MVP development is all about providing a reality check for your business idea. You come up with a lofty ambition but don’t want to waste time and money on building something that nobody needs. That’s where developing an MVP can help.
However, just building an MVP is not enough to make sure your idea pays off. There are a lot of prerequisites that define the outcome you get from your minimum viable product. In some cases, you don’t need an MVP at all.
We address all your concerns about the MVP development process and share actionable advice on how to give your MVP its best chance, with real-world examples thrown in.
MVP development: a minimum viable product to solve an actual problem
A minimum viable product or MVP is a barebone version of your product with a minimum set of features that allow you to implement the critical functionality of your software.
An MVP is not a polished or final product. It’s more about testing the market ground, getting feedback and data from early adopters, and learning what works and what doesn’t.
Although not a full-fledged product, an MVP can still generate value, whether it’s revenue or some other kind of pay-off if its business model is viable. Once the MVP gathers enough data to validate your idea, you can then iterate based on the findings and evolve your MVP into a fully marketable solution.
You should start with an MVP. Or should you?
Test it before you implement it — that’s what the golden rule of successful products says. But jumping right into testing is a sure path to draining your budget and bloating your feature scope. You and your product development team need to lay the groundwork and distill the must-have features that constitute the core of your minimum viable product. Here’s how you do it.
Every product starts with an idea, but 99% of ideas go through significant changes under the market’s impact. That is why your MVP development process kicks off with the Ideation or Discovery stage that helps de-risk your initiative, while also laying the foundation for a consistent, disruption-free development process. At this stage, your MVP development team sees whether your idea aligns with your budget and time requirements.
To do that, the team strips down your concept to non-negotiables and transforms them into software requirements. The latter describes must-have features and functionalities of the end product. The features are then sized and prioritized to see how they lay out over the sprints.
Proof of Concept (PoC)
A Proof of Concept is essentially a model used to test everything from technical feasibility to market demand. PoCs reduce the risk of failure for new products and services by validating concepts early.
You’ve got a one-of-a-kind, innovative solution and need to make sense of its technical complexity? PoC is the way to go.
A Proof of Concept typically occurs during the late phase of the Ideation stage — before the team gets down to full-scale design and coding. A PoC usually consists of a small, basic, or undeveloped version of the product. At the end of the PoC phase, the team knows exactly how to create an MVP.
At one of our projects, the PoC stage helped our team to identify the most optimal library and backend framework for implementing the idea. The preliminary stages before the MVP also gave us more time to decide on the most cost-effective third-party integrations for our сlient.
The MVP product development process usually starts with prototyping. A high-fidelity prototype looks like a real app, yet it’s still a pilot version of the MVP intended for internal use. It delivers a clear demonstration of how a product works so that stakeholders can decide whether it is ready for full production.
The prototype also helps align the expectations and ensures that developers and stakeholders are on the same line. It can be used to test the solution and gather feedback from the end users.
Minimum Viable Product
After testing the technical viability of the solution and deciding on the look and feel of the product, your team continues with building a minimum viable product.
An MVP is a PoC and prototype combined in one — brushed up and brought to the production-ready state.
Your team upgrades the UX as well as fine-tunes and expands the solution’s functionality.
Minimum Marketable Product
While an MVP is the bare minimum, an MMP, or Minimum Marketable Product, is the minimum required to bring your solution to the market. An MMP includes one or a few killer features to make the product valuable for end users and put your company on track to high profit. It’s an upgraded version of an MVP that addresses user demands, delivers the intended user experience, and, as a result, can be easily sold.
The launch of an MMP is typically supported with a full-scale marketing campaign to attract more users from the get-go and improve the profitability of an MMP.
A digital product is never final and so is its development cycle. After releasing an MMP, the development team performs continuous maintenance and support as well as identifies the scope for future releases based on the user feedback or client’s preferences. Features are then prioritized and scheduled for release.
Check our all-encompassing guide on how to launch an app, crafted by engineers with 15+ years of experience.
The million-dollar question: why build an MVP?
Almost every great product we use today started its journey as an MVP. And the rationale behind this trend is simple: creating an MVP results in cost efficiency, minimal risks, product clarity, and some other benefits featured below.
