Who is the target audience for your software, and what do they want to get out of it?
When developing a new SaaS product, this is the first question your company needs to answer. Releasing a minimum viable product is arguably one of the best ways to do so. It’s basically a proof of concept for your target market, containing only the most essential and fundamental features.
But developing a minimum viable product isn’t simply a matter of releasing an early build of your software — there’s a lot of planning that goes into it, and a few things you need to understand in order to maximize your success.
MVP development is an approach to software development that focuses on creating a minimum viable product at the outset. It’s a cornerstone of most agile development strategies, cutting out any services and features extraneous to a project’s main concept. First popularized by Eric Ries’s book The Lean Startup, MVP development has a few core goals:
Many of the most significant MVP development mistakes can be traced back to a fundamental misunderstanding of what it actually entails. Awareness of these mistakes is the first and most important step in avoiding them.
A minimum viable product is not an opportunity to iron out the bugs and flaws in your software, nor should MVP development be part of your company’s quality assurance process. Instead, a minimum viable product is one step removed from a full release. It’s a polished POC environment for your company, with all the necessary features and functionality to hook your target audience.
Put your software through comprehensive testing and quality assurance before releasing it as a minimum viable product. If any bugs are discovered after release, address them immediately.
You don’t always know what you don’t know. That old adage very much applies to MVP development, particularly in the early stages. You might be absolutely convinced that you’ve come up with an incredible idea for a killer app, but is there actually a market for it?
You need to answer that question before you even think of starting the development process. Whether by performing your own market research or studying the materials that are already out there, you need to define a few things:
MVP development begins with building your development team — and more importantly, understanding them. You need to ensure that everyone working on your minimum viable product is able to play to their talents. It’s also imperative that you avoid forcing any of your team members to wear multiple hats or fulfill multiple roles.
Instead, consider bringing in a third-party vendor or leveraging specialized development tools to help you fill skill, talent, or resource gaps on your team.
Once again, a minimum viable product is not a prototype. It’s a polished release. Prototyping happens earlier in the development process — typically right at the beginning.
In addition to providing a foundation for your final product, a prototype allows you to:
Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the curse of perfectionism. That nagging feeling at the back of your mind that nothing you do is ever quite good enough. It’s all too easy to get caught up in that toxic line of thought, especially in software development.
Many an otherwise promising software product has been left unfinished because its development team simply tried to do too much. Don’t make the same mistake. Your minimum viable product needs to be minimalistic — it must include only the highest-priority features.
You can add all the fancy bells and whistles later.
Be careful that you don’t overcorrect. A minimum viable product still needs to be usable and complete. If you cut out too many features, you might end up with a barely-functional mess rather than a polished release.
Releasing a minimum viable product is a strategic decision. It’s not an initiative you can just blindly pursue. Instead, it’s one that requires careful planning from start to finish.
It’s imperative that you define what your product is and what it does at the outset. Identify your core features, and deviate from those features only when absolutely necessary. If at any point you must change your original concept, communicate those changes to your audience as clearly and succinctly as possible before you finalize anything.
Beyond that, make sure your team follows a consistent development process:
You also need to think about how you’re going to monetize your software once you officially release it. What pricing structure will you use? Will you offer a free product with the opportunity to upgrade to a professional version? What strategies are in place for customer acquisition and retention?
Lastly, consider what you’ll do after you finalize your software — what does your product roadmap look like for the next several years?
MVP development is ultimately about the insights you can gain from real users — about understanding how well your software meets the needs of its audience. You need to ensure there’s a framework in place for you to collect informative, constructive feedback from your users. Moreover, you need to be prepared to act on that feedback.
Your options here may include:
Focus on actionable, concrete information. What do users find frustrating about your software? What do they like about it, and what do they wish it could do better?
No successful business can rely on word of mouth marketing and virality to grow, especially in the software industry. Instead, you need to have a strategic plan in place that maps out your target customers, their pain points, what they need the software to do, and the channels you plan to engage with them on.
After all, you may know your idea is brilliant, but it’s how well you communicate said brilliance to prospective customers that will ultimately determine whether or not you’ll succeed.
MVP development can be invaluable. But it can also be incredibly challenging. We can help.
With CloudShare, your development team can create highly-complex, fully custom sandbox testing environments with just a few clicks. In other words, we’ll give you everything you need to test, refine, and optimize your software during development — everything you need to release a minimum viable product that’s truly compelling.
Book a demo to learn more about how CloudShare can help you do just that.