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Amazon, Airbnb, Spotify, Uber — all these companies started out as MVPs. It might be surprising to some readers, but many platforms we can’t imagine our lives without didn’t get so huge right in the beginning. They chose a wise strategy — trying out the idea first and adding more features on the go.
At Northell, we see an MVP as a go-to solution for startups that have a great idea but are not sure how to implement it correctly. Some of them instantly agree with such a strategy as they already understand why an MVP is appropriate for their project. Others might be reluctant when they hear this unfamiliar abbreviation. So what is an MVP? And why so many market giants chose this approach at first? Let’s find out.
Minimum Viable Product: less is more
First off, MVP stands for a minimum viable product. If the minimum and product parts are quite clear, the meaning of viable might cause some confusion. This word refers to the fact that the product is fully-functioning and can clearly present the value behind it. It is up to you to decide which features make the product viable and which can be omitted.
An MVP is the most basic version of the product that is, first of all, created for seeing the market reaction to the solution. One of the studies demonstrates that 40% of startup failures happen because there is no market need for them. Will anyone really use the product? Does it have any competitive advantage? These are the questions an MVP can answer.
The concept of MVP comes from a Lean Startup methodology. The core of this methodology is the build-measure-learn loop. Lean Startup emphasizes the importance of learning — users’ feedback is what forms the product. It is smarter to see how users actually interact with a product than asking what they would do, isn’t it? And an MVP is a perfect instrument for it.
Three essential aspects of any MVP
Developing an MVP solution doesn’t take a lot of time: it’s only a few months we are talking about. Still, there is a number of necessary steps to take during this short time to be sure that this approach is working for you.
Probably the most important aspect of the MVP development is research. It is a first step towards understanding how the final product should look like and which value it will bring. Market analysis, interviews with potential users, creating user personas — it’s crucial to find out as much information about the market demand and users’ pain points as possible.
With the target audience and their needs in mind, one can start mapping out the essential product’s features. There might be many elements that can make a product truly incredible, but the question is, which of them are really obligatory? It is helpful to think about the core problem that the solution has to solve: it defines the most important features.
And, of course, there is the implementation stage. As it was already mentioned, designing an MVP is a bit easier than regular products. It is worth remembering that an MVP is a test: it doesn’t have to be too complex. The main point of such a solution is to get it to users as soon as possible; you don’t really have to spend weeks polishing it.
Step-by-step: how to create an MVP based on Northell’s case
At Northell, we worked with many startups. Some of our clients came with a defined idea or even did research themselves; others had just a vague picture of the final solution. In any case, we get through the same steps for most of the projects. Let’s analyze how we build an MVP using the example of Oprovi — a professional feedback marketplace that connects experts with people looking for advice. It focuses on helping individuals improve their digital works by getting advice from top specialists.
Oprovi contacted us having a general idea of the platform they want to see. They didn’t have a defined concept or detailed brief at first. So, we started from the beginning — with research. We analyzed the market of similar platforms: who are the main potential competitors, what do they offer? What can be Oprovi’s competitive advantage?
Next on, we worked on user personas. Those are the hypothetical users. With their pain points identified, we can determine how to solve their problems and what we have to offer to make them interested in the solution.
2. Creating wireframes and prioritizing the features.
While making wireframes for Oprovi, we constantly reviewed them with its representatives, discussing each element and its role in the platform. It was the key to finalizing the concept of the platform. Working on the wireframes was also a way to define and prioritize the features for the final design.
We created many versions of the platform: each discussed with the Oprovi team and their potential customers. Gathering such feedback allowed us to clearly see which features were redundant or what should be added to the final design. We were getting closer to the desired platform design with each new wireframes version: the most useful features only.
It is hard to overestimate the value of the potential customers’ feedback in creating MVP. One should remember that MVP is, first of all, made to test out a particular idea, so engaging users in the design process as early as possible is probably the best way to create a product that will easily find its audience.
As a result, we designed how users can upload a work, choose the suitable area, type of service, and expert, as well as receive feedback. All these steps are the essential features: Oprovi cannot present its value without them.
With a clear understanding of the most important elements and the value they bring, we were ready to work on Oprovi’s UX/UI design. Despite the simplicity, MVP requires, any design still should present a consistent quality.
Let’s not confuse a minimal product with a poorly executed one. The final result should be both fully functional and visually appealing. For example, we decided to add some vivid illustrations to Oprovi.
We now keep in touch with Oprovi’s development team to make sure that the implementation of the design is smooth. The developers adjust the platform according to the changes in design we make; we have constant communication flow, so the development process is fast and accurate. In our previous article, we highlighted the importance of such collaboration.
Our results: why was an MVP the best approach to Oprovi?
What’s the use of the MVP approach in this particular case, you might ask. Oprovi could have been a full-scope project right from the beginning as well. Yes, it could — with a few times bigger budget and a way longer design process.
Oprovi is a startup that takes on a completely new idea: there are no companies with the exact same offer as Oprovi on the market now. Even with careful research and planning, it’s pretty impossible to predict the users’ reaction to a new solution: no one can tell if a product will get popular or not.
Thus, an MVP is a great way to observe a certain product’s dynamics for a reasonable price. It’s quite disappointing to spend a vast sum of money on the idea that people might be absolutely indifferent about, isn’t it?
After Oprovi is tested out by the fairest critics — it’s target audience, we can add more and more functions to it or make the design even more sophisticated — there are no limits to perfection.
Maybe you also had a good idea in your head for some time, not sure how to approach it. An MVP might be exactly what you are looking for — we are open to new partnerships.