Everyone has an idea, but getting started is the most confusing of all, because you are trying to optimise too many variables around your idea. Here I will share with you a simple framework to get started with your product on a shoestring budget and a very quick turnaround time. I will focus on giving you a framework for digital products but you can use it for any product idea that you may have.
This is what it looks like : First and foremost, you decide the bare minimum features that your product should have which makes the product usable for users and at the same time helps in shipping the product to the market at the earliest. The idea behind this is to collect user feedback on the product without wasting any time and money. This version of the product is called MVP — Minimum Viable Product.
Lets talk about what an MVP is.
Eric Ries defines MVP as “ that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” MVP as a concept has been popularised by lean startup methodology. You can read more about it in this book by Eric Ries — The Lean Startup.
Let’s take Whatsapp as our example, in order to understand MVP better. Whatsapp is one of the most popular messaging apps today with a user base of over one and a half billion. In 2009 It was launched as an app which would publish current notification of a person to entire network, that was the only feature available in the app, then. This was to make use of newly launched push notifications by apple.
In the next version of Whatsapp that was released 3 months later, messaging was introduced in the app, this made a huge impact. Make a note, this was just text messaging, sharing of images and videos were enabled later on. Voice Call was added in the app as late as 2014.
Whatsapp is a perfect example of lean startup, the engineering team before getting acquired by Facebook was as small as 32 engineers. They managed and served millions of users with this time without any significant outage or downtime.
Every product that you use today will have a similar story, Facebook, which was launched in 2004, did not have a mobile app as recent as 2009. The Facebook that you use today was not built and launched in one go!
Make something people want
The goal of building a product is to build something that users will use.
“Make something people want, that’s the fundamental problem. If you die, it’s probably because you didn’t make something people wanted” says Paul Graham, co-founder of Y-Combinator.
Building a no-frills version of your product not just helps in fast go-to-market, it also makes marketing of the product easier. It helps in getting user feedback quicker. You can quickly iterate over the product based on the feedback you receive and launch in no time.
This, on one hand, saves time while on the other it helps you save cost, faster turnaround ensures that you do not burn your pockets beyond repair. The dollars saved here can be utilised in better marketing of the product. It’s always wise to build quick, fail fast and iterate.
Validate your idea before you build an MVP
You should build an MVP when your idea is relatively new and you want to test waters before going full in. When the idea has not been validated by actual users or customers, it is better to start small and keep building on it iteratively.
But in cases where you already have product-market fit (you have enough number of user transaction on your product to prove that the product is needed by the end users.), you do not need to build an MVP.
The decision to build an MVP or go with a full-blown product first up depends on the stage at which you are with your idea, as well. For a matured product idea, you obviously do not necessarily need to take the MVP route.
Metrics to decide what goes in the MVP
Now, I will give you simple metrics based on which you can decide what needs to be built and taken care of while building this version of your product. Start with making a list of all the features that you will want to have in your product. Categorise these features into two buckets, one for “product does not exist without this” and another “good addition to the first list”. More than anyone else, this will give you an understanding of what core value your product is offering and here on every decision that you take becomes easier. The MVP of the product will have only those features which are a must-have, without these features, there is no existence of the product itself.
In initial days, you should target one specific set of customers, who would be willing to use the product and pay for it, its this segment of users that you are building the product for. When Facebook was launched in 2004, it targeted only students from Harvard University. Then they moved on to other universities before opening up for everyone else. This helped gain valuable insights and helped serve the initial smaller set of target audience really well.
What goes in your MVP also depends on the market you are targeting, I am not talking about geo-location as such, its more about the maturity of the market. In an already served market, what you build will be assessed against what your competitors have already built. While in an untapped market, you will not be judged that critically.
A common misconception around MVP is that it means an incomplete product. MVP means lesser features where your user flows are complete but you are lesser focused on.
In cases where you need to pivot based on user feedback, the product marketing costs increases and time gets prolonged as you continually have to change the marketing pitch. When the product that you have built has a definite value and has seen a significant number of transactions by users, it’s wasteful to build an MVP.
From our experiences with founders and entrepreneurs, it’s a good idea to start with MVP and pivot as per the customer feedback till you reach a product-market fit.