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Imagine a situation – you are picking a movie to spend an evening watching. In your pursuit of a good thing to watch, you go in for profound research, reading reviews, checking RottenTomatoes’ ratings, and watching trailers. By this, you are making a pre-test of the movie to clear out if it is worth two hours of your life.
The same with startups ideas – you need to try the waters before plunging into the whole product production and market launch. And like with movies, you have an array of instruments to test your idea, like landing, prototype, or even a piece of paper. All these are examples of MVP.
So which way to choose for your particular idea? And what inputs to expect from each of these instruments? I will explain in this article, so read on!
What is a Minimum Viable Product and Why Build It?
Apple’s original phone did not feature either a 3G Internet speed or support for corporate email. Google’s original engine could only reply to specific queries like Linux operating system or Stanford University. Yet, the deficiencies in the minimum versions of these products did not prevent them from winning users’ hearts. Those original versions were only the start of their great product histories, or in other words – minimum viable products.
MVP (minimum viable product) is a basic version of the product built with minimum effort within a minimum amount of time to validate the idea and scale it up further. Unlike traditional product development, where the full-functioning product is the final point in the process, an MVP is the starting point of learning, not the end.
Compare it to a chair. It can be a complex, wheeled one with ergonomic controls and an adjustable leather seat. Or it can come as a game chair with an extendable footrest and lumbar support pillows. Anyway, it all comes down to a simple four-leg chair in the most basic version you can imagine. So your MVP is your four-leg simple chair.
The primary purpose of MVP is to measure the impact of your idea. And the main trick here is to realize the essential functionality that helps measure it, not more, not less. Thus, an MVP includes only a basic number of features that can discover the innovative idea of the product.
Do I need a MVP to Make a Knife?
That’s a good question. Indeed, at some point, the MVP idea got so hyped that one could interpret it like: “I need to build MVP for any business I start”. Well, it is not exactly like that. The truth is MVPs dwell on the territory of new ideas.
When you go for a new route to your office, there is always a concern it will not take you where you need. The same with new ideas – you can’t be too sure that they will shoot, as expected. And here we come to the primary purpose of MVP – prove if your idea will hit the success you hope for. And the element of innovativeness plays a critical role here.
But if you aim for a more conventional business that does not have an Einstein vibe in it, like an e-commerce website, media website, or a knife? For sure, these cases do not bring with them any novelty, so building an MVP will (most likely) be a waste of time.
Popular Types of an MVP
The bounds of one’s fantasy only limit the number of MVPs. The stunning fact is that it should not always come as a functioning app or a landing page. The truth is there can even not be any application. Here is a list of the MVP types that you might see the most often.
How to Use an MVP?
You do not build an MVP in a vacuum. Instead, you do it on purpose. From my experience, I can narrow those reasons down to three:
- Raising investments – the type of MVP you build to show to your investment in pursuit of funding. In using this type, you should not focus on the functionality but aim to unveil the idea;
- Early adopters – this type you should use to run tests of your primary product version with your targeted audience. For this type, your minimum product should be more functional, including at least one functioning feature;
- Marketing promotion – this MVP type is used to raise awareness about your product before the launch happens. For example, a landing page could be used to gather users’ emails and make first communication with them to learn your target audience better.
In my practice, when we built a real estate platform, Nomad, we started with an MVP targeted at investors. We realized that our basic version should not be fully functional, so we aimed to reach a midpoint result, taking minimum effort. So while working on the functional MVP with a minimum number of features, we released a landing page with a subscription button to collect the user-base of early adopters. While we tested it with users, the demo product was initially aimed at investors.
Though the idea of a real estate platform was quite trivial, we launched it in the Arab Emirates, where the real estate market faced various problems and claimed for upgrades. With our product, we wanted to introduce these upgrades.
So we built a product that stayed out on the market, where users can contact agents directly, book appointment slots online, and chat with owners. To showcase the idea, we made a landing page with only one clickable button. That was our MVP, simple, almost non-interactive, but with a secret ingredient – it unveiled the innovativeness of the product.
The point to make here is that your MVP can come in any form, it can be technically weak and consist only on a landing page, but the main thing to be adhered to is to outline your idea. We nailed it and won the appreciation of investors even with a landing page.
