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How to Build a Minimum Viable Product

startup product photo for how to build a minimum viable product post

Have a startup idea? Don’t waste all your money creating a full product version before you even know whether people will use your product. Instead, learn how to build a minimum viable product (MVP) so you can build a less expensive alternative.

This alternative will serve you much better and will be completed way quicker.

In this post, I’ll discuss seven ways you can build a minimum viable product and provide resources and insights to help you do it.

 

Background

A minimum viable product needs to fulfill a need of your target customers or solve a problem they face.

Rather than developing your entire product first, possibly wasting your time creating something people don’t want, you should build a MVP.

It’s cheaper and a more efficient way to get started and test your startup idea with your target market.

Additionally, there are methods that don’t require any coding which will help you know whether or not you have product-market fit.

Just in case you’re not aware of what product-market fit is, it’s when your product/product vision align with your target customers’ needs by solving a problem they have.

Develop Your Vision

In order for you to build an MVP, you need to develop your vision for the startup.

Whichever way you go (programming/building it yourself or not), your MVP will represent and fulfill a few of the most important aspects of your vision of your startup idea.

Moreover, when you are developing the vision for the full version of your product, you need to write it all down in an outline format.

When you do this in detail, it’s called a functional specification, and its primary use is for developing a product.

A function specification explains what’s going where on the website. It also shows how each element acts and interacts with users and other elements of your website.

Additionally, talk to your developer about using an agile framework so each object is its own independent function.

Make Sure You Answer These Questions

  • What is it going to do to solve a problem?
  • How do you envision your idea working?
  • How will you make money from it?
  • What features will it have?
  • How about down the road – will you be adding additional features or expand in a different way?
  • Is your idea different than other competitors in the space?

You want to have some sort of competitive advantage and unique value proposition or else you’re not going to get users, nonetheless customers.

Paul Graham Quote for how to build a minimum viable product post - the very best startup ideas have three things in common

Once you have your vision, then you create your product development roadmap from this.

However, be open to change, because user and target-customer feedback is crucial.

If you don’t know who your target customers are, then that’s something you need to figure out BEFORE you create an MVP. Check out this post on How to Build a Customer Profile.

Adapting to market conditions set by competitors is also vital.

Failure to pivot (change direction) can be detrimental to you if you see your target customers wanting something else.

Then, you strip down your product idea to its essential elements, like stated before. You may not even need to do any real programming.

Below, I’ll show you a handful of different ways to create an MVP.

 

1) The Landing Page Method

One way to create an MVP is to create a landing page with an email list signup and a survey for feedback.

Install google analytics and track your signup conversion rate using event tracking in Google Analytics. Then you drive traffic to it and see how it goes.

The minimum conversion rate you should have is 5%. Ideally you want to shoot for 10% and higher.

If you’re not getting at least 5%, then you’re not driving the right traffic to your page or not giving them enough incentive to sign up.

The landing page method, however, is considered a vanity MVP because it doesn’t provide an actual solution to the problem.

Moreover, there’s no actual product for visitors to try and use.

It just shows a possible solution to the issue(s) your target market faces.

Hubspot has a great article on 12 great landing page examples for you to get a good idea.

Below, are multiple landing page builder sites for you to check out. Only you can decide which option is the best for you and your circumstances.

Landing Page Builder Sites

  1. LeadPages – Starts at $37/mo & no usage restraints. The more features you want, the more it costs, but it’s the #1 landing page builder out there because of the amount of features they have at competitive price points. The next price point is $67.
  2. Unbounce – Starts at $50/mo for 5k visitors. You can A/B test and get some other powerful features when you go to the next price point of $100.
  3. Pagewiz – Starts at $29/mo for 5k monthly visitors. Has unlimited A/B testing, professional integrations, and is not hard to use at all. They also have great customer service.
  4. Wishpond – Starts at $45/mo with no usage cap. A/B testing is offered at $65/mo. Nice templates and even has opt-in popups.
  5. Instapage – Starts at $29/mo for 5k monthly visitors. You can do unlimited A/B testing and has a simple GUI. They’ve a lot of nice templates. If you want CRM integrations then you have to buy-up to their next plan.
  6. Landingi – Starts at $29/mo for 10k monthly visitors but you need to pay for 6 months at a clip. Lots of templates and unlimited A/B testing.
  7. Lander – Starts at $70/mo for 5k monthly views. You can do A/B testing and will integrate with Paypal, Mailchimp, Salesforce, social media, and other services.

 

2) The Explainer Video

Another way to build an MVP via creating an explainer video and put it on a landing page with your signup form and survey. Dropbox did this and got 5,000 signups just from their video. This is also considered a vanity MVP for the same reason as the former – it’s an idea and not a product.

Kissmetrics created this great blog post called 9 insider tips for creating a killer explainer video that you should check out and they made a helpful infographic about how to increase video viewership.

