18 types of minimum viable product (MVP) that won’t break the bank
14 June 2018
A minimum viable product is an idea or product designed with only a basic set of features to help you test your ideas in your chosen market. It’s a fast, cost-effective way to test the demand for your product before it goes to market, and will enable you to gain popularity with an audience of users before you create the full project.
Designing a minimum viable product can seem like a laborious process, but it will give you gain valuable feedback and analytical information to improve your idea and will help you better understand your audience.
Some startups get put off at the idea of launching an unfinished product, but one of the main problems we encounter with startups is that they don’t truly know who their customer is, or exactly what they want. So they waste a lot of time and money building a product that has features no-one wants or needs.
Many startups fail because they jump ahead and create a final, full feature, product and deliver it straight to market. The only way to progress in a startup is through learning. Launching a full feature product is a waste because it won’t actually help you learn.
Your Minimum Viable Product is the cheapest and smartest way you can start learning and experimenting and allows your customers to use your product.
DropBox is a file synchronisation service with its current value standing between $5 and $10 billion dollars. DropBox makes it possible for you to edit files on your desktop and seconds later updates that file on all of your other devices, but they didn’t dive straight in and release the product straight away. Their Minimum Viable product idea was to create a video. The video only lasted for three minutes and demonstrated the synchronisation process from start to finish, but there was more to it. The video was full of tech humour intended to appeal to early adopters, which worked. The video drove hundreds of thousands of people to the website, almost overnight, and increased their beta sign-ups from 5,000 to 75,000.
The two types of Minimum Viable Product
There are two main types of MVP, Low-Fidelity MVPs and High-Fidelity MVPs. Which one you choose will depend on where you are on your journey. Let’s break them down:
Low-Fidelity MVPs are used to:
- Gain a better understanding of your customer’s problems
- Check how valuable a solution to this problem may be for customers
- Investigate as to whether or not the problem is worth solving
- Explore what kind of solution would be most effective for the customer
High-Fidelity MVPs are used to:
- Find out how much customers are willing to pay for your product
- Find early adopters who will be your first customers and help spread the word about your product
- Help you define and optimise your marketing strategy, such as your value proposition, call to action and communication channels
- Identify the best potential growth strategies
There are a few things to consider when choosing which type of Minimum Viable Product to use, such as risk, timescale and cost. Before you start your MVP project, ask yourself these questions:
- What could your biggest potential risk be, and how could you avoid it?
- How much time do you have to build your MVP and wait for reliable results?
- What can you afford? Think about the most effective way to spend your money. Don’t spend too much on your first tests. Remember you’re not trying to make your customer happy at this stage, your main goal is to learn.
Let’s now look at 18 types of Minimum Viable Product that you can use to test your idea is profitable and scalable.
Types of Low-Fidelity MVP
1. Customer interview
A customer interview isn’t a sales pitch for your product, it’s an honest unscripted interview. It’s a great way to find out information about your product and the problem you’re trying to solve. Think about asking questions around Price, Product, Promotion and Purchase behaviour to get a well-rounded understanding of your audience’s requirements.
These are an easy way to validate ideas within your target market while using minimal effort. It costs very little to set up a blog, and it gives you a great form of two-way communication between you and your future customer. Of course, you’ll need to figure out how to drive traffic to your blog, but in doing so you will start to learn about the best channels for marketing your product later on down the line.
If you are trying to gain a better understanding of your customer’s problems, existing forums dedicated to the subject can be a great way of learning directly from potential customers. You can ‘scrape’ forums for information and data that’s already been discussed, or you can join the forum and start interacting directly with customers.
4. Landing Page
A landing page is the first thing customers come to after clicking a link on a piece of your marketing communication, for example, a Facebook ad, e-mail or blog post. It’s a great opportunity to promote the features and benefits of your product and validate your Value Proposition, proving your brand communication.
Buffer is a great example of this. Buffer is a social media management platform where you can schedule your social content, and it will post it for you at a date and time of your choosing. Before going ahead with their idea, and building the app, they created a really simple landing page to see if there was any demand for it. The landing page described what it did, and gave their customers an option to click through to plans and pricing. Any customer who clicked through would be taken to a page saying “Hello, you caught us before we were ready” and then the customer would be invited to leave their details so they could be informed when the website was up and running.
