According to recent statistics, nearly 90% of startups are unsuccessful, which is the sad truth. What causes their failure is even more revealing: according to an investigation by CB Insights, a staggering 42% of new ventures never get off ground because they misinterpret the market need.
Admittedly, estimating customer demand is something they should have done at the very start – MVP feature prioritization and getting a proof-of-concept. Deciding on MVP features has a crucial influence on the success of entrepreneurial efforts.
How do you define the features for your MVP? You can’t include all of them, so it is crucial to determine which ones will make it to a trial software release. Below, we will clarify how to categorize and prioritize app features, and make an overview of the product feature prioritization methods. Read on to learn more!
If you are new to software development, we will need to clarify the concept of a minimal viable product (MVP) before we begin. An MVP is a raw and incomplete product version developed to test market acceptance and receive funding from investors.
At the very least, creating an MVP and testing it first saves companies a lot of cost and effort. If your product gets positive reviews, your proof-of-concept focus group may become its early adopters.
To produce the right impression on customers and stakeholders, the feature set of an MVP should clearly demonstrate unique reasons to use it. In other words, a minimal viable product should showcase what sets it apart from competitors. Feature prioritization is a procedure that helps to decide on this primary functionality.
As you may guess, selecting features for an MVP lies in separating the core functions from the unnecessary ones. To complete these tasks, the product team will have to understand the main criteria for making this pivotal decision.
Why is it essential to prioritize product features? Why does it have so much significance, that teams have to leverage special approaches and methods, instead of just doing it intuitively?
Below are reasons why you should treat making an MVP features list as something highly important.
Making sure your product is unique
Chances are a product like yours already exists, so you may end up creating an exact copy. Feature prioritization will enable you to take one more close look at your competitors.
Ensuring that your solution is helpful
To be in high demand, your product has to assist users in resolving their problems. The app feature prioritization procedure will help you understand your customers’ pain points and modify your offering accordingly.
Reaping financial rewards
This goal is tightly interconnected with the previous one: providing customers with unique solutions will ultimately account for excellent financial outcomes, and help you generate revenue.
Accelerating app release
Today’s business environment is highly competitive, so launching early will give your product an unmistakable competitive edge. This is when correct feature prioritization may actually help outpace your competitors and attract early adopters.
Defining your product development timeline and budget
Introducing some features may take more time than others, which will impact hourly developer rates. Knowing which features to prioritize in your app will enable you to outline your project’s timeline and calculate the development budget.
How do you prioritize a list of product features? Deciding which ones should be included or excluded is not an easy task, and requires in-depth industry insight. Below is a list of stages for MVP feature prioritization.
1. Get to know your users
To define the feature set for your MVP you must truly know your audience – to the point when you can create distinct user personas of certain demographic backgrounds. This knowledge will further assist you in creating user stories.
2. Identify problems
Now that you have a clear vision of your audience, think about their common struggles. What issues are they facing every day? Further, define how your software solution will help users resolve these issues and make their lives better.
3. Learn how they are currently getting their needs met
It may require time and effort, but your potential customers are still finding ways of resolving their issues and meeting their challenges. Finding out how they do it will help you in prioritizing MVP features.
4. Study your competitors
Your rivals fall into two categories – direct competitors are the primary ones, while your indirect rivals are also attracting a share of your potential customers. Study their strengths and weaknesses to define features for your MVP.
5. Know your strengths
Now, define which characteristics set your product apart from other offerings on the market. A tiny detail may impact your customer’s choice, so don’t overlook things like attractive design and better user experience.
Domino’s pizza app, for example, offers zero-click ordering: an order is placed automatically when you open an app, which is their competitive advantage. It takes one click to cancel, though.
6. Come up with a value offering
Think why your customers will choose your solution among other options. What are the unique functions no app on the market performs? These will be the very features that you choose to showcase. Understanding what makes your product one of a kind, will help in MVP feature prioritization.
One way or the other, it always makes sense to consider your customers’ needs when prioritizing one feature over the other.
There is no general rule as to how to categorize software features, yet, there are several methods and approaches that developers use in order to complete this task. Below are the top product feature prioritization methods.
1. Feature Priority Matrix
This simple tool helps you envision which features to prioritize in your app. The matrix has two axes, and the factors, along which the features are rated include
- Effort – how resource intensive does the implementation of this feature appear.
- Impact – how valuable it is to your clients and how impactful it is from a business perspective.
- Risk – how potentially difficult it will be to implement this feature.
Next, place your MVP features in 4 categories:
- Must-haves – the absolutely necessary and the most low-risk functions.
- Can-be-dones – the not so impactful ones that may be introduced in the later MVP versions.
- Nice-to-haves – not particularly impactful, these characteristics set your product apart from the others. The costs and risks of their development, however, render them improper for an MVP, so they should be included in the next version.
- Waste of time – both high-risk and low impact features.
Surely, after the first MVP release when you get users’ reviews, you may reconsider the features and place them in different categories.