Myevideo and video.explainers are two great services that will work with you to create a great explainer video. You have to request pricing for both but I think that’s because it’s project-based so they have to create a quote for you.

Myevideo is purely animated. However, video.explainers have six different styles: 2D cartoon animation, whiteboard animation, motion graphics, infographics, cut-out animation, and kinetic typography.

Animated videos are perhaps the easiest to make because voice-overs are much easier to record than a video of a real person, and you can do it on your own.

Moreover, there are many animated video services which don’t require interacting with a video development team.

Animated Video Services

Below are several of the best animated video services and some of them even have free options. They all have many similarities in how they work.

  1. Animoto

    Animoto has a 14-day free trial of their professional package without any credit card required, which is their middle-tier package at $42/mo. However, if you pay annually, that price goes down to $22/mo.

    • Their first tier is the “Personal” plan at $16/mo and allows 720p HD, 70+ design-rich video styles, and 500 music tracks. That’s about it.
    • The professional plan is really where the fun starts and you can have square or 16:9 videos, use your own logo, get advanced text control, do voice-overs, get pre-built storyboards, 2000 music tracks, and more.
  1. Animaker

    Animaker has a free option where you can produce 2-min videos, get 5 exports/mo, have SD quality video, create unlimited video, get a small amount of animated maps, charts, characters, and props.

    • They have some sound effects and sound tracks, but not many. You can, however import your own images and tracks.
    • Their next tier is the “Personal” plan at $12/mo with expanded features, up to 5 min in video length, but still SD video.
    • To get HD video, you have to buy-up to their “Startup” plan at $25/mo and it has a considerably more features.
    • Their business plan starts at $49/mo and has all of the bells and whistles.
  1. PowToon

    PowToon has a completely free version, but you’re not going to be able to get HD video. You can create up to a 5-minute video, get free soundtracks, styles, collaborate with other users, and get up to 100mb of storage.

    • It’s a good way for free users to buy-up to their pro plan at $19/mo with more features including HD video.
    • You can upgrade to their team plan at $46/mo or business plan at $59/mo, with of course, more options.
  1. GoAnimate

    Their service starts at $39/mo. You can produce 720p HD videos, make unlimited amounts of videos, export to YouTube & other sites, import audio/video/image files, get use of 40 premium sound tracks, and get automatic lip synching.

    • The next plan is $79/mo with 1080p HD video and 70 premium sound tracks and all the features of their low-tier plan.
  1. Wideo

    Starts at $59/mo for basic plan with only 1 minute videos 10 downloads/mo, and 20 video templates, but has a free 7-day trial.

    • The next option is the $99/mo pro plan with unlimited downloads, up to 10 minute videos, and 80 templates.

 

3) The Wizard of Oz MVP

This is also known as “Flinstoning” because the website looks like it is a full version of your product, but instead of the functions being carried out by a computer, you manually carry out the back-end functions.

However, the user doesn’t know that. This can get “sticky” if you gain a lot of traction because demand might outweigh the ability to supply the service.

Remember, it’s harder to scale up when your startup is limited by the actions of people.

 

4) The Concierge MVP

The concierge MVP is similar to the Wizard of Oz MVP because it also manually carries out the functions of the value proposition. But instead of the user not knowing the back-end functions, the user knows and they’re catered to by the business, like a concierge would do.

Be ready to do a lot of one-on-one legwork with your customers. In today’s economy, people are very demanding and crave things to be done instantly. You might want to set limits on hours available like any normal business does.

However, you want them to know that eventually you’ll be supplying them their services digitally in an automated fashion without having to do everything manually.

 

5) Piecemeal MVP

This type of MVP is created by using a combination of existing software and tools to achieve your value proposition and unique selling proposition.

WordPress can allow you to piecemeal your MVP with its vast array of plugins, but don’t count on it.

Research whether or not there are actually the plugins that can allow you and/or the user to perform the functions you want.

It’s also possible to use a combination of multiple services that a user won’t get to use, but you will use them in order to fulfil your value proposition.

Zapier is a great service that allows you to integrate many different services into its suite so you can automate tasks and be more productive.

Other alternatives to Zapier are: IFTTT, Huginn, Integromat, Skyvia, Microsoft Flow, Biopio, Apiant, CloudHQ, Automate.io, and more.

This is really specific to each startup on a case-by-case basis.

 

6) Barebones SaaS

If you’re not a programmer and want to have a SaaS developed, the cost of having an MVP built versus a full version of your digital product is of significant difference.

Full versions of digital products can often range from approximately $20,000 USD to $250,000, depending on its complexity.  Sometimes more and sometimes less.

Yes, it’s a huge range, but we must acknowledge that there are an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to developing digital products.

Based on conversations with founders, I’ve found that cheap MVP’s can range from $1,500 to $5,000 USD. This range is much easier to digest than the former, don’t you think?

