A Minimum Viable Product (MVP): The Advantages and Disadvantages of taking on this approach

Building an MVP has proven to give startups an edge, however, it can also be tricky. Here’s a quick roundup of the pros and cons of employing the development approach of a minimum viable product (MVP).

Picasso once said, “To draw you must close your eyes and sing. I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else”. When a development team starts building an MVP, they’re essentially doing the same. That is, they start with nothing and then build their masterpiece by adding only the most crucial aspects first.

Software development entails time, expenses, and most of all risk. Businesses, therefore seek out approaches to minimize risks of failure and lost funds, and releasing an MVP is one of the most effective ways in achieving this goal. There however are benefits and downsides to taking this approach to product development. This blog covers the advantages and disadvantages of building an MVP.

What Is a Minimum Viable Product?

Let’s first define what an MVP is. An MVP is the earliest version of a product. Its core purpose is to give startup entrepreneurs crucial feedback that they can use to further develop and improve their brainchild, essentially finding out whether people actually buy it and how they will actually use it. An MVP helps developers in saving time and money on building out features that won’t add value to the final product, before spending years and millions developing something no one will buy.

The secondary purpose of an MVP is to generate revenue, the ability to successfully sell a product at its early stage builds confidence with investors and reassures developers that they’re on the right track, enabling valuable cash flow back into the business and fueling growth.

Advantages of a Minimum Viable Product

When launching a new product, be it a mobile or web app, you can only guess how consumers will perceive it. Your research may be based on assumptions or real-world facts on solving a problem or meeting a specific need.

MVPs offer a range of advantages, including minimized risk, cost efficiency, clarity on the project, transparency of the product, and more outlined in this section.

Early feedback from real users

An MVP allows you to create your customer database and collect critical data. Early consumers can provide you with feedback that is vital in defining the individuality of your product, helping you gain an advantage over your competitors.

On the occasion, there’s little to no feedback, it’s likely you’ll need to rethink aspects of the product and make improvements accordingly. On the other hand, if you are engaging with your target audience and they’re excited about your product, you’re moving in the right direction.  

Test Business Ideas and Product Concepts

An MVP allows you to test a minimal project that is not overloaded with technical features, ensuring you haven’t spent too much time and money on its development process, essentially diminishing potential losses. Based on user acceptance rates and a better understanding of user needs, you can check your hypothesis, seamlessly add additional features, and make the required improvements that yield a purpose-built user interface, before releasing the final product version. Moreover, if your MVP is functional enough, your early adopters can help you spread the word about your product.

Saving Time and Money

Depending on its complexity, the creation of a full-featured software application can take anywhere from several months to several years and may require a heavy investment. Alternatively, an MVP is considered a much more convenient option that can be launched to the market much faster, enabling quicker feedback that allows you to work on the improvement of your solution, and swiftly release an updated version. Moreover, it can start generating revenue right from the get-go, which can be invested in further development.

User-Centered Development

The “minimum” nature of an MVP enables development teams to have a clear focus on end-user needs and deliver clear solutions to their problems as a top priority. The features built are limited to only those address the customer’s pain points, setting aside all unnecessary or accessory add-ons that may not add much value to your product at the early stages.

Only a very few get it right the first time around. Therefore, additional development iterations are based on feedback from real users, enabling the adaptation of necessary improvements more quickly to easily match the expectations of your potential customers. Iterating an MVP also requires fewer resources and shorter timeframes as opposed to reworking a big, complex final solution.

Disadvantages of a Minimum Viable Product

MVP development does come with some drawbacks and challenges. Keep the following cons in mind when conceptualizing and developing your MVP.

Prioritizing the Features

Sometimes defining the “minimum” is not always that easy, it can be tricky to decide the minimum functionality and core features valuable enough to earn a spot in the initial product that aims to solve customer problems. Launching too small a scope may not properly represent the value of the product and adequately solve the customer’s problem. On the other hand, if you include too many features, the development will take too long and you may be spending resources on unnecessary perks. It is therefore important that you clearly define the product mission, the customer problem you are going to solve, and which features are deemed necessary.

Non-scaling Technology Stack

It is crucial to ensure your business is future-proof. Yet another drawback of building an MVP is that developers may not take into consideration the product's scalability, often assuming the MVP to be a very basic version of the product and so opting for an architecture that does enable the scalability of the project. Therefore, transforming the MVP into a feature-rich product may necessitate a complete redesign which will be costly in terms of both time and money.

To avoid this, it is recommended that you build the MVP on a technology stack that is flexible and adaptable enough to scale as desired in the future.

Watch out for the Competition

Unfortunately, your MVP also becomes available to your competition, sooner than you think they may notice your product, identify its flaws, improve on it, and then release a similar product that could be better than yours, essentially causing you to lose market share.

It is therefore important that you develop fewer features but make them work seamlessly. When entering a highly competitive niche ensure you support your MVP launch with a unique competitive advantage and a well-designed, robust marketing strategy.

Wrapping up

An MVP is a straightforward, cost-effective investment in reducing risk, producing a better product, and managing quality. It’s a way to prove your idea and see how your actual customers perceive the product. In fact, large groundbreaking projects such as Facebook, Amazon, and Airbnb started off as MVPs with a simple idea to make life easier.

To build an MVP, you could hire in-house developers or outsource the entire engineering process. We recommend opting for third-party experts to develop an MVP for three main reasons: it’s hassle-free, budget-friendly, and ensures an agile team of professional developers delivers your brainchild on time.

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