Top 3 MVP Case Studies For Your Startup
For validation of your product, there is no once-for-all-time defined list of MVP types. The examples of existing MVPs’ types in their majority are the results of experiments driven by the enthusiasm of the development teams. These examples thus bring value as inspiration for pushing the boundaries and being free to experiment with your MVPs.
Dropbox: Demo Video MVP Example
Record a video from your screen to demonstrate how your product works – does that amount to MVP? From the experience of Drew Houston, the CEO of Dropbox, it turns out it does.
Dropbox is a Silicon Valley company providing an easy file-sharing tool that helps to disseminate the files throughout all existing devices in one click. All it takes is moving the file to the Dropbox’ folder on your desktop and the file will be automatically copied throughout all your computers and devices. Magic as it is!
The founders have identified the underlying problem of synchronization and offered a solution to it in their app. The goal of the MVP was to give the early adopters the piece to taste, so once they experience the ease of file-sharing, they will never want to live without it.
Besides, the team had high stakes on the seamless customer experience, putting it into a prototype was a challenge. With all the technical hurdles, high reliability, and availability requirements, the product could not exist in a prototype form, even in its most basic form. So Drew Houston had to seek another way to validate his idea.
And it was as simple as making a video—a simple, three-minute video of a screen demonstration targeted at the tech community of early adopters. The video was full of insider-tech jokes and humorous references that amazed the community.
After the video release on a tech platform Digg, the Dropbox’ beta sign-in list went from 5,000 to 75,000 overnight.
Buffer: Landing Page MVP
Another simple tool for MVP is a landing page. Again, it is hard to believe, but a web page with one clickable button can be a powerful instrument to validate your idea, pitch the product to potential investors or make a pre-promotion of your product.
Let’s revisit the Buffer case. Buffer is a simple app that allows users to schedule their postings not to flood their friends’ news feeds at one point in the day. To test their idea, the Buffer team decided to build a landing page that explained how the app would function and encouraged users to sign up to check on the prices.
When the user pushed the button, the site informed that it was not ready, and to learn the updates, users should sign up. During all the time before release, users would receive emails with updates, offers, and surveys to get a glimpse of what users wanted. This is how the landing page helped the team promote the product and learn more about users. As of now, Buffer reached 73k registered customers from 15 countries and gained annual revenue of $16 million.
Food on the Table: Concierge MVP Case
The previous examples prescribe that a minimum viable product should always come as a piece of software. Yet, as surprising as it is, you can start your product without any prototype whatsoever.
At least, this is how it appears from the story of Food on the Table – the Taxes-based startup that delivered a service of menu plans and food delivery. The idea of the product was to check the list of available products in the nearby stores and complete lists according to customers' preferences. The app also came up with recipes, including the available products.
The idea of the app sounds great. And this makes it even harder to believe that the founder team had only one customer to serve initially. And this client got the concierge treatment. It means that instead of interacting with a digital app, the client got a weekly visit from Manuel Rosso, the company's CEO.
Rosso, together with the VP would review what was on sale in the grocery stores and select recipes based on the client's preferences. Then, weekly, they would deliver products to the user's home, solicit his/her feedback and make changes to the service as necessary.
MVPs differ in complexity and types, ranging from simplistic smoke tests to functioning clickable prototypes. Besides, MVPs can achieve different goals: product promotion, fundraising, or user testing. But the focal point of the MVP examples delivered above is not to be afraid to make it as simple as possible. Minimum viable product is only the start of your product development journey, not the endpoint.
We know how to make this journey right. So if you want to discuss your idea – contact us.
What can be the best example of MVP?
The list of MVP examples is inexhaustible. But there are some popular MVP cases that stand out among others. The best ones would be:
- Dropbox – the company validated its MVP via a demo-video;
- Buffer – this startup used a landing page to validate their MVP;
- Food on the Table – this startup introduced a concierge MVP with no piece of software used.
What does minimum viable product mean?
Minimum viable product (MVP) is a basic version of the product, built with minimum effort within a minimum time span, which is used to run user tests, raise investments or promote the product on the market.
How do you create a minimum viable product?
The route to building an MVP lies in 5 steps:
- Defining the user’s problem
- Conducting market research
- Making a prototype of a potential solution
- Define the list of features
- Iterate continuously
What is MVP in product?
A minimum viable product is an initial version of a product created within minimum timelines using minimum efforts. MVP is not the result of the product development process. Instead, this is only the beginning of the ever-iterating process.