Many entrepreneurs get into the same trap. Being excited with a product idea, they expect other people would definitely feel the same (spoiler - no). The most painful is to finally realize that you spent a ton of time, effort, and money on something that nobody actually wants. The only way to avoid frustration is to validate your product concept with someone who looks like your target audience and analyze the given feedback. In other words, you should create a minimum viable product to test if your idea will match market needs.
In this article, we’ll find out why making an MVP is a right decision, learn about MVP types and examples, and the main steps to take to build your MVP for SaaS.
And to start with, let’s refresh what we know about a minimum viable product concept.
What does an MVP stand for?
Imagine you’ve got a brilliant business idea and all your close ones liked it and encouraged you to try. Can you be sure they did so not only because they didn’t want to hurt you and break your relations? Before investing every single penny into developing a full-feature solution, you need to check your hypothesis with a broader, not-biased audience.
You can do this by creating a minimal version of your product with core features that address the primary customer’s problem you’re going to solve. The minimum feature set will speed up showing your product to the market. However, even with limited features, the product should still be “viable,” meaning a working one.
The main purpose of an MVP is to test the essence of the product idea, analyze users’ feedback, and create a full product version based on the insights. In the B2B world, the experts say that it’s not an MVP until you can’t sell it. The picture below perfectly illustrates a proper MVP approach.
The MVP product shouldn’t obligatory have a fancy design, which can distract users’ attention from understanding the product value. Though, the UI and UX should be intuitive and easy to follow. We’ll come back to this point later when talking about the MVP examples. And before, let’s see what perspectives building a minimum viable product gives to a SaaS entrepreneur.
Strictly speaking, all benefits can be boiled down to one phrase - “market feedback.” Elaborating more, we’ll find that creating the MVP helps:
- Understand if there is a market for your idea
- Evaluate product’s potential
- Gather customers’ insights
- Reveal a product’s weak points
- Attract investors for future funding
- Enhance your product to satisfy market needs
- Reduce engineering hours narrowing down the feature set
- Avoid unnecessary expenses
In a nutshell, the minimum viable product is a cost-effective learning tool that helps test the idea and understand whether to invest in the deployment of an extended and feature-reach version.
MVP common myths
Regardless of the MVP concept’s simplicity, there are some delusions around it.
- MVP is a low-quality product version
This way of thinking can do you a huge disservice. A viable version of your product should contain a limited number of features, this is true. But the quality must be as high as you can ever provide. The MVP’s ultimate goal is to attract early adopters, introduce your idea, and see if it is welcomed by the market or not. Poor quality products won’t make a good impression by default, bringing to nothing your efforts.
- MVP helps gain first users
From one side, yes. The early adopters will be your first audience. However, the MVP is not a marketing strategy. It’s rather a development technique that enables developers to create better products based on customer feedback.
- MVP is a prototype
Not necessarily. It depends much on your product’s nature. Landing pages, mockups, or demo videos of a non-existing product will also work. The goal is to deliver the product’s idea essence, and the form can be one of the listed below:
- Piecemeal MVP
- Wizard of Oz MVP
- Concierge MVP
- Landing page
- Demo video
- Product design
In this article, I would like to focus on the three latest types of MVP as they may be relatively easier to realize than other forms.
MVP example: Product Designs
The product design can vary from simple sketches to more complex mockups depending on the purpose, timeframe, and budget. Let’s dive a little deeper.
Wireframes, Sketches, Mockups
A wireframe is a product blueprint. It’s an early stage in the design process when the product’s structure is being built. Wireframe contains the most important elements and content of a website or an application. As an MVP, the wireframe shows the UI elements’ location and basic features. It’s a good-to-go option to test a product idea in general or an innovative product feature that can change users’ behavior patterns in particular. Here is a mobile app wireframe example.
A sketch is a drawing that presents main screens of the product and the core functionality. It can be free-hand or created with the help of special tools like Balsamiq picture. The sketch is a good-enough-to-go MVP for investors’ meetings, crowdfunding applications, or just to present your idea to your colleagues and teammates.
