At Crowdlinker, our team has been responsible for building over 50 digital products in varying different industries. Our assorted experience in the world of digital creation has allowed us to collect in-numerous insights into the strategy, design, engineering, and marketing of successful products.
Through building an MVP, our partners are able to test, iterate and improve upon their ideas by introducing a no frills, functional version of their product to their intended market.
Many Founders and product leaders often struggle to identify what a MVP is (minimal viable product). Releasing something that isn’t quite polished can feel like a failure waiting to happen, but the idea of a MVP is to mitigate costly mistakes by failing fast and failing cheap. That doesn’t mean shipping a product that doesn’t work, but by prioritizing features and testing each one strategically, companies are able to build desirable products and achieve greater success.
Here are some key points to consider when embarking on building your MVP:
It Doesn’t Need to be Perfect
Your MVP is supposed to make building a product easier, not harder. It really only needs enough features to gather sufficient learning about the product, so you can build further on this, or secure further funding.
Test Features, Adapt Quickly
Your MVP should help you to answer and analyze what the problem is, and how to quickly test the way you intend to solve that. It is a testing tool that can be iterated upon.
Our clients will often use their MVP to demo their product to investors. This way then can secure additional funding, which can then help them to take their product to the next level.
Validate the Market
Your MVP should validate desirability. You want to confirm that it’s something the customer wants. Whether that’s a new feature or entirely new product. In doing so, Your MVP helps to validate the marketability of your product.
Where a prototype tests an idea, an MVP tests the product. You can use a prototype as a proof of concept, and move on to building your MVP under the assumption that your POC has been proven.
Additionally, an MVP is functional, and should be something that can be used, even if that is in a limited way. Prototype’s generally demonstrate the visual appearance of a product, and can act as the foundation of an MVP. But in most cases, a prototype has no features, limited functionality, and little to no engineering. An MVP on the other hand, is traditionally more testable, and helps to get feedback on operation of a product or feature.
What is the pain point? What are you trying to solve for? You need to understand what is the core driving force behind your MVP. The first question you should ask yourself when building an MVP is, why? Are you trying to introduce a new feature set to an existing product, or are you building something completely new?
You can collect qualitative and quantitative data to help you to understand the problems your users are facing. If there is no existing product on the market, you can rely more on user interviews and surveys, or try to draw analysis from products in other industries. If your are building on an existing product, you can use those tools with the additional help of user feedback and data analytics.
What are you planning to achieve from this build? Do you need to secure further funding from investors to take your product to the next level? Be clear about how you will measure the success of your product and understand your long-term goals for your business.
Formulate what the MVP should include and what features are needed. A discovery phase with your stakeholders can help you to prioritize features and align your team. Implementing too many features at once can knock you off track and quickly deplete resources. It can also confuse users, and pull the focus away from your original goal. Capture all ideas, but carefully consider how to prioritize them for your MVP. Exercises such as creating a prioritization matrix, opportunity statements, or product roadmaps can help you to stay close to your goals during this stage.
Always remember: Continuous discovery leads to much better products. As your project unfolds, things are likely to change - for your users, and possibly your intended market. Live data can help you to stay up to date, and stop you from falling behind the competition. By validating each iteration you can ensure your product is purpose built, and solves the problem you defined in step 1.
The DVF framework can be a useful tool for helping to decide if a product is worth building. Is the product desirable? Is it viable? And lastly, is it feasible? At Crowdlinker, we frequently come across innovators that are quick to skip past desirability, and head straight into feasibility and viability.
An MVP can help you to validate the desirability of a product, but without first considering your market, you’re stuck building something off the back of an assumption. You have to go out and actively speak to your customers to truly understand the desirability of your MVP.
Additionally, you need to know who they are, and where they are. If you can’t find your market, where are you going to ship your MVP? Who are you even building it for? By identifying your market and creating room for conversation, you can find common ground and learn how best to communicate with your user. This in turn will help you to create better designs that form a shared vocabulary between you and your customers, and a stronger foundation on which to grow your business.