5. Split Testing
This is a very effective way to measure any changes you make to your product or marketing. There are so many analytical tools to choose from which can tell you how your audience reacts to various changes, be it your website, product design, call to action, pricing, or other elements. If you want to test two versions of something, split testing allows you to compare the two and determine which one performs best.
6. Explainer Video
An Explainer Video is a short, simple video explaining the features and benefits of your product and why people should buy it. Video has become an increasingly popular Minimum Viable Product and it’s a very effective and simple way for people to find out about your product. You can use the video to generate interest in your idea and determine the traction you may expect.
7. Paper Prototypes
Rather than jumping into design and development, paper prototypes require a lot less time and effort. Typically they are sketches of a user interface. They give users an opportunity to experience your product before it exists – and they can even get involved in shaping the UX and features. This method is a great way to test your product because it can be easily and quickly modified.
8. Ad Campaigns
Are a good way of running market validation surveys. With platforms like Facebook and Google, you can choose demographics for a specific target audience and you can discover which aspects of your product are most appealing. You can also run split tests using this method.
9. The ‘Fake Door’
This MPV works by getting your customers to sign up for a product or service that isn’t actually available. It will help you measure the interest by seeing how many people try to access it. For example, you could have a landing page with a call to action button, and when your visitor clicks on it, it could take them through to a page saying “Coming Soon!”. The number of visits to that page gives you an idea of the number of downloads or orders you would have received over a given period.
10. Audience building
By building an audience before you create a product you can gain a good insight into whether there’s any interest or demand around the problem you are going to solve. It’s also a very simple low-cost approach. If you get good results and decide to test a High-Fidelity MVP, you will already have an engaged audience (who could participate in tests, interviews and questionnaires) which will all contribute to helping you produce a valuable product.
This type of survey usually gets a much better response rate because it’s normally only one or two questions. By keeping your survey short and sweet you can expect a much more reliable answer. For example: If you have a website you could use a pop-up tool and offer some kind of giveaway if your visitor performs the action then they would have answered a simple question. Make sure your questions are specific but open-ended. See our article 24 lead generation tools to grow your business for some ideas of what giveaways you can use.
Types of High-Fidelity MVP
12. Digital Prototypes
These are typically wireframes, mock-ups and prototypes. Rather than jumping straight into high-end designs and UX, digital prototypes are used to save time and money in development and are very effective in demonstrating the functionality of your product. They make usability and functionality issues much easier to spot and resolve early on before you’ve invested in a lot of front-end design and development.
13. 3D Models
This MVP will give your prototype a more professional feel, but it will come at a cost and will be more expensive than a paper one. This might be something worth considering if you’re building a product that will be manufactured.
14. The “Wizard of Oz” MVP
This MVP is where you essentially put up a front that gives your potential customers the impression you have a real working product and they’re experiencing the real thing. This MPV requires a lot more time and effort but it’s a very effective way of checking if you have a desirable product or service, before you build it. With this approach, you use a human resource to replicate what your proposed technology will do. This helps you prove the interest in your product while keeping technical costs low.
15. The “Concierge” MVP
A concierge MVP is often confused with the “Wizard of Oz”. However, rather than using a human resource to replicate an algorithm, the customer knows they are receiving a human service. For example, before being an automated investment service, Wealthfront would manually create and deliver investment plans face to face, which wasn’t very scalable. Concierge MVPs should be used when you’re not exactly sure of the solution, whereas a “Wizard of Oz” MVP should be used when you have a clear understanding of the solution and are testing the market.
16. The “Piecemeal” MVP
Falls in-between the “Concierge” MVP and the “Wizard of Oz” MVP. With a Piecemeal MVP, you use existing tools and services to deliver a functioning product to your customers. Typically, you use a number of existing technologies (that don’t always integrate so well together) so mean more human resource is required to manage the process. Using existing services will save you time and money by building your own technology and infrastructure.
This is like getting pre-orders for your idea. It allows you to raise money to create your product, while also testing the demand. If you want to be successful at Crowdfunding it’s a good idea to create an explainer video about your product. This type of Minimum Viable Product is a great way to see if people want to buy your product or not. If it turns out to be a success you will raise money in the process, and generate a following of early adopters who could even spread the word about your product. This approach is used for all types of products from board games to speciality food and drink products.
18. Single Featured MVP
Often it’s more effective testing just one essential feature of a product. A single featured Minimum Viable Product prevents users from getting distracted by other features and allows you to gain a really clear understanding of one specific problem or solution. It’s also more cost-efficient than building a product with a lot of features no-one wants.