once this feedback has been gathered and understood will the actual app, complete with full features and functionality, be built – and retested. 

The MVP development process for a mobile app should be seen as analogous with creating a slice (jam and all) of what will, in time, become the full cake – rather than thinking of building the Victoria sandwich cake up just one layer at a time.

How to plan an MVP for your product

In his article How to Plan a Minimum Viable Product: a Step-By-Step Guide, Chris Ciligot proposes 4 useful steps when it comes to designing an MVP: 

Step 1: Identify and understand your business and market needs

Essentially, this first step requires you to establish a business case for your app as well as fully understand what your competitors are already doing in this field. Only once you know exactly what the competition is doing can you articulate how your product will be different – and better.

Step 2: Map out user journey(s)

Customer journey mapping is widely accepted as a powerful tool for visualising the customer journey and something we have already covered in detail in our previous article How to get started with customer journey mapping.

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Step 3: Create a pain and gain map

Ciligot suggests that creating a pain and gain map “allows you to identify all user pain points and the gains the user achieves when each is addressed. This tactic lets you determine where you have the greatest potential to add value. You are then able to focus your MVP in these areas while adding the less impactful ones to your product roadmap for future releases.”

Step 4: Decide what features to build

It is recommended here that you give serious thought to what the user want versus what the user might need, in order to help Identify and prioritize features.  

Ciligot recommends that you “keep in mind, implementing too many user-requested features too soon can harm the user experience and take away from the overall purpose of the product. The only features you should include should be connected to your product’s overall goal.”

Use an MVP to significantly reduce your risk of failure

We all know that launching a new start up is inherently risky – 29% of startups fail as they run out of cash.

Whereas, done well, startups that scale properly grow 20 times faster than those that scale prematurely.

We also know that the popularity of mobile apps is increasing year on year – in fact, mobile apps are projected to hit $188.9 billion in revenue by 2020 – up from just $88billion in 2016 (Statista).

And the benefits of a mobile app over a responsive e-commerce website are well established, including the fact that mobile apps:

  • are faster
  • make it easy to cater for personalized experiences
  • offer instant online and offline access
  • can be coded into utilizing various features of a native device (e.g. the camera to scan PFDs, QR and Bar codes, GPS to connect with maps etc.) 
  • allow push notifications and instant updates
  • allow users to experience two-way immersive experience

So logic would suggest that there is likely to be a demand for your mobile app, assuming you have researched your audience and tailored your app to their specific requirements.

It is worth remembering that, as we have covered in a previous article, you can create a mobile app on a tiny budget. It needn’t cost the earth – and an MVP should ensure that you get the best product in return for your investment. 

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