Reducing the risk of overinvestment
Building a minimum viable product means building it with minimum investment and in minimum time. Thanks to documented specifications and a clear understanding of the core functionalities, you and your development team can hop over to developing only the bare minimum of features with high utility. And less guessing means fewer resources spent on developing and testing.
The first step to scaling your product is to get into the heads of your end users. What do they think about your product? What improvements and features do they want to see in the future? And the only way to get your hands on this information is to collect customer feedback through a minimum viable product.
By tracking your user behavior and collecting their feedback, you can chart out your scaling strategy with a clear understanding of high-value features. An MVP release will also bear out an addressable market and validate that buyers will pay to solve their problem, in the first place.
Rapid market entry
The MVP approach allows you to get projects through your pipeline more quickly since you focus on developing only the core features and functionalities that are necessary for the product to be usable.
By putting an early product in the hands of users as soon as possible, you can collate early feedback and use it for further iterations and improvements. As a result, you not only hit the market rapidly, but you also have a user-centered product to secure your place there.
Easier to lure investors
Getting investors on board from pitching an idea alone doesn’t work anymore. They need to see a tangible product that solves a real-world problem and has a good chance of gaining traction. So instead of going with a verbal pitch, you can use MVP to secure funding.
A minimum viable product born and bred from a well-conceived idea is an indicator of high potential for investors, meaning they can get a profit from it.
Maximize the success of your product from day one
Sometimes, MVP development is not worth the candle
MVP building is generally recommended for any new product with a poorly defined scope and market to minimize the risk of investing in capabilities that users may not need. However, MVP creation is not a silver bullet for all new products, and there are cases when companies can do without it.
|MVP not recommended
|Initial product release based on an innovative idea
|New feature for an existing, well-established product
|Product release for an emerging market whereby product features are not clearly defined
|A well-defined product with clear-cut requirements, validated product idea, and existing market
|New product release from an established provider, based on the existing technology, but designed for untapped user base and use cases
|Enterprise products that are intended for internal use and are not meant for sale
Overall, a minimum viable product comes into the picture whenever one or all of the project variables (scope, market, or users) are not explicitly stated and are expected to evolve during product development.
One of the reasons not to build an MVP is when the business owner knows exactly what kind of product they are going to implement. Specifically, all product requirements must be gathered and documented, the risks of a poor product-market fit must be low, and the product concept must be final.— Yury Yerashenkau, Head of PMO, *instinctools
As for new features launched in well-established products, providers usually skip the MVP development stage, knowing their users’ needs well. Also, in this case, MVPs with subpar user experience may result in reputational risks for an established provider.
However, our expert provides a different perspective on the importance of MVP for well-established products:
Today, global businesses have shifted from long-term planning to a more adaptive and flexible approach in pursuing new initiatives. This applies to existing products and new feature releases, too. Whether it’s a brand-new product or a new feature for an existing solution, a Minimum Viable Product helps established companies to win the competition and be ahead of it as they implement new viable ideas.— Konstantin Nikitin, Lead Project Manager, *instinctools
Designed initially for startups, MVPs are now widely used in enterprise projects, too, as part of the agile methodology. Yet, if the product in question is designed to optimize internal business processes, enterprises can skip the MVP stage and move on to gathering product requirements, creating a roadmap, and executing the idea. In this case, a product can even be implemented according to a sequential model instead of an agile workflow.
How to build an MVP: 5 steps that make your idea go from raw to well-done
Minimum viable product development might come across as an anything-goes process, but there’s a defined framework involved. Here’s how to build a minimum viable product step-by-step.
1. Define a problem your product will solve
An MVP development process kicks off with gaining a clear understanding of value addition to early adopters. To define value, start with identifying the problem your solution will solve and work on your product concept from there. Product goals, user personas, features — your product statement shapes all other building blocks of MVP development.
2. Study the market
How to make a minimum viable product without an existing market for it? There’s no way, unless you want to run out of money. That’s why market research is one of the crucial steps to build an MVP. You need to thoroughly analyze the target market, see how your product idea stacks up against competitors, and identify your potential customers. For trail-blazing products, it’s also recommended to assess the market size.
