MVP Software Development: A Complete Guide

MVP software development

If you have been following software development and product designing for some time, you should have come across the term MVP quite often. Most of the successful companies we see in Silicon Valley started by building an MVP that they later improved over time to create the final products used by millions or even billions of people worldwide. 

If you are an investor or a tech founder, it is always best to look at the MVP of the product being pitched to you before giving it the go-ahead or investing your money in it. 

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about MVP software development, its costs, and finding qualified employees to do it. Let’s get started.

What is an MVP in software development?

MVP is an acronym that stands for Minimum Viable Product. An MVP in software development is a technique used to build an application or website with enough features for the product to be usable by early adopters. An early adopter is someone curious and willing to use a newly invented product without minding much about the perfection in its early days. In the world of software, early adopters are usually tech enthusiasts. 

When building your MVP, you need to select who joins the group and then determine the core features that the first version of your product should have to make it usable. 

The goal of building an MVP is to test a new idea before investing more resources in it. With an MVP, you will get feedback from the early adopters about their experience with the product and what you can improve to make it better. 

The feedback from the early adopters should also give you an idea of whether the product you are trying to build will solve a problem in society or not. The developers and owners of the MVP require specific characteristics. They need to be very open with the early adopters and give them an environment that makes it easy for them to share their user experience with the product without hesitating. 

The main reason many startups fail is that they build products based on assumptions. When you are trying to innovate, there is usually little information about the kind of product you are trying to build. So, making assumptions is inevitable in the process. However, you need to test your assumptions to avoid wasting time on an idea that is not feasible. The best way to test these assumptions is by building an MVP that real users can use. 

MVP vs. Prototype

Something to keep in mind is that an  MVP is not a prototype. Most people tend to confuse an MVP with a prototype, but these two are different. Yes, they share a couple of things in common, but the purpose of building each of them is different.

A prototype is simply a mockup meant to describe the visual aspects of the final products. It is usually not a functional product. 

On the other hand, an MVP is a functional product that can accomplish basic tasks that the developer wants early adopters to test out. 

For example, a web application or website prototype is built using graphic design tools like Adobe XD. On the other hand, an MVP of this same application is built using software development tools that may include IDEs, web app frameworks, programming languages, etc.

Key Attributes Of Any Software-Based MVP 

  • It offers enough value that early adopters are willing to use or even buy. Yes, the MVP should have basic features to save time and money spent while building it. However, you need to create a usable MVP to give your early adopters enough reason to use it. 
  • Should demonstrate enough future benefits to retain most early adopters. Even though your MVP only ships with basic features, it needs to give your early adopters hope of improving over time. 
  • It should provide a feedback loop for guiding future development. The first features you ship the product with should make it easy for the early adopters to give feedback about their overall product experience. 

Minimum Viable Product Examples

To make sure you understand the concept of MVP software development even better, we will share with you some of the most popular examples of MVPs in the tech world. 

1. Amazon 

We all know Amazon started as a simple online book store. Jeff Bezos would always order books from distributors every time his online store received an order. 

So, the MVP of the Amazon we see today is that simple online bookstore that was meant to determine if people can shop online. After receiving several book orders, adding more products to the store, and scaling it up to the Amazon we see today made sense. 

2. Airbnb

Airbnb started as a simple platform where people could list their rooms or houses for short-term rental to earn extra income. It turned out that lots of travelers were willing to reside in rentals to save some money on accommodation, especially when they travel to foreign countries. 

3. Facebook 

The first version of Facebook was just a simple platform connecting college kids at Harvard University. Each user’s profile only had a few details that were just enough for their friends to identify them. When Zuckerberg realized that college kids loved the app, he further scaled it up to make it usable by people outside the college. 

The MVP here was to test whether people were interested in connecting with their friends and family over the internet.

4. Dropbox

Drop boxed first dropped an explainer video showing the benefits of storing all your files and data in one place that you can access over the internet on all your devices. The goal was to get feedback from the users about the idea before building the actual product. Dropbox then built the first version of their MVP that shipped with one primary feature; accessing your files over the internet across all your devices. 

5. Zappos

To test his idea, Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn took photos of shoes he found at online stores to find if people would purchase these shoes online without trying them out. He found out that people loved the idea. So, he built the web application to assure that his idea was worth the investment of his time and money. Amazon later acquired Zappos in 2009 for $1.2 billion. 

How To Build An Mvp – Stages For Building A Software-Based Mvp

While building an MVP for your next application, there are certain procedures you need to go through to make it a success. 

How to build a software-based MVP

1. Define The Problem

To avoid building an application that no one will use, you need to clearly define the problem your app intends to solve. During this stage, you should sit down and discuss with your team the problem that an app can solve and how significant it is to the people that could potentially use the app. 

2. Decide Who Your Target Audience Is 

After defining the problem, you need to define your target audience. Some developers make the mistake of trying to build an app for everyone. Yes, it is possible to create something that billions of people will use, but it is best to target a niche group for astart. Build your target audience persona and make it as specific as possible. Some of the details you should include in the buyer persona include; age, profession, location, income bracket, education level, hobbies, etc. It will become easier to determine the features you will ship first with these details.