Speaking with your customers will help you to answer the following questions:
For many of our clients, speaking with their customers can be one of the biggest barriers to overcome. But building successful products hinges on constructive feedback from users. Not only does it give you valuable feedback, but it also makes you more comfortable with the process of having conversations with your users. For startups and growing businesses, having some external help from a digital product studio or agency can be extremely helpful in making sure this process is thorough, and meets the needs of the project.
Whether you're building an internal product, or you’re working with an agency to build a product, speak to your customers. It sounds simple, but many innovators fall short of what is necessary, and failures around this are frequent. According to this article by Inventiva, around 56% of start-up failures are down to poor market fit - “The biggest killers were marketing errors, and the most significant issue by far is a lack of product-market fit.”
When you start with an idea, you’re making a lot of assumptions along the way. It’s easy to go on a tangent building something out, without actually validating it. Build a relationship with your customers, hear them out, listen to their problems. When it comes to the launch of your MVP, these people will act as your initial advocates for your product and can be essential in your success post shipping.
Keeping to set timelines and within budget constraints can be difficult and is often why enterprises and large organizations sometimes struggle to build MVPs.
Here are a few ways you can avoid costly pivots and stay on track with shipping dates:
It’s important that you keep the purpose of building your MVP front and center right from the kickoff. Communication here is key.
Going through a discovery process can bubble up a lot of excitement around introducing new product features. Instead of giving in to each suggested feature set, build a process around capturing those ideas, and make it clear that although they might not be included in the MVP, they aren’t being ignored either. Instead, allow features to be prioritized based on what is necessary for the MVP, then provide an opportunity to absorb all information and capture the scope creep before it happens.
This process will allow stakeholders and team members to be aware that their ideas aren’t off the table, but they can come during later releases of the product.
Define the project
It’s important that everything is understood by all stakeholders at the beginning of the project. What is the scope? What timeline are you working towards? And what resources do you have available?
Make sure the PRD is signed off and everyone understands what is included, what the objective is, and what you might need feedback from. Once those things are defined up front, keeping on time and on budget is much easier.
Align Your Team
Your own internal team should be clear about what the required commitment is for your project. Have everyone involved early on in those discussions, and present options for solutions.
As the project progresses, you should constantly evaluate the work that needs to be done within each sprint, knowing the capacity of the team you have. Do they have other commitments you need to factor into time estimations? Sometimes this is often missed, and PMs don’t always know the full ability or capacity of the team on the build.
At Crowdlinker, we like to hold regular allocation meetings, giving us a full picture of what everyone’s availability is, and what level of commitment they’re going to be able to make to the project.
Leverage no/low code solutions
Finding the right engineer to build your MVP is both expensive and time consuming. Unless you're a team of skilled developers, building your product from scratch isn’t always necessary. Whilst your testing ideas and validating your product, using vendors and building out from a no/low code solution can help you to save time, ship products quicker, and save valuable resources.
The idea is to fail fast to succeed quicker. You have to be in an agile environment because markets move quickly. Considering scalability, or whether or not that code is 100% transferable into your existing tech stack could lead to you overextending yourself at this stage. It’s more important that you’re able to collect data from your MVP, so that you can properly consider whether or not it is necessary to take that code through into your existing tech stack. Once you hit the objectives of your MVP, you can ask questions like, can we repurpose this tech? Or do we build out from scratch?
New founders and emerging start-ups may struggle to find the right resources and personnel to achieve all they want from their MVP. By partnering with a digital product studio, these companies are able to leverage the expertise of skilled professionals armed with a wealth of insights.
From an enterprise perspective, digital product studios can provide a whole range of solutions. By using a digital product studio, large-scale companies can build out MVPs quicker, and at less cost than what can often be done at enterprise.
When searching for an agency or studio to partner with, here are 3 things to consider:
For more information, check out this interview with our PM and CEO for insights into how we build successful MVPs for our clients.