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How to Build an MVP: A Step-by-Step Guide for Entrepreneurs

Are you a startup founder with a new product idea? Before investing significant time and resources into building out a complete product, it's crucial to validate your concept with real users.


That's where creating a minimum viable product (MVP) comes in.

An MVP is a basic version of your product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide valuable feedback for future development. Building an MVP allows you to test your assumptions, gather user insights, and iterate quickly without over-investing any of your money or time.


In this guide, we'll walk through the step-by-step MVP development process to help you bring your idea to life and achieve product-market fit faster.


What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

An MVP is the most pared-down version of a new product that still delivers enough value for target users. It includes only the core features necessary to solve a specific problem for early adopters.


For a deep dive intro on MVPs, you can check out our previous article here (link).


One of the biggest catalysts for an MVP-based startup approach was the lean startup pioneer Eric Ries, who emphasized the importance of releasing an low-weight version of a product to its target market so the founder can quickly gather key feedback.


By putting a basic version in front of real users, you can collect valuable insights to inform future iterations. Whereas most new products are built on instinct, an MVP allows you to build based on real customer feedback.


The MVP building process can take many forms based on the type of value you're trying to bring to market.


Depending on your idea, you could wind up with everything from landing pages to concierge services to piecemeal solutions. Aspiring founders who don't have a sense of what their business could be yet should check out our previous guide on developing billion dollar startup ideas.


Early sketches are made of an MVP.

Once you get to a place where an MVP would help you test your initial ideas, you should remember that their whole purpose is to provide standalone value to key users while minimizing development time and costs.


A successful MVP confirms there is market demand for the unique value proposition (UVP) of your initial product idea before you scale.


Don't know what a unique value proposition is? Here's a quick refresher:


A unique value proposition is a statement that captures the core value your company offers its potential customers and highlights why your delivery of that value is better than existing options.


For example, here's Robinhood's UVP: "Invest in stocks, options, and ETFs at your pace and commission-free."


Within Robinhood's UVP, we can see that they are offering a way for people to make investments that is both more approachable and affordable than existing options.


Companies that try to scale up their product development or sales process before proving demand on the initial version of their unique value proposition often run into the harsh reality that their initial vision was off the mark.


The result? Most startup founders end up building out and investing heavily into a misguided vision when they could have pre-tested their UVP with a qualified customer base without wasting resources.


Benefits of Building an MVP

Starting off your product development process with the creation of an MVP will dramatically improve your chances of long-term success. Along the way, startup team members will always thank you for these accompanying benefits:


Validate Your Business Idea

Building an MVP helps you battle test your assumptions about what users really want. You can determining if your unique value proposition resonates and solves meaningful pain points before committing significant resources.


Accelerate Time-to-Market

Instead of spending months or years perfecting a final version, you can launch an initial product much faster. This allows you to start acquiring real users and generating revenue sooner.


Conserve Resources

Focusing only on essential features controls development costs in the early stages when budgets are tighter. You can avoid wasting time and money on unnecessary bells and whistles.


Get Valuable User Feedback

Observing how real users interact with your MVP yields valuable insights you can't get any other way. You'll uncover what's working, what needs improvement, and gain new ideas for the product roadmap.


Attract Investors

Demonstrating early traction with an MVP makes your startup more attractive to potential investors. Having actual user data and revenue proves your concept is viable.


Now that it's clear how beneficial an MVP is to your startup's pathway toward success, it's time to explore how you can develop an MVP for your company.

MVP Development Process: 7 Key Steps

Ready to start building your own minimum viable product?



Follow these seven steps to develop an MVP that kickstarts your entrepreneurial journey.


Step 1: Identify and Understand Your Target Audience

Before building anything, you need to become crystal clear on who your ideal user is. This process starts with creating a detailed profile of your target customer. That profile generally includes these categories of information:

  • Demographics (age, gender, location, income level, etc.)

  • Professional role and industry

  • Purchasing Interests and buying patterns

  • Pain points and challenges

  • Goals and aspirations

Defining your target audience ensures you build a solution that directly appeals to their needs and preferences. You can then seek out representatives from this group to provide feedback during MVP development.


Step 2: Conduct Market Research

With a target user in mind, it's time to become a market researcher. Your research interests should fuel a meaningful understanding of the existing market and competitive landscape that will surround your company:

  • Identify current solutions serving a similar audience

  • Analyze competitors' strengths and weaknesses

  • Look for gaps in features or functionality

  • Determine how you can differentiate your MVP

Need help planning the customer discovery portion of your market research? Go ahead and check out our step-by-step guide to gathering priceless feedback from your potential customers.


This early research will help you narrow your list of possible minimum viable products down to a single option that represents the most likely vehicle for winning market share based on what you've discovered about your key market.



Step 3: Define Your MVP Features

Next, it's time to put on your product manager hat. You'll need to determine the core features your MVP must include to be functional and appealing to early adopters. For this task, you should carefully consider these questions:

  • What is the main problem the MVP will solve?

  • What are the key user journeys and flows?

  • Which features are essential, and which can wait?

  • How can you address pain points in a simple way?


Prioritize ruthlessly, including only the features that contribute to the core value proposition. Cut any components that don't serve the primary objective. Be willing to make hard decisions about features to keep development lean.


Step 4: Design User Flows

With essential features defined, map out the step-by-step path users will take to achieve their goals within your MVP. These user flow designs should be simple, intuitive pathways and interaction models that allow users to seamlessly navigate core functionalities.

Create wireframes and low-fidelity prototypes to visualize the user experience without investing in complete designs. Sketch out key screens, buttons, and paths to test the flow. Gather feedback from your team and target users to refine and simplify.


Step 5: Develop Your MVP

Now it's time for the practical product design of your MVP. Choose the most suitable format and technology stack based on your unique needs.