3. Determine The Essential Features

After defining the problem and target audience, it is time to determine the key features that the product’s first version will ship with. As we earlier shared, the product should have sufficient features that are just enough to ensure it is usable. You first need to list all the potential features that the product should have. 

From these features,  you have to choose a few crucial ones that the MVP should ship with. Ideally, the MVP should have one major feature to test the general idea of the product and the problem it intends to solve. You should always have the target audience at the back of your mind while deciding on these features. 

4. Build the MVP 

Now that you have decided about the features, it is time to build the product. You, first of all, have to determine the programming languages, frameworks, and other software development tools you need to use while building the app. Once you have all the tools, you can start building the product. 

At this stage, you don’t need to think about perfection; focus on building a usable product. Your goal should be to create a functional product in the shortest time possible to test your assumptions.

5. Test The Product With Early Adopters 

Once you have built a usable product, it is time to test it with actual users. Find the people who match the buyer persona you created and request them to use your product. You can reach out to these people via social media, email, or physically if possible. The goal is to have a good number of people that can use the product and give you feedback. 

You need to provide a mechanism that allows the users to give you honest feedback about their experience with your product. If it means sending them follow-up emails with a form to fill, do it. Your aim is to get feedback that you can use to determine if your idea is what the users want. 

6. Use Feedback To Improve The Product

When users give feedback about the product, you need to put it together and see how best to implement it into the MVP. First, focus on feedback on how the product solves the user’s problem to help you know whether to pivot or continue with the same idea. If the feedback is positive, you can now determine the next features to add to your product based on the feedback. 

You may not be able to fix all the issues raised by the early adopters at once. So, you need to determine the most pressing issues that affect the user’s experience of the product and then attend to those first. This process may also involve removing some of the useless features from the product. 

Spend as little time as possible while fixing these issues. You should then roll out one feature and a time and work on the rest as the users continue to use the product. It should be a constant loop until you reach the point when the product is ready to be used by the general public. 

MVP Requirements

While building the MVP for your next application, there are certain things you need to have in place to make the process much smoother. The common requirements that almost all software MVPs need to include the following:  

  • Development tools: You need to be ready with all the essential tools for development before starting the building process. Some tools might require buying, so you have to plan for such costs ahead of time.
  • Deployment platform: For your users to use an application, it needs to be deployed on a particular platform. AWS, Microsoft Azure are some of the best deployment platforms you can consider.
  • Manpower: In the planning process, you need to assess the day-to-day tasks that have to be done in order to bring the MPVP to life. Each of these tasks needs to be assigned to someone with the essential skills to execute it. If you are a solopreneur, you need to have all the necessary skills to accomplish all these tasks. 

Skills Needed to Build Software-based MVP Development 

There are specific skills you need to have to build a successful software MVP. Whether you are a solopreneur or have a team, these skills are necessary for almost every software-based MVP. 

Some of the common skills include the following; 

  • UI Design/Front end development: One of the essential elements of any application is its graphical user interface. While building an MVP, you need to have UI design skills or bring someone to help with UI design. The UI is what the user interacts with, so it should be usable at the bare minimum. 
  • Back-end development skills: Every application has to execute commands that the user inputs from the front-end behind the scenes. So, you will need to have server-side scripting skills to build the backend of your application. 
  • Project management skills: Besides the technical skills of writing code, someone on the team needs to know how a project is run. The project manager on the team is the one that ensures teams on the backend and front are in sync, and within the timeline, for delivering the next features, you plan to implement. For most startups, that founder is usually the project manager and the vision bearer. 

MVP Development Costs

The costs for building a software-based MVP from scratch vary based on the application you develop. 

Most MVPs usually split the costs into business and technical expenses. 

The business costs include all the money you spend during idea generation, market research, determining your target market, and testing the product with actual customers after building it. 

The technical costs include all the money spent during the actual building of the MVP. These consist of the fees for buying the necessary tools and the facilitation for developers and the entire team working on the project. While building an MVP, most of the money should be spent on the technical side of the product. 

If we estimate actual figures, the cost for building most software-based MVPs might come between $15,000 to $50,000. The price usually depends on the type and complexity of the application you are trying to build. 

However, you need to minimize these costs as much as you can because the goal of your MVP is to test your idea in the market without spending a lot of resources.

Other factors that determine MVP development costs

  • Number and level expertise of the development team
  • The cost of the tools needed to build the product 
  • The scope of design and development tasks 

Final thoughts 

Building an MVP for your following software product is crucial for its short- and long-term success. An MVP will not only save you money but will also save you time that you would otherwise waste on features and functionalities that users may not need the product to have. 

Make sure you go through all the stages of building an MVP that we have shared. The exact tasks to be executed at each stage may vary based on the product you are building. However, make sure you find something tangible that can be done at each stage because they are all useful. 

If you’re looking to hire skilled developers to build your MVP, you can get in touch with our team. We will help you find and hire qualified remote developers based on your project requirements, tech stack, and, most importantly, culture.

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Vishal Srivastava

Vishal Srivastava

Vishal has played multiple roles over the past 8 years- a mechanical engineer, blogger, liberal arts student, & currently a marketing professional. He loves to learn and read new things and his latest obsession is creator economy and personal branding in the age of remote work. When not working, he is busy overthinking about life in 2050. You can reach out to him on Twitter @VishalThisSide