Build a Minimum Viable Product in 5 steps
Have you ever had a great idea, but you weren't sure how to make it a reality?
That's a very common problem with startup's, and it will most likely happen to you. Creating a new, innovative product is a huge risk. But if you believe in your business, you'll want to push forward.
The best way to bring a new product to the market is to develop a minimum viable product (MVP). Do you know what an MVP is?
An MVP is a product that provides only one service. That one service must be the core function of the final product you have in mind. You can then build the MVP, test it on real users and learn from their response. From what you learn you can improve your MVP until you can eventually launch your full product.
1) Understand The Problem You're Solving
So you want to develop a new product. First things first: you need to evaluate and understand your idea. Why do people need this product? How can it help them?
Here's the thing: the product you want to create must be of interest to your target audience (your future customers).
If you want your target audience to be interested in your product, it must be something that they need. Therefore, you should try to find your audience's needs.
Does your target audience have a problem? Can you think of a solution to that problem? Are you able to create that solution?
If you answered positively to all three questions, you can move onto the next step. But remember! You need to identify the specific problem that you're going to solve. That's the only way to come up with a (minimum) solution.
2) Analyze The Competition
Once you identify the problem you're going to solve, you can focus on the solution. Right? Wrong!
Take a step back and try to look at the larger picture. There's a group of people that have a certain a certain need, and your business will try to create a tool to satisfy that need. But your goal isn't just creating a useful tool, it's getting that group of people to use it.
If you want your target audience to actually use your product to solve their problem, you'll need to know what other products are trying to solve the same problem.
Competitor analysis is essential, even if you think your product is so unique that you can't think of any direct competition.
There are many tools that will help you analyze the competition. You can use SimilarWeb, Follow and QuantCast for free, or get more detailed data with paid apps such as MOZ and SensorTower.
But what exactly should you look for? Well, anything, actually. Web traffic, geographical location of users, keyword use. Even feedback from customers!
You've already identified the problem you're trying to solve, so get as much information about your competitors as you can. You'll understand what they did right and where they went wrong.
Also read: How To Build A Great Startup Team
3) Define The Main User Flow
Once you know the problem you want to solve and you identify the mistakes your competitors have done, you can define the main user flow.
What's the main goal of your product? That's what you should focus on.
First, think of the different stages that a user will go through. Forget about all the extra features of your product and just think of the very basic.
Let's take Uber, for example. Uber started as an MVP. So what are the basic stages that a user goes through? "Select a destination", "find a car", "get in the car", "arrive at the destination".
If you can identify the basic stages that allow your users to achieve the main goal of your product, you will have your main user flow.
So what's next? You can focus on the specific features of each stage, separately.
4) List The Necessary Features
With your main user flow, it's time to write down every feature you'd like your product to have. Make sure you include everything, from essential features to superfluous ones, and place each feature under the stage of the user flow they belong.
Next, you have to go through that list and start prioritizing them. How?
Ask yourself what is the most important action of every stage, and what features are essential to completing that action successfully. Rank every feature from high priority to low priority for every stage.
Remember: when building an MVP you won't need superfluous features - although it's good to have them written down for the future.
Think of an average user and try to guess how far down the priority scale you need to go for each stage. Of course, most users would prefer having extra features that make your product more attractive and comfortable to use, but for the moment you are just working on a minimum viable product.
Once you have your list of essential features for every stage, it's time to celebrate! You have the skeleton of your MVP.
Well, maybe don't celebrate yet. You can wait until you actually build the MVP.
5) Develop Your MVP
At this stage, you should have a pretty good idea of what your MVP will do. All you have to do is build it.
The first tests should be done by yourself and your team. Make sure everything is working and you can release an alpha version of your MVP.
Then you can have a focus group of friends, family and colleagues test your alpha version. They will probably not be the target audience you had in mind, but they'll be able to find errors or give you some advice.
As soon as your MVP passes alpha testing, you can move to the beta phase. You'll be testing your product with real users, and their feedback will be essential to improve it.
You should think of the development process as a full cycle. You build a product, you test it, and you learn. Then you repeat the process until you're happy with the result.
Every great product started as a great idea. But it shouldn't be a great risk. Going through our 5 steps will allow you to build a great minimum viable product.