How to develop a true MVP mindset

25 Nov 202112 min read

Although it’s hard to find any business-related person in the tech industry who would have little or no idea of an MVP, there is still a lot of confusion about its real purpose. And the more widespread its usage gets, the more misconceptions appear.

To build an MVP in the right way, it seems sensible to conduct thorough user research, involve every expert on the team, and make sure all the key results are outcome-based. These are great practices. Yet, their combination in MVP development only makes you spend too much time and budget on what should actually save your resources.

Based on our experience in MVP development for 15+ years, we’ve assembled a list of mistakes online businesses trap into and key ideas that help set a relevant MVP mindset and cope with this product evolution step efficiently for your startup success.

What MVP is NOT

At some point, at Wise Engineering, we started analyzing why businesses with great expertise still experience pitfalls during the MVP step. Cooperation with multiple startuppers and business owners helped us define four main faulty ideas you might want to consider before the MVP development starts.

Not any initial development step

Not every business chooses to start with an MVP. And not every initial product development version is an MVP. In some cases, startups opt for immediate product introduction to the market. For instance, when planning an E-commerce platform, one may skip the MVP web development phase and launch the whole marketplace at once. While it’s their decision to make and this option is applicable in some cases, it’s worth saying they are lucky to pull through.

So that’s when an MVP term gets its major misinterpretation. Not every initial product development version IS an MVP. MVPs are not created to generate profit or get first users. Even if it happens, think of it as just a pleasant side-effect rather than a primary goal or a rule. MVPs are not meant to have emotional design or are created to impress users.

Product development process with the MVP development step

On the contrary, any MVP is a quick solution to narrow down your idea to the smallest version possible to test your assumptions. It has neither a product with an advanced tech stack nor broad functionality. Overall, an MVP is just the smallest, earliest, yet, verifiable option that registers the customer’s pain, proves the suitability of the solution you offer, and gives you proper feedback. The results are used either to pivot or to move on to the next stage of project modification.

Not a minimum feature set

Despite its name, MVP is not about minimum product delivery. The definition of minimum depends on a particular project in a particular context to make this MVP meaningful. It’s about giving your users something, most often rough and far from your final version, to test. It’s about listening to their feedback and learning from it. Finally, it’s about iterating and driving new, updated (if not completely different from your initial idea) value to the end-users to get market traction. This is what we call validated learning that helps place the user’s needs and pains, not your app, in the center.

In a nutshell, minimum stands for solving early customers’ urgent problems from the very start by adding only those features first that matter most. So, instead of focusing on M, never underestimate V in your MVP.

Difference between an MVP and an end product

Not a perfect product version

Addressing ALL potential users with ALL best possible functions on ALL devices and platforms is a dead-end road. Trying to turn your MVP into an “ideal first draft” ends up being stuck in its development forever. Not to mention the cost of such a search for excellence.

MVP consulting we do regularly shows that for many startup owners it is painful to weed off the functionality they think would be nice to have. Sure, as product owners they are tempted to develop the very best of what they have in mind. Yet, in the case of MVP development for startups, it is not a sensible strategy. What makes a difference is their flexibility and readiness to pivot at any point.

Your MVP shouldn’t test certain features but the value it can add or a problem it can solve. Thus, the fewer features your MVP has that serve its primary purpose, the faster the feedback and the more time and money you save for future iterations. A product with broad functionality and dozens of tasks to test is no longer an MVP as it cannot be reliable in validating or invalidating your ideas and takes ages to deliver. After all, such a down-to-earth and thrifty MVP approach makes sense as no project has unlimited time and budget.

What we advise is to think of your product as the one that’s constantly improving. Many companies release products with lots of great features that are never used or updated. This is not how great apps are made. Yes, MVPs will never have everything you dream they should have. However, once you keep iterating, this is hardly a problem.

Not an end product

In fact, an MVP doesn’t even need to be a product to make the best of it. The intentions behind MVP development are to test the idea, see if you can sell the product-to-be (the fake-it till-you-make-it approach), collect feedback and/or the potential users’ database, engage prospective investors and receive (or not) their approval and funds.

Yet, many teams view an MVP as a half-baked product or the one that can be released earlier than expected. Once the startup owners attempt to see an MVP as something they develop and consider the job done, that’s where they fail to bring their idea to life.

To make an MVP beneficial, you have to treat it as a process that you must repeat constantly. Define your assumption, verify it, learn as much as you can and use the outcome to make data-driven decisions with as little time, effort, and money as possible. Repeat that loop. Do better. At every stage. And that’s the only helpful strategy. MVP development is more like building a part of every app development stage rather than producing one layer at a time.

what is an mvp

MVP mistakes to avoid

Let’s discuss the most common mistakes a lot of startup owners stumble over, irrespective of the project type, scope, or industry.