A mockup is a more “advanced” product design type. It’s a colorful full-size version ready to be implemented. Sometimes, to better demonstrate an MVP functionality, mockups can be made clickable and interactive. At Eleken, our designers created a beautiful and functional mobile app mockup for a client and breathed life into a unique dating application.
LittleDate app helps people make their dates short and secure. According to the idea, your first date should last no more than 20 minutes. If you stay longer, your rating within the app will go lower. You won’t need to make excuses anymore if you want to escape soon after the date starts. Isn’t it a relief?!
Our designer team brainstormed on this awesome idea and created the UI/UX MVP design for the LittleDate iOS app. The ultimate goal was to make the app design intuitive and easy to follow, customer-focused, engaging, and not dull.
Not to visually overload an interface, we made a user profile minimal. It includes only necessary information - a user’s photo, rating, and the number of dates they had. We used the scroll down instead of the swiping motion, the most popular UI mobile pattern for dating apps, to encourage users to be more serious in finding a match and not just play a “swipe and like” game. Also, we designed availability, scheduling, “running late” features to make the app a handy dates companion. Read more about an MVP app design our team created in LittleDate case study.
MVP example: Demo videos
Why not show your product idea in a video format? The best startup demo video example that comes top of mind is Dropbox.
Their MVP was a simple explanation video uncovering the main product concept. In 2009, the idea of keeping all your digital data in cloud storage was innovative. Short Dropbox MVP video demonstrated the functionality of the product that was not physically built yet.
The video had mind-blowing success and led to 70,000 signups from early adopters who wanted to learn more and test an upcoming product.
MVP example: Landing page
One more way to get market feedback for your product idea is to create a one-page website. The landing page will raise awareness about the future product and gather a potential customer base enabling feedback from those who show genuine interest in testing your innovation. Buffer’s story is a remarkable example of how an MVP landing page grew into a truly useful service.
Buffer is a tool that allows to schedule social media posts and share them in a defined time.
Joel Gascoigne, a Co-founder and CEO at Buffer said: “I had lost 1,5 years of my life to not validating ideas before building them. The landing page - and more importantly the conversations resulting from people signing up through it - proved to be great validation.”
He created a simple landing page and asked people to choose one of three pricing plans.
The next form requested users’ emails, promising to notify them once the product goes live. When Joel received a significant number of emails, he understood that there was a market need for his idea and started developing the first product version.
Steps towards a SaaS minimum viable product
The MVP story wouldn’t be full if not mention what essential steps you need to follow before you start building your minimum viable product.
Let’s walk through from start to finish.
- Determine a problem
You should conduct custdev interviews to unveil an issue or research your competitors to find out if they already provide a similar solution. This very step will tell you whether a market potentially needs your product or not.
- Learn your audience
It’s crucial to understand who your ideal customer is. The product for everybody is a product for nobody. The more accurately you distill your buyers, the more chances you won’t have difficulty selling your solution. By the way, we have an in-depth article about SaaS buyer personas on our blog I’d advise you to look thorough.
- Analyze your competitors
Unfortunately, this step is often overlooked by many SaaS companies. Business owners wholeheartedly believe their products will beat competitors simply because it’s GREAT. Don’t be biased. Investigate your market rivals and perform better than they do.
- Focus on main features
Consider what features reflect the product’s value the best and how you can realize them at the fastest. However, having only basic features, your product should be ready to be sold. It should not be a draft. It has to be a fair copy.
- Develop your MVP
Creating a SaaS product is an iterative process. The value of MVP is the possibility to quickly adjust your product based on customer feedback. It’s okay if you won’t hit the target from the first shot. Just keep testing.
To learn more how to build a minimum viable product, check our dedicated article.
As a conclusion
Building a minimum viable product is a smart and cost-effective way to validate your idea. The MVP type depends much on your product concept. Whether you decide to create a wireframe, a demo video, or a mockup, it should be the best way to convey the value you want to bring to the market. And if you need a UI/UX design for your future product, just drop us a line, and we’ll visualize your idea.