10 Reasons Why Your Minimum Viable Product May Fail
With each risk being avoided, you increase the chances of your MVP success.
You often hear from us that, “if you neglect the minimum viable product development, your idea may fail”. One of the major reasons for startup collapse on Failory is titled “No MVP Validation”. But what happens if MVP fails? Can it even fail?
Oh, yes it can! And there are a lot of things that can go wrong, a lot of mistakes you can make.
MVP failure results not only in the resources being wasted on MVP development. Because of faulty MVP testing findings, you may end up designing features that bring zero value or abandoning an idea that was destined to succeed. In other words, you do not only lose time and money, you may lose something much more important — the idea.
For this not to happen, I have prepared an article on ten major reasons that may lead to MVP failure. Look through them to know your enemy, and keep them in mind when engaging in minimum viable product development.
Reason 1: The project development strategy is inadequate
Before you jump off the plane, you have to think about why you are doing it and how you are going to land. The same goes for MVP development: before you launch the development process, you have to understand why and how to do it. This understanding of why and how is your strategy.
First, you need to formulate a clear idea. You should have a precise answer to the question “What is the problem that you are going to solve, and what is the solution that you offer?”.
Then, you have to answer three questions:
- How pressing is the problem you want to solve?
- How is the market solving it now?
- What makes your solution unique to this market?
To achieve this goal, you can hire professional business analysts and consultants to validate your idea. Such services do cost money, but they will help you save a lot eventually. Once your idea is proved to have the potential to succeed, you should start designing your strategy in further details.
Do you want to learn more about designing a project development strategy?
See my article “Designing a Project Development Strategy: Where to Start?”. It should be the most concise guide you will find online!
If you fail to develop a strong project development strategy, you will face consequences. First of all, your development team will not recognize your business priorities and goals. Team motivation will suffer badly as well. Secondly, you will waste your time and financial resources. In general, your MVP will fail — just as we predicted.
Reason 2: Too many features are implemented
By definition, a minimum viable product is a software product with just enough features to impress early adopters and to inspire them to leave an honest feedback. “Just enough features” is the opposite of “too many features”, which is the second reason your MVP may fail.
If you build too many features, you will spend more hours on development. More hours directly translates into higher expenses. You may run out of budget before you achieve your goals, or you may deliver your MVP way too late — the competitors could overtake the market by that time, the problem may become irrelevant, or your test users will simply grow tired of waiting for your solution.
It is a path that a lot of business owners mistakenly choose — to add as many features to MVP as possible in order to impress the users. They assume that, if the users see a bigger picture, they will better understand and, thus, like their idea. Such an approach, however, ruins the very purpose of an MVP.
How can you tell that you are implementing too many features? There are three if’s, and once you recognize yourself in any of them, that is a sign of alarm!
- If the initial volume of your MVP backlog has increased by more than 30%.
- If you step aside from your primary User flow or focus on the needs of your secondary target market.
- If you find it challenging to write a User story for a new feature.
Reason 3: Not enough features are implemented
If you read the second reason I mentioned here, you can mistakenly think “Ok, now I will cut my project features to the minimum”. However, if you understood my point right, you should think “I will cut my project features to its viable minimum”.
The successful MVP is a product that is minimum and viable, and both of these adjectives are equally important. Imagine that you focus on minimalism and develop an app, which consists of a single login and registration screen. Indeed, you implemented minimum features. But they are not viable.
How can you understand what are the minimum viable features that you should implement? Answer two questions:
- What is innovative about your product? What features make it innovative?
- Why would the users pay for your solution? What features will solve their challenges?
Here you go — these are the features that you should implement.
Reason 4: The prototyping stage is missed
Prototyping is a crucial stage of project development, which should be conducted before the development phase. Prototyping offers three major benefits:
- It helps you refine your idea for MVP through feedback from your users.
- It facilitates the development process.
- It helps to convince investors that your project is worth funding.
To build effective prototypes, you should design the interface architecture — what are the basic screens, what elements should they contain, and how they interact. Then, you design low-fidelity wireframes — you can draw them with a pencil on paper. After that, you should engage a UI/UX designer, who will develop high-fidelity wireframes — detailed images of each UI screen drawn using the means of computer graphics. When you combine all these screens into, for example, an inVision project and make them clickable — you have an effective clickable prototype.
If you decide to skip this step, your MVP may not succeed. The idea may be implemented not as perfectly as it should be, the investors may decide to cut on finding before you manage to complete the project, the development team may get lost in specifications and spend way too much time developing these screens, and most importantly, you may lose a chance of getting early-stage feedback from your users. After all, building an MVP without a prototype is like building a house without a blueprint.
Reason 5: The market research is not conducted
By nature, people are very self-confident. We tend to assume that we know what others want, how they think, and how they will behave in a certain situation. A lot of marketing specialists go down that bumpy road: they assume that their target audience does or does not like something without asking them. That is rule number one in the marketing list of what not to do.
