5 Musts To Develop A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) The Right Way
- Research your target audience, competition, and how your product will be used.
- Figure out what platform and technologies work best (e.g. tech stacks, IOS, Windows, Mac, etc.).
- Understand your infrastructure requirements (e.g. servers, security, feedback, and ticketing).
- Create a resource allocation plan that covers your budget, timeline, and subject matter experts.
- Decide who will develop your product (e.g. in-house vs outsourced to a development firm).
Developing a minimum viable product (MVP) can be a daunting task to undertake. Whether you’re a solo developer, a new entrepreneur, or an established business owner, this article aims to make the challenge a little easier for you. Here are 5 things you must do before you begin your journey to develop an MVP the right way.
1. Don’t Skimp On Market Research
Market research is the most important item on this list. Without conducting a proper analysis of your target audience, competitors, or how users will use your product, you will fail at some point. That may mean restarting the project or scrapping the idea entirely. It needs to be driven home that you must do market research.
But what does that mean? Let’s break it down into 3 different analyses for simplicity: Target Audience, Competition, and Use Case.
Who will use your app? Is it teens? Elderly? Healthcare professionals? Is it directed towards everyday consumers or businesses?
Until you know who you’re selling to, you’ll never know what to sell. Knowing your target audience means you can find what frustrates them and how to make their life easier. That’s the goal of technology… right?
We’ll use Dropbox as an example. Dropbox is a cloud storage host for businesses and everyday consumers. Who is Dropbox’s target audience? Anyone who needs more storage space but doesn’t want to buy more hardware, businesses who want to collaborate without setting up complex network systems, and people who need to access their data anywhere there is internet access.
Now that we know who the target audience is, we can figure out where their pain points are. Why do they need Dropbox? How does it solve their problems?
What other choices does your target audience have? Keeping with the Dropbox example, their users could also use Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google Drive, or the plethora of other cloud hosting services.
Once you know who the competition is, you can determine how to differentiate your product from theirs or more importantly, what features you must provide to bring yourself to the competition’s level.
How will your product be used? Will your ideal customer use your product from their phone, tablet, desktop computer? This is an important question that must be answered before you even think about developing the product! Once you know how your product will be used, you can start thinking about how to develop your product.
2. Determine What Technologies Are Needed
To understand what technology is required to develop your product there are two main questions to ask: what platform will the product run on and what tech stack should you use? Answering these two questions, effectively, requires experience and familiarity with software development and the different technologies available to developers.
When talking about the platform your product will run on, you’re talking about whether it’s a mobile app, a desktop app, or a web app. Will you need a server to host an API? Will it run on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, IOS, Windows Phone… All of the above??
Without answering this question, you can’t know where to start in the development process. Don’t worry though, this is part of the developer’s job and if you hire one or go through a software development company, they will be able to answer this for you.
If you’ve been doing research on building an MVP, you may have already come across terms like LAMP stack, Microsoft tech stack (or the .Net tech stack), or MEAN stack but what does any of this mean? To put it simply, it’s just the collection of programming languages, services, and technologies used by a company or product.
For example, the .Net tech stack revolves around C#, MS SQL, ASP.Net or WPF, and other various Microsoft technologies used to develop a product. There are many choices, each with pros and cons. It’s best to let your developers decide the best option if you’re not a developer yourself.
3. Figure Out Your Infrastructure Requirements
In software development, the infrastructure for a product is more than the hardware it’s hosted on. To build an effective MVP, you need to put systems in place for users to report bugs, give feedback, download the product, and more. While the following isn’t a comprehensive list, it should get you to think about the things that are often ignored until it’s too late.
Will your product need servers for hosting? For many products, this isn’t necessary but if your MVP is browser based, connects to a database, or requires an API, choosing the correct server solution is vital. You can use cloud servers like AWS and Azure, hosted options like Bluehost, Liquid Web, or GoDaddy, or you could host the product on your own servers.
If you launch an MVP without a way for your customers to provide feedback or report bugs, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. There needs to be a way for customers to do this with minimal effort. Feedback allows you to assess and adjust features to better suit the needs of your customers and without a proper bug reporting system, bugs can go unnoticed, leading to customers abandoning your product.
Will you need to store data? This is most likely a yes. If you’re storing health information you may be subject to HIPPA requirements which regulates how data is handled and if it must be encrypted or not. If you’re subject to PCI compliance standards, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got that covered as well. Make sure you understand the security concerns involved with your product and what regulations govern how you handle a customer’s data.
4. Allocate Necessary Resources To The Project
Now that you know about the market, what technologies you’ll need, and what the infrastructure will look like, you can figure out what resources you’ll need to develop the MVP. Here are the three main elements that must be considered when creating a resource allocation plan.
Determining cost is difficult, especially when you have little to no experience with your new venture. So how can you come up with a cost breakdown?
Let’s assume you’re an established business and you plan to hire a custom software development firm. The easiest way to determine what the project will cost, is by getting proposals from different companies. Look for companies that will give you a full cost breakdown for all services rendered and not just a single price quote.
If you plan on hiring developers full-time, you will likely have to do research on development times for similar products, research market rates for developers, and then make your own judgement. This route is risky if you don’t have software development experience to tap into and you may need to reach out to subject matter experts to ensure you setup your budget for success.
You’ll also have to figure out the timeline for the project. From start to finish to maintenance of the product and everything in between. The timeline should be broken down into phases that will help you stay on track throughout the development process. It’s common to separate software development projects into research/prototyping, development, polishing/testing, launch, and post-launch phases.
Finally, you’ll have to find the expertise needed to develop your MVP. If you have subject matter experts in-house, great! Otherwise you’ll likely have to look toward outside sources: consultants, freelancers, etc. This is a vital part of the process and good developers should be able to walk you through every step of the development process and explain why each piece is necessary.
5. Establish Who Will Develop Your MVP
Now for the big question, who will develop the product? Maybe you have the programming skills yourself but if you’re like the many people who have started successful businesses that offer software products, you may not know much about programming.
If you have no experience in software development or managing software development projects, this is probably not the route you should take. However, if you already have a developer working for you or you yourself can program, this may work.
Pros: More control/flexibility over changes, better communication, better quality control
Cons: Typically higher overall cost, requires existing experience, requires building everything from scratch
If you have no experience in software development or managing software projects, this is likely the best route to take. Note that outsourced development doesn’t mean sending your work and proprietary software overseas.
Pros: Typically lower and flexible cost options, huge talent pools, scalability, faster project delivery
Cons: Less flexibility over changes, communication gap, security risks
While this isn’t a comprehensive list of the pros and cons of in-house vs outsourcing software development, this should help you better understand the differences. Keep in mind that your specific situation significantly affects which route is best for you and you should seek advice of experts when making this determination. A good software development firm will turn you away if they can’t provide enough value.
Starting Your MVP Journey
So now you’re ready to start developing your MVP? If you’ve completed this list you should be but if you’re still not sure where to start, RoseberryPi can help determine the best path for you. Before you embark on your journey, make sure you understand all facets of what it’ll take to develop an MVP the right way.
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