2. Feature Buckets
This is another categorization technique used by developers looking at how to prioritize software features. The categories are called ‘buckets’, and features are split into three main types:
- Customer requests – the functions that users were specifically asking for, for example, a recording option in a video chat app.
- Metric movers – these features will enhance your app metrics, such as user engagement, customer satisfaction, and income. This bucket will contain the most valuable features, so it should be filled correctly.
- Delights – minor, yet attractive features, such as unique stickers or emojis.
3. MosCoW Matrix
This model is also frequently used for prioritizing features for an MVP. Just like the above models, it splits the product features into logical subcategories:
- Must-haves. These are the main features of your product that, basically, make it viable. Without these features, your app would not work, or their absence would compromise its security.
- Should-haves. Less critical, but still quite important functions. Your MVP will work without them, but still, you wouldn’t want to leave them out.
- Could-haves. These are the cute little add-ons that give your MVP a distinct personality, yet, your early product version could easily do without them.
- Not this time. These are the features that you’re absolutely sure won’t appear in your MVP version, but you plan to implement them in the final version of your app.
4. Kano model
The user-oriented approach to prioritize product features on an MVP. The attributes it sets for defining the MVP features list include
- Threshold – features that ensure the operability of your app and are the ones most expected by users.
- Performance – these features aren’t mandatory, but will substantially enhance user experience.
- Excitement – features that users do not expect, aimed to generate excitement.
To apply this model, you will need to run some customer surveys and do some research. The findings will enable you to apply the Kano model and prioritize the features of your MVP. Make sure you implement all the required threshold functionalities as well as some of the performance and excitement features. Exclude the factors that evoke dissatisfaction and indifference.
5. Relative Weighting Prioritization
This technique uses the combination of the two previous methods to define the value of each particular MVP feature. The value is calculated numerically, so the development team gets an instant understanding of exactly how important each feature is.
This method also takes into account the negative impact of not implementing a particular feature. More specifically, the factors, taken into account include
- Benefit – the advantages that implementing this feature would bring.
- Penalty – the negative implications of not implementing it.
- Cost – how much it will cost to develop this feature.
- Risk – potential challenges its development might entail.
The formula (Penalty score + Benefit score) / ( Risk score + Cost score) to calculate the value of features. Each feature receives a score from 1 to 9. The application of this method, however, requires active input from both a client and a development team.
6. Numerical Assignment (a.k.a. Grouping)
This technique splits features into categories based on their importance. Features may have high, moderate, and low priority, and a numeric value is assigned to each category.
For example, number 1 will be assigned to high-value features, number two – to features with moderate value, and number 3 – to features with the lowest importance.
7. Bubble Sort Method
This method presupposes comparing functionalities and deciding which ones have the most priority. For this purpose, features are written down and compared in pairs. The process is iterative; finally, the features with the highest impact will rise to the top of the list, like bubbles in a soda drink.
8. Effort and Impact
This technique analyzes features’ priorities by assessing the value and complexity of each feature. The features are assessed by defining the correlation between how challenging it will be to implement it and the value they are supposed to bring.
The challenges are divided into development complexities, risks, and financial overheads, and the value is estimated from both client and business perspectives.
Upon evaluation, the features are placed into the following categories according to their priorities:
- quick wins,
- major projects,
- fills-ins, and
9. Opportunity Scoring
This is an interactive method, which involves reaching out to your prospective users and asking them about which features they would be happy to see in your app. Then, the users are asked to evaluate how they like the similar functionality in some of the already existing apps that they use. After you conduct this survey, you will receive the list of high and low-impact functionalities and will be able to prioritize them.
10. Speed Boat Technique
This is a collaborative technique, which uses a boat metaphor: the members of the development team visualize their project as a boat they are collectively navigating through a turbulent sea. The ‘boat’ is steered towards an ‘island’, i.e., an MVP release, and features are viewed as potential ‘anchors’ that may hinder the voyage, or ‘wind in sails’ that may propel it towards success. This method requires brainstorming and feedback.
11. User Story Mapping
This is one of the most popular techniques used to categorize features for your MVP. It is also one of the most efficient ones because it involves all the product’s stakeholders. To define the highest and the lowest priority features, they try to envision how their supposed users will be navigating their app.
They start by defining the user’s goals, for example, booking a hotel in a tourist app. This action is then split into substeps: picking the right hotel, submitting user details, requesting a transfer, i.e. Each of these steps is then written down as a user story: “As a user (User type), I want to (step), so that (value)”.
After this is done, the team maps user stories according to their goals and their significance. This method helps identify which product features are best included in the MVP and which into the next product release.
The vast choice of techniques may leave you confused, but you don’t have to apply all of them to be efficient. Regardless which method you choose, make your end users a priority — after all, their acceptance will define your MVP success. Make sure your evaluation of MVP features is not one-sided, and include different people into your product discovery team to provide you with a broader outlook.
Surely, you may still be left with a lot of questions. At Eastern Peak, we are ready to offer you a helping hand. Get in touch with us now for a free consultation!