Design

The Best Way to Define and Prioritize Features for Your MVP

Starting a business can be risky. Maybe you have a great business idea for a mobile app. Maybe you’ve done your market research to validate your concept...

Meghan W. - Social Media Manager

Sep 16, 2019

Starting a business can be risky. Maybe you have a great business idea for a mobile app. Maybe you’ve done your market research to validate your concept. Maybe you know what kind of mobile app you need. Yet you’re still not feeling ready to dive into the deep end of the pool of opportunities an app can provide you with. Have no fear, I’m here to give you the good news: you don’t have to! You should test the waters, so to speak, minimize your risks! Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the term of the hour, and will be your cornerstone for your future mobile app. Along with validating your concept, an MVP can help you select the essential features for your product. Through an MVP, you can:

  • Test if your idea actually solves your target market’s problem,

  • Learn more about your end-users and the target market, and how they perceive your product,

  • Validate (or invalidate) your product’s core functionality, and

  • Gain essential information, through which you can determine where you want to allocate your budget and resources.

MVP is a development method where development is focused on the core functionality of the app. The core functionality is meant to solve the problem of your target market. In other words, an MVP is the basic working product you can create with minimum investment. Just enough features that it solves the main problem that you’re addressing for your users.

The following are the 4 basic steps in MVP development that everyone needs to know:

Step 1. Vision

It is crucial for you to write down your goals! Don’t just store it in your head, but literally write it down. 65% of the population are visual individuals, and seeing your goals in front of you can actually help you more with planning and prioritization. What is your core problem and what core features do you need to solve it. This method may be more straightforward to some than others, but once you have it written down, it is easier to get feedback from others too, as well as ensuring that you are on the right track.

How cool would it be if everyone used your product or invention? In order for that to happen, you must first envision how it will solve the problem. Sam Foster is credited with the invention of mass market sunglasses.

Step 2. Validate

Validate your vision for your app prototype with the most influential actors on your product: those who you want to sell, and those who want to sell to your clients as well. Or in other words, your end-users and your competitors.

End users: Ask yourself, “What value does my product brings to my customers?” Don’t rush into features, but instead, think of the key elements you need in order to satisfy your end-user’s need. Through user research, you can study the needs and pains of your target market, and select the key features according to the results.

Competitors: Analyze your competitors and the products that already exist on the market. Perhaps even try these existing solutions yourself. Evaluate whether that product is an alternative product (product offers solution with the same approach) or a substitute product (product offers solution with a different approach). Compare your product and what you are offering to the market, and alter your product according to your findings.

Try to see if something is missing from your competitors products and see if you can fill that gap. You can also innovate on your competitor’s processes. For example, Bumble’s twist on Tinder was to only allow women to initiate conversations.

Mistakes in the planning stage are cheap. Mistakes in product stage are not, they can be company or product killing. Make more mistakes early on, on paper and sketch.

Step 3. Target

So you have all that information from the research, what’s next? What am I going to build first? The best strategy here is to focus on solving one problem for one persona. Important: Your MVP doesn’t (have to) satisfy the entire target market, because then it would no longer be an MVP. Meaning, the purpose of an MVP is to minimize your risks while validating your expectations with minimal investment. Don’t waste your efforts on targeting too many users at once. Remember, we are going for quality, not quantity.

Target persona is checked off our list, our next targets are the features that are vital for our MVP’s success. I’m certain, you have a list of life-changing features that will knock your end-user’s socks off. Unfortunately, that’s a no-go for MVP. Once again, we need to prioritize. We do that by asking ourselves: is it a NEED or a WANT? In other words, does the user need this feature to solve their problem, or do they want this feature to solve their problems?

Once we have our “needs and wants” list, we can plan accordingly. Incorporate the needs in your MVP, but hold onto your wants for future developments.

Apple is incredible at this. They definitely can include so many features, they do have the resouces. Yet their products are incredibly minimalistic. They must be ruthless with their feature selection process!

A great MVP will feature everything on the “needs” list and just enough of the “wants” list to have people want to try your product. But how can you tell which “wants” are worth investing in? I recommend periodic user testing as you are building your MVP. The features don’t have to be perfect, so don’t fully invest in them just yet. Instead, test how often people try to use it, and their level of satisfaction with the current features. Remove features that do not add value to your client and upgrade features that do.

Always aim for the key features and avoid fluff. For example, AirBnB’s main problem was to solve the inefficiencies of the hotel business and allow regular people to run their own hotels.

The core features for an AirBnB MVP would be:

  • AirBnB hosts can sign up and register their homes for service

  • Guests can browse through homes

  • Guests can sign up and book homes

  • Guests can pay for their stay and leave a review

  • Only available in the United States

  • Simple and clean UI

Features that would be considered fluff would include:

  • A detailed map view that displayed hosts from all over the world

  • Detailed filtering of homes

  • Allowing hosts to upload very detailed profiles for their homes

  • Well researched and developed UI, animations and illustrations

  • Available all over the world

Step 4. Teaser

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for: you now have an app ready for launch… Just kidding! (but seriously, you are so close). Remember, that just because you have an MVP, doesn’t mean that you are ready to take it to the market. You most likely will need to iterate your MVP by another round of testing, validation, and using. Set up an initial group of beta testers who are willing to put up with the quality of an MVP and figure out how to improve your product. Then you can reach the point of turning your MVP to an MMP, also known as Minimum Marketable Product.

Presentation matters. When it comes to marketing, I think every little bit counts. Every interaction of your users with your product should be as positive as possible.

Bonus Step (because I care about you so much!)

Create a list of features your vision product has to have. Now write down what problem your product solves. Then label every feature that is absolutely required to solve the above problem. That’s it! If you do this exercise as a team, it can be even more beneficial.

Also consider developing a landing page! Help your users get to know you and your product better through a visually appealing landing page. It can help you clarify what you are offering and encourages visitors to sign up right away! Build up some hype!

Conclusion

Nonetheless, the underlying message is this: Minimum Viable Products are for you to learn quickly with minimal investment. As you are building your MVP and transition into MMP, your ultimate goal is to continuously validate your expectations and respond to market feedback accordingly.

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