3. Run a Discovery phase
A Discovery phase sets the tone for the entire development process, saves your resources spent on MVP development, and makes sure your product delivery is on time, on point, and on budget. Basically, it ensures that every minute of development time, and every dollar of your budget goes into building a solution that people need.
Project discovery is an essential step for every brand-new venture. It helps the development team ease themselves into the business context, assess the organizational and infrastructure enablers, and estimate the product backlog. Without it, your developers will spend hours brainstorming ideas instead of implementing them.— Konstantin Nikitin, Lead Project Manager, *instinctools
- Conduct Business Analysis
The value of business analysis is triple. First, business analysts help companies arrive at a clear understanding of the business idea by eliciting product requirements. Second, they dive deep into the user needs to identify relevant features for a solution like yours. And third, they prepare critical documentation that drives your development process to risk-free and cost-effective completion.
- Conceptualize UX and design
The conceptualization process is an initial stage of the design-thinking approach that finalizes a user-centered picture of the final product design. Here, designers frame a problem, create user personas, and come up with scenarios and storyboards or a clickable prototype of a future product. The goal of this stage is to find a middle ground between user needs and the overall goals of the company.
- Prioritize features
The more features, the merrier is not exactly how you develop a minimum viable product. As it includes the bare minimum of features, your product development team first determines essential functionality that will make it into MVP 1.0.
There are several approaches to point out the must-have features for a pilot version, feature prioritization being the most effective of them. At *instinctools, our experts favor the MoSCoW prioritization method as it’s a capable way of dividing features into must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and won’t-haves.
- Create an MVP project roadmap
Once you decide on the deliverables, the product development team creates a plan of action that outlines the vision, priorities, and progress of a solution over time. It’s a shared source of truth that brings each stakeholder under one roof. The roadmap should reflect your product strategy and goals, while also remaining responsive to customer feedback and project changes.
- Describe Architecture overview
An Architecture overview is created to share the governing ideas of a future solution. The document communicates architectural decisions to the team, including technologies, system environment, and other building blocks of a solution’s architecture. As there may be multiple architectural approaches to implementing your product idea, an Architecture overview makes sure everyone in the team executes according to the pre-agreed approach.
- Work out a QA strategy
During the Discovery stage, the QA team also sets the baseline for the quality assurance process, decides on the priorities, and selects tools that overlap with the developer tools. QA engineers also define the approach to test management and clarify software acceptance criteria.
4. Build & release an MVP
A deployed product available to end users is the ultimate goal of this stage and the MVP development process in general. This stage is carried out according to the Incremental and Iterative approach whereby the project scope is sliced into pieces (increments), with each increment building on top of the previous deliverable. Product features are built through repeated cycles of iterations. The result of one iteration may be refined in subsequent iterations.
- Proceed with UX and design
Now, it’s time to flesh out your MVP look and feel with more details. While the Discovery stage helps designers establish a crystal-clear vision of what the target audience looks like and how they interact with similar products, during this phase, the UI/UX design team creates a few prototypes to demonstrate the look and feel of the future solution.
Once the client decides on the exterior of the product, UI/UX designers create layouts for each screen and share them with the developers.
- Take care of the product’s back end and front end
Frontend developers transform layouts into user-facing features and make sure the visual and interactive aspects of a product are user-friendly and lightning-fast. While frontend development is concerned with a product’s appearance, backend developers set up all the behind-the-scenes processes. These include database interactions, user requests, APIs, architecture patterns, and other core units of your product.
- Wrap it up with quality assurance
Within the Incremental and Iterative approach, quality assurance is not a phase, but rather a continuous activity that overlaps with the development. It means that QA specialists can check and validate a new functionality right from the oven, which accelerates development and speeds up the time-to-market.
DevOps approach makes sure your devs and QAs are on the same page. While employing DevOps, teams also take advantage of the CI/CD pipelines that bring automated testing to the table and allow QAs to spot critical bugs in the early stages.
- Celebrate release
Finally, a production-ready solution is deployed into the target environment and made available to users. At this stage, your team also performs user acceptance testing and sets up software monitoring processes.
