How do we help companies create a minimum viable product? Before we start building a software project, we make sure to ask if we can help our client most by creating a minimum viable product (MVP).
Not every client needs an MVP. For example, established companies with defined processes know their software needs well and have the budget for a fully formed application.
But many companies face constraints that mean building an MVP first. These constraints may include:
- Desire to be first or early to market
- Uncertainty about user needs or desires
- An evolving business plan for a new product
These constraints are especially prominent for startups. They need every dollar they spend in early stages to provide the most value possible. Building an MVP does exactly that.
Some startups need an MVP to take to investors to raise additional rounds of funding. In these cases, an MVP can serve as a proof of concept that eliminates questions and obstacles, and encourages investment.
What is an MVP?
The MVP is the essential core of a custom web or mobile application.
It must be a testable prototype — a working piece of software. It must also meet the basic challenge or goal a user would have — that’s what makes it viable in the marketplace.
The MVP must also have enough breadth and depth to satisfy users. Of course, most clients will plan to add more breadth and depth to the system through an enhanced feature set.
Advantages of an MVP
It helps many of our clients to think of the process of building a custom web or mobile app like the process of building a house. The architecture at the beginning sets the course for the whole project, but it doesn’t make sense with a house to pick out all of the light fixtures and wallpaper on day one. And once you get into the house and start walking around, you may want to align your kitchen cabinets and counters in a different way, to improve the flow through the house.
The same things happen with a software project. While the larger business goals and/or challenges determine the direction of the solution from the beginning, it doesn’t make sense to try to put every feature in place before users start interacting with the system. In fact, by launching an MVP and then getting users to interact with the system, businesses often end up with a more focused and more valuable feature set at a lower investment cost.
By putting an MVP in front of users, you get relevant feedback that helps you decide what features are most important to the system. This can help you avoid spending money on development of features that users don’t really care about, and also help you prioritize future phases of development.
The questions about upcoming features can even help to build anticipation about application updates, which is a nice side benefit.
How to Decide What Features to Include in the MVP
At Worthwhile, the first thing we do is identify the core thing the application does. This is where the MVP starts.
Other non-negotiable features, such as account creation, are also included.
After identifying the essential features, we work with our clients to co-create a list of features required to make the application viable in the marketplace.
This can be a point of uncertainty, because it’s hard to know what users will want to do until they get their hands on the MVP. We encourage companies to remember that each feature they add impacts both the project investment and the timeline, which is why it’s better to streamline as much as possible.
We’ve seen that this can be a difficult process for our clients, because they have usually envisioned everything their system could do—not just the essential core of what the system will do. Taking out features becomes painful.
But this process of filtering down to an MVP will lead to a better application in the long run.
Remember, launch is the beginning, not the end. Focusing on what’s in front of us right now, rather than all the possibilities of next and later, is how we help companies create a minimum viable product.