How to Build an MVP
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Introduction: What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
1. Functional Web App
• The Wizard of Oz Approach
• The Piecemeal Approach
2. Prototype with Mock Data
3. Minimum Viable App
4. Other MVP Methods
• Landing Page
• Explainer Video
Congrats on beginning your MVP journey!
The fact that you’re reading this guide indicates that you’re taking a smart and diligent approach to getting your startup or business off the ground. Throughout this resource, you’ll learn:
The meaning and importance of developing a minimum viable product (MVP)
Ways to apply the Build, Measure, Learn strategy
Proven ways to validate your business idea and get customer feedback
What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
“An MVP is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development.”
– Eric Ries, The Lean Startup
Goals of an MVP
• Build a simplified version of your idea–FAST!
• Measure how it performs with sales or feedback
• Learn what people like or don’t like about your product or service before spending a lot of time and money on full development.
MVP Types We Offer
Winnona Partners offers a variety of MVP options to meet your business needs–desktop and mobile.
The types covered in this guide include:
1. Functional Web app or Web site
2. Prototype app with mock data
3. Minimum viable app
1. Functional Web App
A simple web app is a great place to start if you want to launch a bare bones system, start attracting customers, offer services, and/or collect payment.
Although it may not look as polished or complete as the prototype app option (Section 2), a mobile-focused Web site that looks and feels like an app provides an effective way for people to find and engage with your business.
The two most popular categories of Web apps are Wizard of Oz and Piecemeal.
The Wizard of Oz Approach
Many successful companies started out with little to no inventory; however, you’d have no idea that was the case if you visited their early MVP sites.
The advantage here is that you can gauge user response on items which they may be interested in without having to buy a lot of inventory in advance.
In other words, you wait until an order is placed to then fulfill the order from your supplier.
Online shoe retailer Zappos is a great example of the Wizard of Oz approach:
• Looks fully stocked
• Ability to place orders
• Can get real feedback and customer insights
The Piecemeal Approach
If your goal is to collect general feedback or gauge interest in your idea, then leveraging a variety of technologies is a quick, cheap, and easy way to get started.
Think of the piecemeal method like a potluck party where everyone who attends brings something unique to the table. Start with a collection of simple features, and then add more-advanced and customized capabilities as you scale.
The Artist Example: A Medley of Capabilities
• Simple page design
• “Buy Now” button links to Paypal account
• Manually engage buyer by email
• Deliver digital goods via Google Drive
The Web App: Pros & Cons
1. Easy to get authentic user feedback quickly.
2. Pay-as-you-go model allows you to start in a very lean way, and add features as your business grows.
3. Save money and time by including only features that are absolutely essential for your business. Less rework means greater profitability.
4. Easier to pivot to an entirely different idea or feature set if you discover that people aren’t attracted to your original concept.
1. Some people may not understand that your product is in development or they may feel that it’s not “advanced’ or “fancy”.
2. Since you only want to include essential features at this stage, you may have to leave out some desirable features when you’re first starting out.
3. If you decide to upgrade from a Web app to a full-production app, you’re starting from scratch in terms of cost production in contrast to the Prototype option (next section).
2. Prototype with Mock Data
The prototype MVP looks and feels like the ideal full production app you want to release without a functional back-end. The prototype displays mock data and information for the purpose of showing off intended features and demonstrating how the app will work once it’s live.
If you’ve got a complex or upscale app idea and want to gather feedback from potential users or investors before going live, a prototype app is a great way to get authentic feedback and narrow down your feature set for a fraction of the production cost.
The Prototype: Pros & Cons
1. Save money up front by developing what you believe your customers will want, without the expense of building out back-end logic and algorithms.
2. Your potential customers can actually test out the app flow and features without the risk associated with a live app, allowing you to discover which features they like or dislike.
3. If your User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX) design doesn’t need substantial modification going forward, your expenditure on the prototype will reduce the go-forward cost of the full production app.
4. You get a professional looking product to show off to potential investors and customers alike.
1. Since the prototype doesn’t have a functional back-end, real data can’t be exchanged, orders can’t be placed, etc.
2. The prototype won’t necessarily help you get more potential customers outside of your immediate network of evaluators.
3. Distributing your prototype to a wider audience is an involved process. However, Apple limits you to 10,000 testers (usually plenty for startups/entrepreneurs).
3. Minimum Viable App
If you’ve got a cool idea that’s simple and won’t cost much to develop, or if notifications are a must for your business, then releasing a simplified (1.0) version of your app in the Apple App Store or Google Play might be the right choice for you.
Below is an example of an app Winnona Partners developed for a client (My Typewriter), which mimics the look and feel of a vintage typewriter and allows people to easily share their work on social media.
The Minimum Viable App: Pros & Cons
1. The prestige of having an app available to download can create a sense of curiosity and excitement for your customers.
2. Accessibility – anyone on iOS or Android can download your app and access your product or service quickly on their device.
3. Diverse monetization methods offer a variety of ways for your business to make money–if you have a compelling offering for which people are willing to pay.
4. Once you’ve received Apple’s initial approval, it’s generally faster and easier to push updates to users.
1. Apple and Google take 30% of all sales that are digitally consumed. This means that with the exception of selling physical products through your app (e.g. e-commerce companies like Amazon or Lush), Apple and Google will take a substantial portion of your sales revenue.
2. Searchability – people don’t browse the Apple App Store or Google Play the same way that they search the Web in general. This means that organic searches will not yield many “hits’ on your app–most of the downloads of your app will be driven by advertising or word of mouth.
4. Other MVP Methods
If you’re on a really tight budget or aren’t sure you’re ready to commit to one of the MVP methods we’ve covered, here are a few more options for you to consider:
1. Landing Page
2. Explainer video
You can start with a simple landing page to build interest in your service. Ideally the landing page can describe your product or service, and have a way for potential users/customers to sign up and “stay informed” or “provide feedback” about the features that most appeal to them.
Here’s a mobile-view example of one Winnona Partners developed for clients to compile an email list of potential customers:
A promotional video will help highlight your product’s features, and the problem you’re attempting to solve.
A well-known example is Dropbox’s 3-minute demonstration video, which ended up going viral and resulted in a surge of interest in the platform before the product was even built.
“Beta waiting list went from 5,000 to 75,000 people literally overnight. It totally blew us away.” – Drew Houston, Dropbox Founder
You can see Dropbox’s breakthough explainer video on YouTube here:
To raise the initial capital needed to build an MVP, and measure interest in your project while doing so, crowdfunding can be a viable option.
The crowdfunding approach allows you to build a following of loyal early adopters through word of mouth marketing or viral campaign.
However, crowdfunding is easier said than done. It takes a lot of planning time and effort to receive funding over a relatively short campaign cycle.
You’ll also need to be prepared to give back some amount of funding to whatever platform is sourcing your campaign.
Here’s some of the most popular crowdfunding platforms for startups and entrepreneurs:
Popular Crowdfunding Sites:
Thank you for reading!
We hope that you’ve found this resource to be useful. Contact Winnona Partners to start building your MVP today!