You might be familiar with the popular saying ‘done is better than perfect’. Most of us are prone to wanting to perfect something before we’re satisfied with releasing it. Yet our biggest enemy is not someone else releasing a similar product before we do. Our biggest enemy is distraction from the end goal of releasing something altogether. This doesn't mean racing to release something mediocre, but it does mean applying a filter and choosing what’s going to matter for your MVP (Minimum Viable Product). You need to have the courage to release as soon as possible and get it into the hands of many. That’s how great products are born. They evolve from the best of keeping it simple and execution.
With a web application you have the ability to validate your MVP fast. A ‘Wizard of Oz’ MVP (Eric Ries, The Lean Startup) is putting up a site that promotes the idea of your business model. If your marketing resonates with end users who start signing up for your product, then you’re validating the value proposition of your product. Of course end users expect something when they sign up, and you can offer these early adopters to try your product for free in exchange for providing feedback. This is a great way of tuning your MVP to better suit the expectation of your users. Start with a manual service, and don't try to automate everything within the MVP. This is the art of experimenting.
Developing your Minimum Viable Product is an iterative process involving the following:
- Idea (What’s your idea, and how does it translate into a working MVP?)
- Prototyping (Your MVP is about developing a simplified version of your full product without the need to invest the time and money upfront in order to validate your business model)
- User Experience (Making the product simple and intuitive to use, without undermining the intention of the product)
- Data Collection (Collecting a variety of data from users to understand their interpretation of how to use the product)
- Analyze (Identify trends with users. What areas of your product resonate the most with users?)
- Revision (what have you learnt from watching people use your MVP? These are the things we now modify or discard within the product)
How do you fund the development of your MVP? Building a Product today compared to even five years ago is considerably cheaper. Infact most of what you need is free including the tools to craft your idea and a place to host your product. The biggest financial commitment is your time alone and how much you value it.
There are many ways to go about developing your Minimum Viable Product. Depending on what your product does (what problem it solves, how it works and what the UI requirements are) there are many existing platforms you can quickly use to assemble your MVP. These include the following.
IF Then This That (IFTTT) is a service that enables you to quickly setup and test your ideas through the connection of existing web services. https://ifttt.com/wtf Following the concept of channels, IFTTT enables you to treat these channels like basic building blocks. Setting up simple triggers and actions enables you to design custom data flows using services like Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote and Email.
If you have HTML/CSS skills and are prepared to navigate the Wordpress plugin universe, you can put together a working Wordpress (http://wordpress.org) MVP very quickly. Depending on what your expectations are for the end product, it might pay to simply continue refining your Wordpress development and launch your product from there. A number of products have found their way to market thanks to Wordpress and its ongoing popularity enables even the most technically challenged individual to access talent to assist with the assembly of the MVP.
Ruby on Rails
An open source web application framework, Ruby on Rails (http://rubyonrails.org) allows for rapid application development by developers. It’s ideal for putting together your web based MVP and provides a solid basis in which to move forward on and launch your product from.
If you have no programming chops whatsoever but want to put together a workflow concept of your MVP in order to share your ideas with a developer, then try Balsamiq (http://balsamiq.com).
An MVP doesn't need to be pretty, or have all of the expected functionality. It doesn't need to consider all of the scenarios that end users may attempt when they use it. An MVP doesn't need to be polished. Time is your enemy. You’ll want to refine and reiterate once you have something that works. Set yourself a modest timeframe and make yourself work to it. This will help you focus on the end game. To get your MVP into the hands of colleagues and gain the most important requirement of all. Feedback. You’ll want to be learning quickly as possible on how to refine your MVP so that it better addresses the problem that you’ve set out to solve.