Most business owners do carry out a market research because that is what most business books tell them to do. At the same time, some of them decide to ignore the results if they do not like them — they think that they know better and justify their actions by saying that the findings of market research are wrong because of some research design flaws. This is not a way to go. If you question the outcome of market research, you should redesign it and perform it again, but not ignore it altogether.
Reason 6: You forget about user feedback
Gathering user feedback is the main goal of MVP development as the very definition of a minimum viable product declares. Forgetting about user feedback is forgetting about the very reason why you started building an MVP in the first place.
There are three things to keep in mind when observing user experience or gathering user feedback:
- You have to focus on a certain market segment — a software product is never a one-size-fits-all product.
- You should not ask too many questions. Burdening your users with surveys and interviews will not work — they will grow tired of your annoyance and stop working with you.
- You should not ask too few questions. If you do not get the answers you need, the whole process becomes useless.
You must have noticed that the second and third points oppose each other. How to find that thin line between too few and too many questions? There are two tips I can suggest. One — try rewarding your users with something for the answers they give. For instance, for each form they fill out, promise them a month of using your future product for free. Sending branded merchandise will also help to keep early adopters retained. Two — instead of asking all the answers from all the users, try dividing them into smaller groups. Ask each group a certain portion of questions: questions about one feature, about the other feature, about design, the general feel, or future expectations. As Julius Cesar said, “Divide and conquer!”.
Reason 7: You cannot forget about user feedback
I assume you have frowned upon when you have read this heading. “Doesn’t it contradict the sixth reason?”, you think. No, it does not. Let me show you.
As a well-known quote says: “You’re not a one hundred dollar bill, not everyone is going to like you.”
If you try to take into account each and every comment, complaint, and recommendation, you will drown in work. Analyze the feedback that you receive, divide it into groups, and focus on these groups that endorse your business objective. Also, remember to validate user feedback by asking other users about it — truth be told, not all the people know what they actually want and need. As Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” That is why you should validate and prioritize the feedback that your users provide.
Otherwise, you may implement too many features, and we already know what risks it brings. If you try to satisfy all the users at the same time, you will be revising your product endlessly, and eventually, you will lose the bigger picture or run out of budget — whichever comes first. The development team will also be fed-up with constant changes in the requirements.
If you feel like you are running in place or your design is changing way too often, you should think that, maybe, you do not prioritize user feedback well enough. If this is the case, take urgent measures before your MVP development project dies.
Reason 8: Technical quality is overemphasized
Technical quality is important, very important when you develop software. But maybe, not so much as we are used to when it comes to MVP development.
It is okay to have some technical debt when you build an MVP — it is not okay to be unable to let it go. Let your developers create a To-do list of improvements, which they can implement when a more convenient occasion comes. You can take it a bit easier — not to easy though — on app performance, speed, and security. If you are focused on writing perfect code, you will spend too many hours on development, which will result in increased expenses. Once again, your MVP development budget will be stretched to its limit.
Besides that, when writing code for an MVP, your developers should think about how they will reuse it for the future product versions. After everything you do to build an MVP, I do not think you will want to start from scratch.
Another thing that you should take it easier on is documentation — when developing MVP, it is okay to make it slightly simplified. The best thing, however, would be to ask your developers to write self-documented code.
Reason 9: The development approach you choose is wrong
There are many ways in which you can organize the development process. From the perspective of project management, there are different methodologies, and the most common ones are Waterfall and Agile (Scrum, Kanban, Lean, or XP). Choosing a development methodology always affects the outcome of your project. From the perspective of rates and charges, there are two major approaches: Fixed Price and Time & Material.
All of these, — Fixed Price, Time & Material, Waterfall, and Agile, — have something to offer. However, when it comes to MVP development, you must opt in favor of Agile and Time & Material. MVP strategies are always about changing requirements, and if you choose Waterfall of Fixed Price, you will not be able to implement any changes. You will put yourself in very tight limits, and your MVP will suffocate.
Do you want to learn more about different software development models?
Look through my recent article titled “Software Development Models Explained: Outsourcing vs Outstaffing, Fixed Price vs Time & Material”. It will make the things much clearer for you!
Reason 10: The development team is unprofessional
The last thing you need when developing an MVP is for the development team to train their skills and knowledge on your project. Inexperienced teams certainly deserve a chance to help you with your project, but maybe not with something so time-sensitive, cost-sensitive, and important as MVP development.
For the MVP development to be efficient and effective, you have to hire a team of expert developers, designers, testers, BAs, and PMs. Otherwise, you will probably miss deadlines and go over your budget because of communication mishaps, too many meetings, and a lot of bug fixing and revising.
It is also beneficial when the team has enough experience to suggest improvements, which can help to optimize the development process. In this case, MVP development turns into a synergy, a genuine partnership between your business and your development team.
To Wrap Up
MVP development is too important and the risks are too probable for you not to pay attention to them. Most likely, you will not be able to eliminate each of them, but with each risk being avoided, you increase the chances of a successful MVP development process. We want to help you navigate through the MVP development labyrinth without bumping into any of these dangerous walls. Let us give you a hand.