The article was updated on December 21, 2022.
Every startup that treats its products responsibly knows that creating a minimum viable product (MVP) is an important, if not fundamental, stage of any product development. An MVP is a light version of your app, website, or any other digital platform.
A minimum viable product offers users the main features of the product and helps you test and adjust its functionality, understand the market demand and your users’ preferences, needs, and concerns, establish your reputation in the eyes of future investors, and even improve your monetization strategy – all of that wrapped up in a shorter time, a limited budget, and minimized risks.
Although an MVP is a basic project that delivers only its essential functionality, the process of creating an MVP is not as easy as it may seem. Various pitfalls can await you at every stage of MVP development, whether at a preliminary stage, a development stage, or a post-launch stage.
What are the most common mistakes when building an MVP made by so many startups? Read on to learn about them and discover what you can do to enhance your chances of launching your product successfully.
The MVP development process begins with creating a concept for your product, selecting a team of developers, and other preparatory steps before building an MVP itself. Here’s what you don’t want to do at this point.
1. Neglecting market research
Ignoring market research is a mistake often made in MVP development for a startup. Sometimes entrepreneurs get so enthusiastic about their idea that they forget that they are creating a product for other people, not themselves. In this case, they can waste their money and time on a project that will never pay off just because it’s not in demand.
So, before even getting into prototyping, you need to clarify several key points:
- What do your target users look like?
- What problems do they face?
- How can your app or website solve their issues?
- Who are your current competitors and big players, and what is unique about your concept?
- How big is your niche? How will it evolve in a short-term and long-term perspective?
- Are there currently any trends in your niche? How can you implement them in your project?
Luckily, you will probably decide on each step of the MVP product development not by yourself, but work with other people like developers, designers, marketing experts, and so on. It is crucial to remain open-minded and listen to your team’s opinions and advice.
2. Giving false expectations
One of the most painful MVP development mistakes is giving your end users a product that is different from what you announced previously. When you speak about your future project, your audience creates some expectations about what issues this product will solve and how it will make their lives better.
While you can safely add new functions to your product later, the core feature set of the MVP should be preserved. If not, it will be a fatal mistake not only for your project but for your company as a brand, as the public usually takes it as an unforgivable lie.
If you still want to abandon your initial concept, the key is communication with your users. You should inform them about the change beforehand or officially apologize if you have already brought the MVP to the market. It will most likely save your reputation and may even establish your company as a responsible enterprise.
3. Choosing the wrong team
Some inexperienced entrepreneurs may think that a minimum viable product requires less effort and investment than a final project. Consequently, they make an effort to cut costs on their MVP app development team and sometimes even want its members to perform several roles, even if they are not skilled enough.
This approach is fundamentally misleading though. An MVP is the heart of your product. Not only is it the basis for future work on the project, but with this version, you are giving the initial and most important impression to your users and investors.
However, most startups still have a very limited budget, so they can’t afford to hire HR or engage experienced developers, designers, or sales and marketing experts in-house. At this point, the most efficient and proven way to reach out to professionals without spending all your money is to cooperate with outsourcing companies.
The latter can provide you either with an employee for a specific role or with a full-fledged team for the whole MVP development cycle.
4. Starting with an MVP straight away
Although an MVP is an initial version of your tech product, the MVP stage itself is surprisingly not the first step on the way to building it. Even before getting into MVP software development, you need to create a prototype of your minimum viable product.
Prototyping allows you to make a very early functioning version of the product to validate your concept among the team members, investors, and even final users. It’s a fast and inexpensive way to share your idea with other members of the software development MVP team, analyze its feasibility, sketch its design and interface, make early improvements, or even test its functionality even before creating the product itself.
This stage improves cooperation immensely. You make sure that everyone has the same vision of the product as you, the workflow will be coherent, and even the marketing department can get down to work in the early stages. On the contrary, by failing to execute this step properly, you can make the cooperation chaotic, inconsistent, longer, and more costly.
