Once you’ve tested your idea and confirmed that it works, it's time to work on a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). MVP is an approach to product development that results in creating a product with just the core features required to solve a problem. It helps quickly check if your product gets traction and gather feedback before investing heavily in a full product launch.
Let's have a look at the complete list of steps in the product development cycle:
In this article, we'll focus on steps involved in creating an MVP. They help build a product that meets customer needs and has a good chance of success.
In any project, the requirements gathering process is a crucial step — even if you've already done the idea validation and market/user research. Here's what you need to do:
Check out the product artefacts from the idea validation stage
This includes market research, customer interviews, prototypes/mockups, stakeholder and user feedback, and competitor analysis. These will give you info on the target market, product functionality, and what the competition is up to.
Make a list of features
Based on the artefacts, create a list of features that are necessary to solve the problem and meet the needs of your target audience. This should include both core features and any additional, desirable features that aren't strictly necessary.
Gather all the info in one place
Create a single, concise document that summarises the findings of the idea validation stage, along with the list of features. This will come in handy during the next stage: planning.
Planning scope, timeline, and budget
After you've gathered the requirements, you need to estimate the scope of the MVP, its costs and the duration of development. There’re several methods you can use: three-point estimation, work breakdown structure, function point analysis, use case points, etc. We often combine them to improve the accuracy of our predictions.
The scope refers to the features and functionality that will be included in the product. Keep in mind that the project scope may change as you move through design and development. For example, you can decide that it’s better to launch an app only on iOS and drop developing it for Android.
Your timeline and budget should be based on the scope and the resources you have available. When creating a timeline, expect potential delays. As for the budget, it should cover the cost of external resources like contractors or development agencies, as well as internal resources like team salaries and overhead.
Completing this stage will help the team stay on track, prioritise features, and set realistic expectations.
Design specs and analytics
Once you've determined the scope and timeline, your team can start visualising the design of your product. The result of this work is the design specifications. The design team typically creates these specs to communicate their design vision to the development team.
Design specs might include wireframes, as well as more detailed mockups or prototypes that show the design and functionality of the product in more depth.
Because of the limitations of the MVP approach, aesthetics takes a back seat. At this stage, design specs are used to create minimalistic user interfaces that are pretty similar to the wireframes visually. So, basic branding will do: pick some brand colours, fonts, and some key visuals like an icon.
Design specs also outline user flows that show the steps a user takes to complete a task in your product. Mirror these routes in analytics tools to track usage and collect data on how people use your product.
Then, the development team takes the design specs and builds the product according to the agreed-upon scope.
The development process for an MVP is usually iterative, which means that the product is developed and released in small chunks, with each iteration building on the previous one. This allows the team to get user feedback and continually improve the product.
There are a number of advantages to using an iterative approach to the development of an MVP:
The team can get feedback from users at an early stage in the development process by releasing small pieces of the product, and can use this feedback to make changes to the product.
The team can reduce the risk of developing features that may not be well received by the target audience through the release of smaller increments of the product.
The iterative approach allows the team to be agile and adapt to changes in the market or customer needs.
The team can reduce development costs by releasing smaller increments of the product, avoiding building features that may not be necessary or desirable.
Once the product is complete, it's time to test it to make sure it meets customer needs and works as intended. Testing can include manual tests, automated tests and usability tests. This helps to identify any potential errors or usability problems.
Minimum Viable Marketing
In addition to the product itself, it's important to have a marketing strategy in place to promote the MVP. Your main goal should be to get the product in front of potential users as soon as possible. This will help you gather feedback and data to assess the potential of the product and identify areas for improvement.
As it’s not a full-scale promotional campaign, don't invest too much time in marketing materials just yet. We recommend using a Minimum Viable Marketing (MVM) approach. It focuses on the minimum activities needed to test and validate the market demand for a product. And MVM is flexible and iterative — two qualities we love.
An MVM strategy typically includes the following steps:
- Defining the target market: Identify the specific customer segment most likely to buy the product.
- Identifying the key marketing channels: Find the most efficient channels for connecting with the target market, such as social media, email marketing, and online advertising.
- Developing a marketing plan: Create a plan for executing the marketing activities and measuring their effectiveness. The go-to-market strategy template can be helpful at this stage. Make sure to include vital metrics like conversion, return on investment (ROI), lifetime value (LTV), and customer acquisition cost (CAC).
- Testing and gathering feedback: Gather user feedback to see if the product meets their needs and find areas for improvement.
It might be a good idea to prioritise generating buzz and gathering feedback, rather than driving sales. After all, the MVP is likely to be an ongoing project, so launch results can be used to decide on the business model.
If you created a landing page during the idea validation stage, you can now update it with new materials.
One final point: marketing isn’t cheap. Even at the MVP stage, budgets can easily reach thousands of dollars.