- Ensure easier adoption with post-release hyper-care
After a software launch, your product development team goes into hyper-care by providing application support to address your immediate post-implementation needs. Hyper-care may include minor fixes, software troubleshooting, employee training, and the production of manuals.
Post-release support is essential to maintain the error-free performance of the product and maximize adoption among users.
5. Measure, learn, and optimize
A successful MVP is your first step to a high-impact full-fledged product. After your MVP is pushed out, the development team analyzes user feedback, behavior data, and other metrics to inform future releases and enhance your understanding of what an ideal product should look like.
At this stage, you can either pivot your idea if you’ve misfired or persevere — either way, an MVP results in less effort wasted on things your target users don’t care about.
Go from concept to a full-fledged product
Building an MVP is a slippery slope, keep away from these mistakes
Emerging businesses have an incredibly high failure rate. More than two-thirds of them fail to live up to the lofty investor expectations when it comes to ROI. And although it’s startup flops that get the most airtime, established businesses aren’t immune to MVP failures as well.
If you’re going at it for the first time, beware of the typical pitfalls that await your MVP on the way to a successful product.
According to CB Insights, the absence of an actual market need is what makes 35% of startups fall down the hill. Your belief in the idea needs to be backed by existing market demand, otherwise, your product won’t get traction. Also, the market evolves at a blistering pace at the moment, so the need for a particular service or product can vapor quicker than you think.
One simple thing you can do to avoid this mistake is to run deep market research and analysis to identify the exact need of the target market.
Not knowing your target audience
Finding an ideal product-market fit calls for a deep understanding of the target audience. Target audience research involves collating insights about the users who are most likely to adopt your product. You can get this information through focus groups, surveys, and independent research — whatever it is, make sure to paint a clear picture of your ideal user.
Lack of clarity regarding the problem that your product should solve
Your product cannot be everything to everyone, it has to be designed to solve a specific problem. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a bloated solution that lacks a utilitarian use case.
To reduce the odds of a crash, you must first identify the problem, then find a solution to it, and wrap the solution into a digital form.
Haphazard Discovery phase
Around 38% of startups run out of budget even before they take off, and ill-considered ideation is why it happens. Let us hammer this point home: skimping on the Discovery phase is the shortcut to project mishaps, blown budgets, and ruined stakeholder expectations.
In particular, a jerry-rigged Discovery phase or lack thereof can lead to:
- A software architecture conflicting with project requirements (you opt for a trendy microservices architecture, but your solution is better off with a monolithic architecture);
- An exhausted project budget due to the absence of a prioritized feature backlog and constant switching between ideas and features;
- The absence of a project roadmap, in turn, can result in a scattershot software development process ;
- Lack of a well-designed CI/CD pipeline, which robs your product of an ongoing flow of new features and bug fixes.
Misalignment of expectations among the stakeholders
Product developers can implement the most ambitious dreams of business owners. The question here is: Do you know exactly what it takes to implement yours? Sometimes, building minimum viable products entails major transformations in the existing IT infrastructure, especially if we are talking about established businesses.
That’s why each expectation should be communicated and managed upfront, before jumping into the development process. This way, all stakeholders will know exactly what has to be done to implement a product idea.
Adding too many features
Overcomplicating a product is one of the biggest mistakes that budding entrepreneurs make. By adding too many features, they make the product harder to use, which hampers easy adoption among users. In other cases, companies’ budgets dry up even before they release the product into the wild as they spread themselves too thin.
To strike the right balance between features and their value, make sure to slim down your business idea and single out a minimum set of features to assess your product against real user needs.
There exist a hundred scenarios when an inexperienced product development team drives a project into the ground. Fail squads set the wrong priorities, allocating, already limited, resources to the wrong places.
Teams that lack product development experience may bet on the wrong technical solutions, which results in a sub-par project with limited scaling. Whatever the team’s gray area is, the result will always be the same — and that’s a derailed project.
Your MVP is incomplete
Whether it’s because of execs or investors, companies may be pushed to release an undercooked product. You should postpone your MVP release if you nod to any of these points:
- You struggle to identify the target custom, the problem, or your product’s USP (unique selling proposition).