After you’ve done your research, chosen a team, and developed a prototype, it’s time to bring your idea to reality and develop an MVP, and here, you can run into technical issues. Here are some mistakes when creating an MVP in practice that you may want to avoid.
Being too obsessed with the features and fancy design of an MVP is a mistake that is often made by young startups. The name of a minimum viable product suggests that this version should be usable and function correctly but still be minimalistic rather than a final version.
Making too much effort to build a polished MVP will lead you to disproportionately huge spending on launching the primary version of your product. But budget-friendliness and time efficiency are among the main benefits of MVP development for startups. Perfectionism can lead to delays, and you can overlook important features by concentrating on low-priority ones, too.
To avoid this problem, you should prioritize the most essential features of your MVP. That is, your basic version should perform its main task and solve users’ issues in the way you promised. Make the backbone of your product work flawlessly, and then layer additional features, more intricate design, and more options for your users in the following iterations.
2. Excessive minimalism
At the other extreme, there are startup owners who cut down the set of features for their MVP to an extent where their product is no longer viable. It looks either too sketchy, incomplete or buggy, in other words, not usable or enjoyable.
If you launch such a half-baked app or website, you will barely convince your users and investors that your product is worth employing or funding. Then, no marketing campaign can help you get rid of your reputation as an irresponsible business owner.
The golden mean between oversaturating your product with unnecessary functions and being too minimalistic about your feature set lies in the aspiration to explain the essence of your concept. Your MVP should help your users understand what your app or website is all about and how it can make their lives better.
3. Lack of consistency
The sense of MVP development lies in a so-called Cupcake Principle. You probably can’t create a giant, multilayered wedding cake from scratch, but you can start with a simple cupcake that gets more complex with rich taste later on.
The same works for product development. If you skip important steps and don’t test your MVP extensively, and rush the launch of the final product, in the end, you can still face technical issues or a loss of users’ motivation to pay.
Keep the work on your product consistent. Start with the most basic yet functional MVP and make it evolve logically and in compliance with your resources, whether budget, time, or staff-related. In this way, you won’t miss any essential detail and will present a perfectly functioning product that meets all expectations and requirements of your users.
4. Overlooking monetization strategies
At the MVP stage you should already be thinking about the ways in which you will monetize your project; although many inexperienced startup owners put this aspect off until later. Unfortunately, ignoring monetization options is one of the most widespread MVP development mistakes that have led promising young businesses to fail.
Conversely, finding a way to make money from your product in the early stages is a great opportunity to test multiple techniques and select the one that suits your concept best. In this way, you can offset the costs of product development and generate income as soon as possible, or at least do immediately with the launch of your final product.
Yet, if you have to aim to charge the users for using your MVP, you can still work on monetization by communicating with your audience. For example, you can conduct a survey and ask them how much they would pay for different features or which subscription options they like the most. Finally, you can just inform them that there will be a fee for using your product later.
Building an MVP for startups doesn’t end with the product launch. You’ll receive some feedback from real users and will have to work on your product and improve it. So, what can go wrong?
1. Ignoring feedback
Feedback is one of the best things you can get after launching your MVP to move on and improve it, as it’s one of the most efficient and safe ways to measure the success or failure of your product. You can and should ask your users, team, and testers for an opinion about your project and bear it in mind when working on the next versions.
Sometimes, startup owners are so excited about their ideas that they get dazzled by them and don’t pay attention to criticism. That is a totally wrong approach, especially when your product is already on the market. If your users are not on the same wavelength as you and your project lacks support, it will not survive and bring you any money in the future.
So, how can you assess feedback? A straightforward method is to conduct surveys, interviews, and collect comments. However, you can also measure it more precisely by looking at analytics in your app or website, for instance, the number of daily active users, average time spent using the product, retention rate, and other metrics.
2. Gathering uninformative feedback
One can say that any feedback is important. That’s true, but only some of it can bring real value to your project. Alongside formal metrics, you can get benefits from meaningful user comments, which you can gather using several simple principles.