1. Early tech advancement

It’s common knowledge that every startup is built to grow. Yet, thinking in advance might result in an overengineered MVP incapable of performing its primary task – test the idea with the minimum effort and resources (read: quickly). What you need is just to build the key functionality and not assemble a complicated and scalable tech stack from day one. The latter is neither practical nor cheap.

If the tech stack is too simple, you will create a low-quality MVP not enough for initial users to test and give proper feedback. Yet, once you try to involve too much too soon, you might get stuck working months and spending extra just to find out the core idea, and eventually, will need another tech stack to implement it.

2. I-know-best approach

On your way, you will deal with vendors who provide MVP services. Our experience proves that whatever skills, brilliant ideas, or expertise an entrepreneur brings to the table, a project rarely succeeds if the focus is kept on the initial suggestions and any advice is rejected.

If there is no collaboration, it results in a major risk of bringing that precious so-good-in-theory app into life just to find out it is something your actual users either can’t, don’t need, or don’t want to use. At least, initially. And that’s what MVPs are for. Reasonable assessment: to test, analyze and pivot when it isn’t too late. At this point, it’s crucial to stay open to the suggestions your MVP consulting team has.

The I-know-best viewpoint is easily tested by a hard heart and a critical eye. The problem is, startup owners rarely have one for their cherished projects. That’s when MVP development services for startups come in handy. And even if you have a good development partner, it’s still difficult not to defend your initial idea or burn everything to the ground. What matters is to stay humble, listen, learn, adapt, and alter when suggested to do so.

3. Moving forward slowly

Startups have a major benefit: flexibility. They can pivot in a quicker and more stress-free manner than big market players. If you engage core functionality either in a small or a medium-scale project, it’s easier to adapt it or even start from the base one as soon as you get feedback from early users.

Yet, competition plays an evil trick with startup businesses. Some of them still misuse the MVP benefits wanting to give their customers more. Overloading your MVP with irrelevant (at this point) functionality usually results in budget overruns, not meeting the initial targets, reworking modules that have no value to your users, and delays in the final version launch.

The two common ways to see if you are making this mistake is to check how long it takes to deliver your MVP and its particular tasks.

  • The average period for a complete MVP is up to 3 months.
  • The number of key items on your list to validate is 3.
  • The workload for an average task varies between 2 and 4 days.

These numbers are approximate. Yet, if you passed these marks, you are probably adding too much or even jumped over to developing the full product instead of an MVP.

MVP mindset components

To achieve commercial success with your startup and make your MVP work for the benefit of the final product, you need to think, plan and act in a fast, yet reasonable way. We collected a few tips that are always crucial to the smooth MVP development.

Clear product vision

CBInsights states that the startup owner’s inability to identify the market demand is the reason behind 35% of startups’ failure. To see if your MVP resolves the pain points and minimize the risk of going in the wrong direction, you need to:

  • Define very specific assumptions to be tested
  • Set accurate MVP goals
  • Focus on the problems to solve

The more clearly you identify the product and its long-term prospects, the more accurately the development team implements it. The way you test it must be straightforward and simple so that you and your customers could easily check if it has any value. To make sure you are addressing the right problems, conduct research, map out user stories or cases. You can focus on a certain group, and not target a broad audience if it isn’t necessary. This helps you steer away from an over-engineered MVP, stick to the core idea and functionality, get rid of the tasks that don’t need to be validated at the initial stage, and make the MVP development process worthwhile.

Check out this case study on web application development. It illustrates how precise requirements from the client helped us to deliver the app earlier than planned.

MVP success metrics

To understand the product prospects, it’s important to rely on effective and proven ways to measure the success of your MVP. This validation process includes two major types of metrics you can involve:

  • Via qualitative metrics (rich text) you can get direct customer feedback through surveys, polls, and interviews, and use them to evaluate the user experience of the MVP.
  • With quantitative (numerical) metrics you can assess if your MVP solves the problem and is easy to use, check the level of engagement, and analyze if your marketing strategy needs changes. These metrics include download and launch rate, in-store positioning and user rating, customer acquisition cost (CAC), average revenue per user (ARPU), percentage of active users and paying users, customer lifetime value (CLV), churn rate, and more.

Whatever combination of indicators you and your tech partner choose to apply, do it before the development stage. These metrics help define the scope of work for MVP development services. What you measure in your MVP should be relevant to how you make progress with your startup.