You might get lucky to get an MVP developed cheaper than $1,500, but don’t count on it.

However, be ready to pay that developer or team of developers for additional debugging services when there are bugs. And, the more users using your product, the more likely they are to encounter bugs.

Moreover, if you can fulfill your startup idea this way, then you’re much more likely to be able to obtain seed-funding.

Or, you might get enough money (if you’re charging with your MVP) to get more features developed.

Jack Dorsey of Twitter Quote for how to build a minimum viable product post

Jack Dorsey says it all. Don’t go crazy with your product, adding a million features, especially in your MVP.

 

7) Mockup MVP

You can create a mockup MVP that looks like it’s are real from the outside, but none of the functions actually work. Startups usually use these to help them get seed investment. So what you’d use are mockup and wireframing tools. Below are several options for you to check out.

  1. Balsamiq – Balsamiq is a rapid wireframing tool that helps you work faster & smarter. It reproduces the experience of sketching on a whiteboard, but using a computer.
  2. Mockingbird – A wireframing and mockup tool to quickly mock up apps and websites.
  3. Concept.ly – A collaboration and prototyping platform where you can create fully interactive prototypes that look and work exactly like your app.
  4. Flinto – A Mac app used by top designers around the world to create interactive and animated prototypes of their app designs.
  5. Gliffy – Web software which allows you to make diagrams, flowcharts, wireframes, organizational charts, network diagrams, and more.
  6. Justinmind – An all-in-one prototyping tool for web and mobile apps through wireframes and prototypes.
  7. MockFlow – A collaborative whiteboard for brainstorming mobile, web, and desktop apps, interfaces, UIs, and websites. It’s a super-easy wireframing and UX suite for designers.
  8. Moqups – A streamlined web app that helps you create and collaborate on wireframes, mockups, diagrams, and prototypes.

Building a Lean Product/Service

Definitely remember this following point. You and your developers should build the MVP and product/service with a “lean startup” approach.

Additionally, you can achieve this by building, measuring its effectiveness from your user acquisition efforts, learning from that information you’ve gathered, then getting more feedback, and finally repeating the process to re-build/change elements based on feedback. Below is a model for lean startup development.

lean startup feedback loop

This model reflects the most basic and essential form of growth hacking. It’s talked about in greater lengths via this post How to Growth Hack a Startup. You can start out with a technical minimum viable product and keep building on top of that, testing each new element you introduce.

 

Outsourcing Development

Below are nine third-party services to use  develop a minimum viable product:

  1. SourcePad – They are a development shop and have a great reputation in building great software for startups that get funded.
  2. Topcoder is a place for you to crowdsource your programming projects to only the best developers for things like design and rapid prototyping, application development, algorithms, and analytics.
  3. Gun.io is a place to find and hire quality freelance software developers with over 25,000 professionals ready to work for you.
  4. Gigster is a smart software development service, combining top developers and designers with artificial intelligence.
  5. UpWorkis one of the best places to find contractors for cheap prices, but you can also find quality contractors there at or near market-rates.
  6. co is a site to hire top-notch creative freelancers.
  7. 99 Designs is the destination for talented freelance designers.
  8. People Per Hour is a great website with a smooth interface devoted to helping you find a freelancer for almost anything you will need in your startup. You can post jobs or freelance yourself.
  9. Guru is a marketplace to find and hire talented freelancers for almost any task and have a significant base of 1.5 million members.

Finding a Business Partner/Co-Founder to Work with You

While there are ways to build a MVP without a developer, having one would certainly be advantageous for you.

Most startup accelerators require you to have a developer on your team. This shows the importance of having one.

It’s much easier to grow when you have your own dedicated developer. You may hit the jackpot and find someone great quickly, or you may not.

What’s more, it’s important to know how to go about the process of bringing someone on board.

So to help you learn that process, check out this post on How to Find, Vet, and Get Startup Co-Founders.

 

Conclusion

Making your own minimum viable product doesn’t have to be a product, per say. While a few that are mentioned are vanity MVP’s, they can at least be used as to see if your target audience likes what you’re proposing.

Many developers don’t want to put their time into something they that may not be successful.

Showing a developer that you’ve had significant user traction can signal to them that your project is worth their time and interest.

And, you could possibly get a co-founder from that approach.

However, the best way to see if your idea really works is to make a real, non-vanity, MVP.

Now you know 7 ways how to build a minimum viable product.

Article Sources:
https://rubygarage.org/blog/how-to-build-a-minimum-viable-product
https://thenextweb.com/dd/2014/11/12/15-ways-test-minimum-viable-product/
https://medium.com/swlh/building-a-minimum-viable-product-cbd57cc07f8d
https://scalexl.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-minimum-viable-products/
https://www.copyblogger.com/minimum-viable-product-ideas/
https://grasshopperherder.com/concierge-vs-wizard-of-oz-test/

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