At KeenEthics, we often talk about the significance of MVP. A lot of people come to us for minimum viable product development, but they seem confused when we ask “What kind of MVP you plan to develop?”. For this important question not to throw you off, I have prepared this article. Here, we will look through different types of lean MVP startup development, as well as through benefits and risks associated with them.
So, let me start by telling you that MVP products can be low-fidelity (quite primitive) or high-fidelity (pretty advanced).
Low-Fidelity vs High-Fidelity MVPs
Low-fidelity MVP models are quite primitive ones — they are easy to develop, and they provide basic results. The goal they pursue is to understand the customer’s problem and to identify a solution.
Any project starts with an idea — you think about a problem that is worth solving and about a possible solution that you can offer. So, low-fidelity MVP aims to look closer at the challenges that customers face, to check if the customers really want these challenges to be solved, and to find the most effective solution from the customer’s perspective.
High-fidelity MVP models are more advanced ones — the development of such a minimum viable product is more resource-demanding, but the results are also more profound. The goal of the high-fidelity MVP is to understand if the users are ready to pay for the solution.
High-fidelity MVP can be used to understand if and how much customers are ready to pay for the product, to find ways to optimize marketing strategies and business growth strategies, and to engage early adopters of your product.
Primitive of low-fidelity MVP types include:
Audience-building MVP or “The Fake Door”
Advanced or high-fidelity MVP types include:
Wizard of Oz MVP
Primitive or Low-Fidelity MVP Models
Audience Building MVP or “The Fake Door”
The audience-building minimum viable products, as the name itself suggests, aim to help you build an audience. This type of MVP does not resemble a final product, neither it implements any features or functions. The goal of it is to persuade users that they have a problem which needs to be solved, and that your product is going to solve it efficiently and effectively.
The benefits of this approach include:
Cost-efficiency: You can test the viability of your product idea without building the product itself.
Timeliness: Building a landing page or planning an email campaign is so much faster that product development.
Convenience: Speed and cost-efficiency grant you with a freedom to make any necessary changes in a timely and inexpensive manner. This means that you can test multiple market hypotheses and strategies.
Broad audience coverage: Since your approach does not oblige the audience to make any prepayments, you will have multiple people sign up for your project.
As for the disadvantages of this approach, it will not let you prove the technical viability of your idea. You will have to develop a Proof of Concept to make sure that what you promise your users is possible to implement technically. Secondly, the market feedback will not be as profound as in the case of Wizard of Oz MVP, for instance, because users will not be able to get a real feel of the solution.
There are many ways you can implement an audience-building MVP, but the two major ones are a landing page and an email campaign.
A landing page is a single web page, which consists of different sections, describes a product or a service in sufficient details, and highlights major benefits. This page aims to convince the audience that they need this product or service. Often, a landing page contains a text such as “Coming soon!”. At the end of the page and throughout it, there are buttons such as “Sign up for updates”, “Be the first one to try”, or “Contact us”.
Basically, a landing page MVP is what Asama did to build the audience and test market demand. It is an explanatory web page, which tells about the system they offer in small details, lists the benefits of their solution, and offers a user to “Leave a request”.
Yet, the best-known landing page MVP story is the one told by Joel Gascoigne at his Medium blog. Joel Gascoigne is the founder of Buffer — the system which automates social media posting. He started with a landing page for his idea.
Only 120 people signed up for his idea in about 7 weeks, but he spoke with most of them, collected and analyzed their feedback, and adjusted his solution. Shortly after the product was released, Buffer had its first 50 users and the first payer. According to Joel, the landing page granted him an opportunity for validated learning. Validated learning is what he did not do many times before and failed and what he did with Buffer and succeeded. Joel Gascoigne said:
Once you approach your landing page through the lens of it being a tool for validated learning (through the actions users take, and conversations you have), it can be very powerful.