To turn your communication with users into a constructive dialog, try to stay away from vague conversations about their feelings and your concept; it’s better to go straight to concrete issues they face in your product or solutions that helped them solve their problems.
For this purpose, having one-on-one communication with your users is a perfect decision, but once your audience gets too large, you might want to sort out its feedback. Whatever way you choose, having one extensive and constructive comment is better than getting hundreds of uninformative ones.
3. Inappropriate marketing
Even if you develop a perfect minimum viable product, you may not get desired results if you don’t spread the word about your project. That is also a common mistake in creating an MVP for startups that, unfortunately, often makes brilliant ideas get dwarfed by competitors and fade away fast.
Professional marketing makes wonders. Digital marketing has evolved incredibly in recent years, so you have tons of tools and strategies to choose from. You should also consider partnering with a marketing agency or hiring an expert in the field.
However, you need to keep in mind that even a well-thought-out marketing campaign doesn’t bring results overnight. That’s why you need to have a “safety cushion” for the interim period. You should fit the costs for marketing into your budget and, ideally, find your promotion partner and develop a marketing plan beforehand.
4. Not moving on
After going the length of launching and promoting your MVP, don’t forget there’s also a long and bumpy road ahead. You need to plan your growth, as basic features won’t be enough for your users. Regular and well-considered iterations will guarantee a prosperous future for your project.
For that, you need to plan your steps and budget beforehand, make your MVP scalable not to be stuck at the primary level. Also, be realistic about assessing your product and focus on feedback rather than on your preferences. Remember: you create an MVP for your users, not yourself. So, your goal is to do your best to meet their needs and expectations about your product.
Statistics say that 90% of startups are doomed for failure. So, unfortunately, even the most talented entrepreneurs that have the brightest concepts often can’t realize them and survive on the market. Some of them have probably run into some mistakes during an MVP development stage.
We’ve decided to share some sad examples of once-great ideas that failed and see what we can learn from their experience.
Aria Insights had a long run in developing high-tech drones for security services, the military, telecommunication businesses, and oil and gas production companies since 2008. First, Aria Insights manufactured unmanned flying vehicles with excellent technical features: They could cover a long distance and withstand severe weather conditions.
Then, the company shifted its focus to making its drones gather and store huge amounts of data thanks to AI technology.
With all these highly advanced developments, Aria Insights couldn’t find its customer base, as there was no demand for this technology back then, so it shut down in 2019. It turned out that the company got ahead of itself and created an excellent solution for a non-existing problem.
A lesson to learn: Make extensive market research and indicate the market demand before launching your product.
Back in 2003, Kiko designed an advanced yet user-friendly calendar that had API integration with other platforms and websites. The calendar app had other convenient features, such as accessing the calendar from other devices, sharing calendars, and inviting other users. It was a promising project that could be helpful for event organizers, businesses, etc.
However, the startup existed for only several years before failing. The wrong team was unproductive, and the company lacked a specific focus on its work. Kiko tried to take care of multiple tasks and ideas simultaneously, which didn’t bring any success to the company.
A lesson to learn: Plan and prioritize your project properly and choose the right team.
Launched in 2011, the Flowtab app was aimed at solving the problem of long queues in bars and clubs. Visitors could order a drink in the app without waiting in a queue, and the venue workers received the orders and payments on their devices.
However, among other issues, the startup didn’t manage to find the right business model for the app. The Flowtab team tried several monetization methods, but they couldn’t ensure proper funding and were forced to close their business.
A lesson to learn: Search for a suitable monetization strategy.
Creating an MVP is a necessary step for every startup that wants to grow into a prosperous market leader. Although a minimum viable product has a limited set of features and is supposed to get built fast, it’s a complex and crucial stage that determines the future growth of your business, and here, every nuance is important.
Our experts at Eastern Peak know how to build an MVP perfectly and avoid common pitfalls. If you want to partner with a proven technology provider, take your first step by reaching out to us for a free consultation.