Using MVPs in Software Development
MVP Meaning in Software
MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. It refers to a piece of software developed with just enough features to be functional, designed to attract early adopters, test ideas and gather critical market feedback.
Why Use an MVP?
The primary reason that an MVP is used in software development is to receive crucial feedback from the product’s end users. They might pick up on usability issues that you’ve missed, or indicate if your product should be supplemented with other services. Other benefits of MVPs include:
- Validation – MVPs can make or break your business idea. If your product gains traction in its MVP form, you know you’ve found an idea that your demographic can get behind.
- Cost-effective – developing an MVP is significantly cheaper than a full product, giving you some leeway in funds should your project need to be slightly tweaked or reangled to be successful.
- Rapid roll-out – similarly, as the MVP doesn’t require the development of the entire product (just one key functionality), it can be developed much more quickly and rolled out internally and to your early adopters.
- Agile process – as MVPs rely on consumer feedback and information, they work well as part of an agile software development style.
- Reach stakeholders – as well as showing the validity of the product or idea (an MVP allows you to show your stakeholders that there is interest for it), you can also use your MVP to reach new stakeholders or investors.
An MVP Is Not…
A Proof of Concept
Proof of concept is a fundamental step in creating your product or business idea – quite literally, you create a proof of concept to prove that the product is possible to create. It is typically written for the technical team or the project owners and will be very basic.
A prototype is a model of how the final product will look and act – it simply represents the product. You might create a prototype to explain the product to stakeholders, or to get a better feel for what it will be like to use the product.
A Beta Release
Once your product has been fully developed, you may opt to do a beta release – typically, this release will go to a large but exclusive group of customers to use and test. It is much more polished than an MVP, and is very nearly ready to be released to the public.
Creating an MVP
- Identify your goals and create a proof of concept
So, you have an idea for a new product. The very first thing you need to do is review your goals for this product – what will it do, who will use it and what pain points does it target?
You should also create a proof of concept – it doesn’t have to be perfect and there is no need to worry about UX at this point, but you should be able to prove that your product can be implemented. If it can’t, it’s back to the drawing board!
- Market research
If you’re putting a new product into the market, then you have to know that market inside and out. What do your users need from your product? What types of features do they like and dislike? Review existing similar products that are available to get an idea of what you might incorporate or avoid.
- Plan out the user journey
It’s important to know how the user will use and navigate your product, as this will give you an idea of what key feature your MVP software should test, as well as which core functionalities will be required to ensure your MVP will be usable.
- Build a prototype
Prototypes are the best way to represent the software before creating it. They allow you to run your product past your investors or stakeholders in more detail, and may help you see any glaring errors or things you may have overlooked.
- Choose which features are imperative to the success of your MVP
By this point, you should have a good understanding of what features you will need to incorporate into your MVP. This stage is your chance to finalise that list before you begin developing the MVP.
- Build your MVP
Finally, you can actually start building your MVP software. As it’s a very stripped-back version of your final product, it will typically be much quicker to develop, meaning you’ll be able to roll it out to your users much sooner.
Examples of Software MVPs
Some of the biggest brand names started out by testing their ideas with MVPs, including Airbnb and Uber.
Airbnb’s MVP started out as a way of simply testing an idea. In 2007, two guys in their mid-twenties, struggling to pay their rent in San Francisco, noticed that a nearby conference had many attendees struggling to find sufficient accommodation in the area. They blew up some air beds and launched their MVP, a website called ‘Air Bed & Breakfast’. As an MVP, the software only targeted one location and one demographic – those visiting San Francisco for conferences.
The final product, of course, has gone global and now offers a variety of locations, date options and other features. Over the last year to March 2023, Airbnb has enjoyed $8.4b in revenue – not bad for an air mattress in their living room!
When Uber launched its MVP app in 2009, it had one simple feature – tell Uber (or ubercab, as it was then known) your location, and they would dispatch a driver. Like Airbnb, the simplicity gave the founders a chance to test their idea and gather valuable market feedback.
Now, Uber offers a range of other features, including real-time tracking, fare-splitting and a driver/passenger reviewing system, and over the last year alone has seen over $31b in revenue.
While we can’t guarantee revenue in the billions, we hope you can see just how valuable an MVP is in software development. Whether you have a full business behind your software or just three airbeds on your living room floor, MVP software allows you to validate your ideas and align your products with your users’ goals and pain points.
If you would like to learn more about digital software and app development, please contact us at McKenna Consultants today. We provide bespoke software development services and have over 15 years of industry experience. Learn more about us, or check out our blog on all things digital.