- Your MVP lacks critical functionality responsible for delivering value to the end user.
- Insufficient security, performance, or scalability will take a toll on the user experience.
- The product’s quality is not yet at the level users expect.
- The current quality of a product can damage its profitability.
Overinvestment in sales and marketing
Pre-launch and launch campaigns are important to spread the word about your product and funnel in more lighthouse users. Except, a minimum viable product cannot be considered a full product launch. It’s more about testing your product idea and gathering market response. That’s why it’s better to hold the marketing dollars until you decide to go ahead with a minimum marketable product.
Don’t leave your MVP development to chance
Key to MVP development success — hiring an experienced cross-functional team
In an attempt to slash the costs of MVP development, companies may opt for hiring low-skilled teams. In other cases, they take the word ‘minimum’ literally and hire a two-people team of developers that make bold promises of delivering a high-quality product in two months.
In reality, MVP development requires a collaborative approach that involves cross-functional dedicated teams, including business analysts, designers, product managers, and other experts.
In-depth business analysis, competent project management, and well-balanced technological decisions will make up for your lack of expertise and increase the odds of your product going big.
You have two options when it comes to searching for an experienced team. You can do the heavy lifting on your own and scour the common habitats of bright minds, including freelance platforms, job boards, and industry events. The search may take an eternity, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll come across decent professionals.
Turning to a seasoned software development company with a track of projects is a smarter move that will save you money, time, and effort. A full-cycle product development partner can drive your idea from concept to growth — faster, more effectively, and expertly.
MVP app development: *instinctools’ experience
How to build an MVP app that can rewire modern farming? That’s the exact kind of challenge SpexAI faced. The company is a provider of automated AI-powered plant monitoring services and they were looking to develop an MVP for a flagship web application that can receive the data from the AI-powered robot and visualize it for end users.
SpexAI reached out to *instinctools as they needed an experienced product development partner with a proven track record of projects and a vast portfolio of MVP solutions. Along with MVP development, the client hoped to minimize the risk inherent to new products launched. So we decided to move incrementally, from the proof of concept to the prototype to a robust MVP. With the company’s consent, we also went the extra mile by making the MVP more feature-rich and appealing to investors and users.
Thanks to our solution the company sped up time to market and validated its business idea. Together, we’ve created the very first solution for harmless monitoring and analyzing the state of medical cannabis plants in greenhouses with 10,000–15,000 plants.
From a minimum viable product to maximum value
Having a well-thought-out MVP on your hands is a great start, but you should start earlier. To get the most out of your early product version, you need to see beyond the end result and into the problem you’re trying to solve with your solution. Only with comprehensive groundwork, Discovery, and planning, your product will be able to meet the needs of the active users and help your business idea catch up with the market.
Secure a team of MVP development experts for your next project
An MVP is a stripped-down version of your product that bundles just enough features to satisfy early customers and gather feedback for future iterations. It usually focuses on delivering the core value proposition of the product.
The MVP development process starts with getting a good grasp of your product idea. You should research the market, identify your target audience, and analyze the competition. Based on your understanding, you then identify the must-have features for your MVP and start implementing them.
An MVP is designed to test your business idea, validate it against real user needs, and attract investors.
One of the main benefits of an MVP is that it allows companies to experiment with new initiatives, test their ideas, and vacuum up valuable feedback from real-world customers before fully developing a product. On the same note, building an MVP can save time and resources.
Ideally, a minimum viable product should be developed incrementally and iteratively. This way, your development team constructs and hones your MVP piece-by-piece by building on the previous deliverables to achieve high product quality.
The costs differ based on the project scope and the complexity of your MVP.
You should choose a development partner with solid experience in delivering MVPs, time-tested domain knowledge, and a cross-functional team of experts. Industry platforms like Clutch and Glassdoor can aid you with selecting a partner.
Each MVP has its own key features. A key feature is the core functionality of your product that makes your solution valuable to the users.
Based on our experience, developing an MVP may take up to 6 months depending on the complexity of your project.