The choice of the metrics also depends on the target audience of your MVP. If it is a focus group, select the relevant target audience. A group that includes the wrong number or the wrong type of users provides misleading results even if the metrics are accurate enough. If you are aiming at a broad audience, include the marketing costs into your budget to make sure the users are aware of its existence. Finally, if you need an MVP to prove the validity of the idea to your investors, you may need to include either of the previous audiences. The latter option serves as the showcase of how people can use it and demonstrate what you have next in mind.

In a recent cross-platform mobile app development project, we created an interactive dashboard to help our client access the key data on mobile app performance in a convenient format and accumulate it in one place. All to help a startup company rely on data in their business decisions.

Minimal marketable user flow

At this point what you need is to invest in core functionality and processes to provide more value now and in the long run. To identify such must-haves, analyze and minimize user flows you may have in the course of the startup development. The more minimal the user flow is and the fewer points you test, the easier it is to analyze the feedback and make the best of your MVP.

To generate such reduced or minimal marketable user flows (MMUFs):

  1. Create user personas and prioritize them to get the smallest (yet, viable) number you should work with using MVP techniques.
  2. Create use cases and arrange them in user stories to focus on UX rather than a collection of features to build.
  3. Prioritize use cases and break down user flows for each of them.

Such MMUFs can help you and your tech partner understand user behavior and dynamics, application logic, third-party integrations, and back-end tasks to fulfill later with less effort and resources involved.

After creating several MMUFs, crucial at the initial stage, you can move on to generating wireframes around each of these user flows in your MVP. This helps perform usability testing in a controlled research environment to record all the feedback.

One more advantage to this MMUF-based approach is the opportunity to track how every little alteration you apply influences or changes your users’ behavior. The latter is highly unlikely once you test two or more features at a time. Simplicity and transparency are key principles in verifying such user flows: minimum steps for users to take and UX design minimalistic enough not to overpower but to highlight what matters.

Minimal marketable user flow

When we helped with the MVP app development of the fitness chain platform, we applied the MMUFs approach, tested prototypes in focus groups, and adjusted the product based on the feedback. This helped our client launch a product beta with a really handy feature set.

What to expect from a tech partner

It’s quite a challenge to select a proper outsourcing development team for MVP engineering as it has lots of intricate aspects to take into consideration. These are the main requirements you should pay attention to while choosing an outsourcing team and starting your cooperation.

Relevant tech stack

Think big, start small. The tools and features your tech partner suggests should be good enough to solve the current issues and not overdo the tasks an MVP is to address. There is no need to focus on complex infrastructure or overload your MVP with features that are not essential at this step of idea validation.

Focus on minimum marketable user flow

A tech partner who really gets the idea of an MVP makes sure all the members of the team and the startup owner understand the necessity to start with an MMUF. The latter is helpful in defining certain opportunities or possible bottlenecks, yet, not so time and effort consuming.

Basic security and system load settings

Even if your MVP is tested by a minor focus group, safety comes first. Your users’ personal data, the code generated for the MVP creation as well as the initial idea are too valuable to risk them. At the same time, if you aim at a broad audience, your development team will point out the necessity of system load settings. The aim is to ensure smooth operation and no technical details getting in the way of proper feedback.

Flexibility and adjusting on the go

A flexible development team will not write tons of documentation for every button you may need. It will rather split the whole scope into epics and pivot, adjusting when it’s most appropriate or required. By arranging your MVP development into small iterations you can stay alert and be ready to adapt quickly. Flexibility helps the team reach high-level goals with an altered vision that relies on users’ feedback and new suggestions.

Clear roadmap and specific timelines

Although MVPs are about flexibility, it’s essential to have a plan. Your development team should provide you with a detailed schedule of what, when, and how all the steps will be implemented. Starting from the very beginning and up to the post-launch activities. A roadmap and timelines help every person involved understand what milestones are ahead and stay up-to-date. As a product owner, you can use such data to make data-driven decisions for future iterations.

Key takeaways

To embrace a true MVP mindset, make it a rule to dream big and apply an iterative approach to its planning, launching, and testing. Your MVP can’t and shouldn't be ideal. It’s neither an initial product development step nor a perfect end-version. It isn’t supposed to have the most modern tech stack or a maximum collection of features. What it needs is flexibility, precise goals, a clear roadmap, and well-defined problems your product solves. No matter how great or easy this idea might sound, its proper execution is what requires the most effort and true MVP thinking.

An expert opinion on MVP development can add real value and take the MVP of your new product to a new level. Contact us to discuss your business idea, and let’s find the quickest way to validate it.

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