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MVP development - Before you start

What is an MVP?

MPV is short for Minimum Viable Product. The concept was coined by Eric Ries (author of "The Lean StartUp" to describe a no-frills version of a new product that allows teams to collect a maximum of validated customer insights – at a minimum of effort and input. The obvious benefit of this approach: it allows companies to get valuable user feedback early on while saving sizeable costs. In other words, an MVP can go live and address potential needs with only the essential features. Creating an MVP is an iterative process that can take several rounds – you stop once the outcome serves its purpose.
iterative process
How an iterative approach works: Read more

Are you ready to start an MVP?

Depending on your particular project, the following could prove invaluable before you start actual MVP development:

Is an MVP the right choice for you?

The most obvious cases for MVP development:

  1. You are an aspiring start-up founder looking to validate your business idea – the fast & cost-effective way.

  2. You want to “sell” management a promising project, but could use some strong data to back up your case and secure the intended budget. Since MVPs are a great way to test and release a venture, including actual customer feedback, they will make a strong case – and, if greenlighted - can quickly pivot into proper development.

  3. You run a start-up and would like to outsource the risk and investment of maintaining an inhouse development team. An MVP lets you get your product to market quickly – and without the overheads of a full team.

  4. Your company has hit some barriers of scale: since all resources are tied up in your existing product, you could use outside help to explore new avenues and develop new ideas. An MVP lets you do just that without breaking the bank.

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Good to know: key aspects of an MVP

While an MVP can have several objectives, its primary goal is to generate real, hands-on insights gained from direct user feedback. This is why the initial version should really focus on core features and leave all the bells and whistles for later. At the same time, this does not mean the results should have a rough, unfinished look & feel or any technical issues. An MVP is, by definition, fully functional, meeting the standards of any decent digital product:
Design
high-quality design should be a given
Functionality
stutters, errors or delays are a no-no – MVPs should run without a hitch
icon / usabilityCreated with Sketch.
Usability
great UX and UI is paramount since user feedback is the main objective
Reliability
reliable performance is also a must, the result should feel like a finished, if bare bones product

Ready to get started on your own MVP?

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So, what’s the right number of features for an MVP?

While there are no hard-and-fast rules, it pays to keep in mind that your goal is to maximise user insights and, ultimately, validate your product idea (or not). To help you find the sweet spot between a single function and total feature overload, we have listed a few well-known examples. This is how the following former start-ups have approached their own MVPs:
Airbnb logo
Airbnb
Airbnb’s famous success story started out with a basic MVP – a simple page offering accommodation. Back then, Airbnb’s founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia – both recent arrivals to San Francisco – thought there was a market for their apartment sharing idea and decided to test it through an MVP. Their two main assumptions for validation: people would be willing to rent from strangers and landlords/tenants would be willing to let strangers stay at their place in order to earn something extra.
Groupon logo
Groupon
When Groupon started out, they began operations without a solid tech stack, just based on a basic website built on Wordpress. Their daily deals were simply posted as blog entries and customer e-mails were written by hand. Yet this ultra-minimal approach was enough to validate the success and investment potential of their underlying approach. Today, Groupon is considered an international e-commerce heavyweight.
Dropbox logo
Dropbox
Back in the days, Dropbox went even further to get initial user feedback. They simply tested their idea by creating a video explaining the product. Why? The founders lacked the actual resources to build anything resembling a real product, but wanted to test their idea’s general customer attraction and appeal. The video garnered them extremely positive feedback … and now Dropbox counts among the industry leaders.

The main differences between an MVP and a 1.0 product

Although they might sound similar at first glance, an MVP is not the same as a 1.0 release. It’s important to keep this in mind because both releases fulfil different purposes. To give you a better idea, we’ve compiled a brief list and overview of the main differences and similarities.
MVP
Product 1.0 release
Scope
minimum
normal
Live
yes
yes
Features
One function or limited set of features (“do one thing but do it well)
Full or extended set of features
User type
Early adopters
Regular users
Planned outcome
Generate insights from user feedback and behaviour
Release product to the market
Future
Could serve as a basis for the real product build - or might serve its purpose and get discarded
Continous improvement
MVPvsnonMVP
Representation of MVP vs non-MVP development

How do you measure an MVP’s success?

Since the desired output is “knowledge” and “validation”, a successful MVP will provide you with the necessary insights to see whether your idea is working – or whether you need to tweak it, redesign it, or go back to the drawing board. In other words: if user feedback isn’t great, use your learnings to build something better that truly works for your target audience. Some start-ups go through several MVPs before they arrive at something that “clicks” – and appreciate the speed, flexibility and cost-effectiveness of MVPs within this framework.

Technical considerations

Our team of experienced product designers and engineers is located in Berlin and Warsaw. With plenty of in-depth expertise in software development, mobile apps and product building for fintechs and start-ups, they have created countless MVPs for both start-ups and corporations. The following considerations have proved invaluable to guarantee smooth sailing and a lean budget:
  1. Favour buy over make - MVPs often get heavily modified over time or even trashed entirely. We don’t recommend wasting time and cash on highly custom systems parts where you can cover 80 % of your use case requirements by incorporating an off-the-shelf component instead

    1. Think admin / back office: instead of building a custom back office system, we often use tools like Contentful (a flexible cloud-based CMS) or Active Admin

    2. For loan or banking projects, we can make use of existing, best-in-class banking platforms like Mambu, Railsbank or Solarisbank

    3. Location service requirements are easily covered by tools like Radar, which offers contextual location integration out of the box

  2. Pick start-up-friendly tools: which payment processor is right for you? Here, we often recommend Stripe since it is one of the most developer-friendly solutions and very fast to integrate. You can always switch to a better-aligned payment processor in the future, but when you’re building an MVP, speed and initial development costs (aka developer time) should be your prime focus.

  3. Focus on coding only the core features – script and integrate everything else. You’ll be surprised just how many things you don’t actually need!

  4. Favour static over dynamic content

  5. Finally, make use of somebody else’s infrastructure instead of building your own from scratch (from Amazon’s AWS to ready made platforms like Google Cloud or Heroku).

Ready to get started on your own MVP?

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To be continued ...

That’s not all, folks! A follow-up feature will give you a closer look at the actual process of building an MVP, from phases and team composition to feedback loops during development. So, stay tuned and (in the spirit of MVPs) feel free to shower us with feedback, ideas or considerations to keep in mind for future iterations of this page.

Last but not least…

We have been helping our clients build effective MVPs since 2015. Success stories like Audi, orderbird, Dinie and many others appreciate our per-project approach and consider us an extension of their own team. If you’d like to discuss your own project – or get a quote on an MVP – please get in touch and let us know!

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Ready to get started on your own MVP?

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