As a full stack product development company, our job is to translate business ideas into beautiful usable products. But developing a business product is an expensive affair. It requires significant money, plenty of man hours from talented developers and of course the time and energy of the founders. Often a perfectly finished and refined product does not strike the right chord with customers for reasons unknown. Maybe you toiled hard over an idea only to find out that it solves a problem nobody cares about. Maybe someone else is already solving the problem in a more efficient way. Maybe your product is perfect, but people are not willing to pay for it. Truth is, you need to rule out a lot of such ‘maybe’s before you set the pace for a developing spree.
So how do you validate your fundamental assumptions? Simple. You need to validate them in the least expensive way i.e by creating a Minimum Viable Product, an MVP.
But what does an MVP mean?
Given the latest trends, most of our customers today ask us to build mobile apps. These apps supplement or complement their existing businesses, but mostly, the app we are asked to build is the business. Such apps are still in their “idea” phase and hence, we suggest to build an MVP first. Based on our many client interactions, the most common question that we get asked is “What is an MVP?”
An MVP, simply put, is the guinea pig on which you conduct your market research. The benefits of an MVP are plenty, two of the main ones being – You validate whether your product works in reality and whether the customer will accept this product. Basically, you can either work on creating a perfectly polished product and hope people will accept it, or you can build it in step-by-step and test your assumptions at each level to get a product market fit.
A minimum viable product is neither about the glitter or fancy design nor about an unpolished or unfinished product. It lies somewhere in between these two extremes. An MVP is the basic version of the end product with a bare minimum functionality. The idea is to go to the market faster with your product, get customers to use it and then iterate the functionalities based on the feedback.
It’s often difficult for companies to believe that starting with something so small is the best way to create something that one day could be a mega-giant. Fortunately, the startup world has given us case studies of plenty of doyens who understood the benefits of an MVP.
Almost all articles; written on “Why an MVP” shares about Dropbox and how it tested the proof of concept even before building a product.
Founder Drew Houston of Dropbox, whose market valuation today is $12 billion+, had early-on realized that the resources required to create a fully functional prototype of their cloud-storage platform would be exceptionally high. A working software required him to run the risk of working relentlessly to overcome technical hurdles, spending oodles of money in the process only to find out after years of development that they created a product nobody wanted. To avoid the nightmare, Drew pulled a no-brainer. He made a 3-minute video with an amateur narration.
“It drove hundreds of thousands of people to the website. Our beta waiting list went from 5,000 people to 75,000 people literally overnight”, said Drew Houston. The investors got the validation from the market, even before Dropbox was developed or launched.
Another brilliant MVP success story comes once again from Silicon Valley. Air Bed and Breakfast, or Airbnb as it is known today, validated their idea through the founders themselves.
In 2007, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia had recently moved to San Francisco and needed help to pay their rents. Almost at the same time, they observed that the city was a frequent host to highly attend conferences where hotel rooms either had no available rooms or were extremely unaffordable. The two product designers created a basic MVP website almost overnight where they posted pictures of their loft, inviting attendees to be their paying guests for the conference duration. Three guests ended up choosing them over many high-end hotels in the city.
With this validation, Airbnb then went on to develop the platform that we see today.
“When Amazon.com opened for business in 1995, it was nothing more than a few people packing and shipping boxes of books from a two-car garage.
Amazon was known to buy and manually package their items before finding the right suppliers. Parallelly, other sellers were not allowed on the platform for many years. The company first wished to understand what is it that they can sell, who can they sell it to, how they will sell and only when they found answers to these questions did they expand to become the retail giant that they are today. Like many other big players today including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many more, Amazon too validated the concept first before going big on their ideas.
Concept validation is key. Think of it as stepping stones to a multi-billion company if you may. Apart from these, many MVP consulting firms would also suggest the following ways to validate your business idea –
Create a landing page. Before you go on to create a full-blown 10-page website, consider creating your landing page first. A landing page is the entry point for your website. It is a simple way to introduce your product to customers, measure their interest and finally generate leads.
Conduct a survey. While this is not one of the most ideal minimum viable product, surveys do give you an insight into what your customers want. It is advisable to reach out to the potential customers that you someday might serve and ask for their initial feedback.
Set interviews. While MVP apps, landing pages, and surveys give you decent customer analytics, a better way to understand more about them is by simply asking them. Carrying out an interview gives you a chance to ask direct questions, problems and solutions to your customers. For instance, being able to directly ask “What is your favorite feature on our mobile app?” is better than looking at making calculated assumptions.
Build a clickable prototype. Paper sketches, wireframes, blueprints and mockups provide limited visualization to you, your customers and your investors. A clickable prototype is a highly visual product that communicates the ideas and provides basic interactive functionalities. It allows the stakeholders to experience the vision and more importantly, it becomes the perfect stepping stone into the development of a minimum viable product.
Ultimately, focus on the feedback loop – Build, Measure and Learn. An MVP app or an MVP website is never the end-goal, however, it is an important stepping stone. Years of experience as an MVP agency has made us and a lot of entrepreneurs rethink what it really means to launch a product. Products are coming to the market faster than ever and competitors launch their products while others continue to fine-tune it for the big reveal. Digicorp can help you build your MVP and subsequently iterate it based on the customer feedback.
Digicorp is on a single mission to develop usable and scalable products and successful businesses with lean and agile methodologies. We build mobile apps, web apps & websites that users love to use and get hooked.