Once the MVP is complete, it's time to release it to the market. This typically involves launching the product on a specific date and promoting it through marketing channels to test the viability of the product. It's best to shadow launch the MVP, rather than making it available to the general public.
Shadow launches, also known as "soft launches," involve releasing a product to a specific market or audience before the official launch. They let companies test the product and get feedback from a small fraction of potential users. It also allows them to collect data on user behaviour and usage patterns, which can be used to optimise the product or service. Plus, a shadow launch can create excitement and anticipation for the full launch and help reduce the risk of launching a new product or service.
There are several reasons why companies might use a shadow launch:
- Testing: A shadow launch lets companies trial a product or service in a real-world environment and acquire feedback from users before the full launch. This can help detect any problems or glitches that need to be fixed prior to the full launch.
- Gathering data: A shadow launch can be used to collect data on user behaviour and usage patterns, which can then be used to optimise the product or service for the full launch.
- Generating buzz: A shadow launch can generate excitement and anticipation for the full launch. Users who are part of the shadow launch may share their experiences with others, creating a sense of exclusivity.
- Managing risk: A shadow launch can help reduce the risk of launching a new product or service. Companies can test the product or service in a limited market or audience to identify and address any issues before the full launch.
Make sure analytics tools are working properly to monitor usage and get insight into user behavior. Accompany the release of an MVP with a plan for gathering feedback. This can include setting up customer support channels like a live chat or email address to provide users with help or answer their questions. Additionally, ask users to provide feedback through surveys or reviews.
Reaching the milestone of a shadow launch is a major step in the product development cycle. However, the work doesn't end there. Companies should use the feedback gathered from users to inform their future product roadmap and plan for expansion. This helps make sure the product stays relevant, competitive, and has a chance of success in the market.
Finding traction channels
After releasing the MVP, the team must focus on finding traction channels to drive usage and collect feedback. These channels are critical for startups, as they offer a way to reach potential customers and expand the business.
There are many traction channels available to companies, such as:
- Paid advertising: Launch ad campaigns using Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads to reach target audiences and track their success.
- Content marketing: Create and distribute valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. It can also be used to establish thought leadership, drive website traffic, and generate leads.
- Social media marketing: Use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to advertise products and interact with customers.
- Social selling: Develop relationships, identify and reach out to potential customers, and interact with them on social media. This strategy is most effective for B2B businesses.
- Community marketing: Focus on building and engaging with a community of users around a product. This can help to increase customer retention and drive word-of-mouth marketing.
- Influencer marketing: Partner with influencers — people with a large following on social media or other platforms — to promote products or services.
- Referral marketing: Encourage current users to refer their friends and family to the product, offering incentives to kickstart viral growth.
- Email marketing: Send targeted emails to a list of subscribers to promote products or services and increase conversions.
Companies should experiment with different traction channels to identify the ones that work best for their business. A good approach is to start with a small budget and test a few channels to see which ones drive the most results.
After the MVP has been released, it is important to demonstrate the progress made and the potential for future development. A demo is an effective way to present the product, show how it works, and highlight the value it provides to potential customers and stakeholders. This can help generate interest in the product.
After release, there are several steps to conduct an MVP demo:
- Determine the audience: The first step is to identify the target audience for the demo. This could include potential customers, investors, media outlets, or other stakeholders.
- Prepare the demo: The next step is to prepare the demo. This may involve creating a presentation or video to showcase the product, rehearsing it, and ensuring all necessary materials are ready.
- Set the agenda: It’s important to have a clear agenda for the demo that outlines what will be covered and the duration of the demo.
- Deliver the demo: During the demo, clearly communicate the value of the product and how it solves problems or meets needs. Be responsive to questions and feedback from the audience.
- Follow up: After the demo, follow up with the audience to address any questions or concerns, and gauge interest in the product.
From Minimum Viable to Minimum Lovable
Developing an MVP is essential for bringing an idea to life. Careful planning is key to ensuring success; from gathering requirements to designing specs, development, and release.
A successful MVP should show customer engagement, validate needs, and provide insights to inform future product iterations. It should demonstrate value and provide a roadmap for development. An MVP is invaluable for product development; it’s a great way to test the waters and ensure that the product meets customer needs.
The MVP approach paves the way for other, more complex versions of your product: for example, a Minimum Lovable Product (MLP). An MLP goes beyond the bare minimum requirements and includes features and design elements that not only solve the customer's problem, but also delight them. This is the MVP's more charismatic cousin, and it's the key to building a truly successful and beloved product.
Creating an MLP is similar to creating an MVP in that both involve identifying and addressing the core needs of the customer. However, while an MVP focuses on providing the bare minimum functionality to solve a specific problem, an MLP goes a step further by also incorporating elements that engage the customer. Additionally, while an MVP is often used as a way to test the market and validate an idea, an MLP is more about building a long-term, successful product that has a loyal customer base.