Some common MVP development approaches include:

  • Landing Page: A basic website describing your product and value proposition to gauge customer interest through email sign-ups or pre-orders.

  • Piecemeal MVP: Cobbling together existing tools and services to simulate your product experience without building from scratch.

  • Concierge MVP: Manually performing tasks behind the scenes to mimic the functionality you plan to automate eventually.

  • Software Prototype: Coding simplified working models of your software for users to test.

Aim to create a usable, valuable product while minimizing features and development time. Avoid the temptation to overbuild.


Step 6: MVP Testing with Real Users

With an initial MVP ready, it's time to put it in the hands of real users for feedback. Recruit members of your target audience to try the product and share their experience.

Some effective testing methods:

  • User interviews and observation

  • Analytics tracking

  • Surveys and feedback forms

  • A/B tests

  • Social media engagement

Ask open-ended questions to understand how well the MVP solves user pain points and what could be improved. Collect both qualitative and quantitative insights. Look for patterns in how active users engage with specific features.


Step 7: Measure Results and Iterate

Analyze the user feedback and data you've gathered to assess if your MVP is meeting key success criteria and performance indicators. Identify what's resonating with users and opportunities for improvement.


Evaluate metrics like:

  • Number of active users

  • Engagement and retention

  • Customer satisfaction

  • Referral rates

  • Revenue or customer acquisition costs


Based on the insights collected, iterate and refine your MVP. Update flows, add or remove features, and enhance the user experience. Then re-test with users in a continuous feedback loop. Keep tweaking until you achieve a true minimum lovable product that delights your target audience.


Best Practices for a Successful MVP

Some tips to set your MVP up for success:


  • Stay laser-focused on your core value proposition

  • Prioritize speed over perfection

  • Choose an experienced development team

  • Communicate clearly with stakeholders

  • Automate what you can, use manual workarounds if needed

  • Measure one key metric that aligns with product goals

  • Be willing to pivot based on user feedback

  • Celebrate small wins and learning milestones


Above all, adopt an agile mindset of rapid experimentation and iteration. Treat your MVP as a learning tool to validate and improve your product idea before scaling.

Inspirational MVP Examples

Many of today's most successful products started as scrappy MVPs. You may even want to model your MVP approach based on what these three unicorn companies did during their earliest days:


Dropbox

Drew Houston launched a basic video demonstrating Dropbox's file syncing functionality on Hacker News before building the actual product. The positive response gave him enough idea validation to move forward.


Airbnb

Co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia created a simple website with photos advertising their apartment for conference attendees when hotel rooms were sold out. They attracted their first customers before building a complete platform.


Spotify

The initial version of Spotify was a desktop-only app with a very limited music library. But it attracted users and investors which allowed them to grow into the leading music streaming service.


Life After Your MVP Launch

Launching your minimum viable product is an exciting milestone, but it's just the beginning.

Now it's time to keep the momentum going by:

  • Continuing to gather and implement user feedback

  • Identifying new opportunities to provide customer value

  • Measuring and optimizing key metrics

  • Investing in marketing and user acquisition

  • Prioritizing the product roadmap based on user needs

  • Focusing resources on the features that matter most

  • Setting and tracking key performance indicators

  • Celebrating success and learning from failures

  • Communicating progress with stakeholders

Most importantly, stay connected to your "why" - the reason you started this entrepreneurial journey to begin with. Once your MVP is able to consistently gather positive feedback, it's very easy to think that it's time to start a new development project. However, this can lead to feature bloat or an unnecessary line of new products.


Instead, the commitment to solving real problems for users within your initial MVP should guide a lean product development process moving forward.


Is an MVP Right for You?

MVPs are a great choice for many founders, but aren't suited for every situation.


Consider building an MVP if you:

  • Have an unproven idea that needs validation

  • Need user feedback to shape product direction

  • Want to demonstrate traction to secure funding

  • Have limited time or resources to get to market

  • Plan to scale and evolve your product over time


On the other hand, an MVP may not be the best path if you:

  • Already have extensive validated customer research

  • Are in a competitive space where a basic product won't cut it

  • Have ample funding to develop a full-featured product

  • Are in a highly regulated industry with lengthy compliance needs


Ultimately, pursuing an MVP is about maximizing validated learning while minimizing risk. If testing your business idea with real users quickly is a priority, an MVP is a smart choice.


Finding the Right MVP Development Partner

Bringing your MVP to life doesn't have to be a solo venture. No-code platforms like Figma have basically become the MVP app for designing product mockups, wireframes or initial dashboards. Need something more robust than Figma? You can partner with software development experts to speed up the process or make your initial models more comprehensive.


As you seek out MVP development tools or professionals, here are some key qualities to focus on:

  • Specialization in your industry or technology stack

  • Proven MVP launch case studies

  • Ability to guide the process from ideation to development

  • Clear, frequent communication

  • Transparent project management

  • Flexibility to adapt to changing requirements

  • Post-launch support and iteration services


Treat your MVP development partner as an extension of your founding team and you'll be on track to achieve your startup dreams faster.


Start Small, Dream Big

Building a minimum viable product is a transformative step for any entrepreneur. It takes courage to put an early concept in front of the world and invite real user feedback. But that's exactly what's required to create a valuable product people truly want.

Following a lean, iterative MVP development process allows you to validate your vision and build with confidence. By focusing on solving real user pain points from the start, you'll lay the foundation for a successful product with a loyal user base.


Dream big, but start small with an MVP. Each insight and achievement will compound to help you create something remarkable.


So what are you waiting for? Your next great idea is just waiting for an MVP to bring it to life.


For hands-on help in building and testing your MVP, you can book a call with our team below.




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