Email Campaign MVP
There is an even simpler, faster, and cheaper way to test your idea than building a landing page — conducting an email campaign. The idea is super simple: you come up with an attractive and persuasive pitch — some convincing text and a bright impressive image, — and send it out to a group of your potential users. You can buy the list of emails online or ask social media users to give you their emails. To facilitate the process of creating and sending out emails, but most importantly, to analyze the users’ reactions to the email, you can use such service as Mailchimp. If you see that open rate is high, but very few people click the CTA button, you may conclude that your offer is not attractive to the market and needs to be improved.
Advanced or High-Fidelity MVP Models
A single-featured MVP model is a minimum viable product in the most traditional understanding of it. It is what you see when you google “what MVP means”.
The idea of a single-feature MVP lies in the name of it: you take minimum (one or two) features that are viable (essential to the idea) and turn them into a product. In other words, you hyperfocus on what makes your solution unique, implement it in the best possible way, and bring it to the market to collect honest feedback from actual users.
The benefits of a single-feature MVP are the following:
Focus: both developers and users can concentrate on the feature that you plan to test without being distracted by other functions or features.
Cost-efficiency: Building a single-feature MVP is more time and cost-efficient than building a full-fledged software product.
Still, this approach to MVP process is not 100% risk-free. If compared to other MVP models listed in this article, this approach will be the most difficult and resource-demanding one to develop. Yet, the results are also the most significant. You prove to yourself that your idea can be implemented technically, and you persuade customers that there is an actual solution to their problem.
You often see a button “Pre-order now” when you look at a book that is about to be published or at a smartphone that Apple is about to release. Today, for example, you can pre-order FIFA 21.
The pre-order MVP model works exactly the same. The company creates a very basic product version — a demo or a prototype, — or a landing page where it demonstrates what the future product or service is going to look like, what benefits it will offer, when it is going to be developed, and how much it is going to cost. This MVP may also be implemented as a crowdfunding campaign or a pilot program.
A pre-order MVP aims to encourage people to commit money to pay for a product or service before it has been developed. It gives people an opportunity to become the earliest adopters of the product. They pay for the product or service in advance and wait for it to be developed and provided.
Users are willing to do that for two reasons. One — the price they pay may be smaller than it is when the service is ready. Two — they certainly get their product or service, and they will be among the first ones to receive it. The feelings of exclusivity and cost-efficiency are what drivers people to pre-order products.
The business also benefits greatly from this approach. First of all, the business gets to assess if their solution is interesting to the potential users and if they are ready to pay for it — thus, it fully meets the objectives of a high-fidelity MVP. However, it offers one more essential benefit that other models cannot provide — the prepayments may serve as a partial investment into the product development.
So, the benefits of a pre-order MVP include:
Market assessment and user feedback
The opportunity to use prepayments as an investment
Yet, this benefits come at a cost. First of all, it is not so easy to convince people to pay for something before they get to try it. Naturally, the “preorder” landing page will generate much fewer responses than a landing page that says “sign up for updates”. People are often reluctant to enter their card details to a website they are not sure they can trust. Also, if for some reason you cannot fulfil your promise and deliver the solution to the users who prepaid it, it is going to be a problem. If you run out of budget sooner than you expect, if the development team fails you, or if your idea simply cannot be technically implemented, you will have to look for ways to reimburse your customers prepayments. Otherwise, you might face some legal liability.
Concierge is a hotel employee whose job is to assist guests by arranging tours, making theater and restaurant reservations, etc.
Similarly, the concierge MVP is an MVP model where an employee assists users with their tasks. In other words, a concierge MVP product simulates an actual software solution, but instead of a computer algorithm, the main function is performed manually.
Most importantly, the users are aware of the fact that they are being served by people rather than a machine.
The Concierge MVP approach tests the function that is planned to be automated before the automation is actually implemented. It lets the business team to test the effectiveness of the solution before it was developed for the purpose of saving resources. It partially resembles a prototype because it is does not perform the expected functions, but it manages to present the actual feel of the final product to its users.
The benefits of such an approach include:
Efficiency: the development of a Concierge MVP will take less time that the development of a Single-Feature MVP or of a final product because it does not involve the development of complex computer algorithms which will perform the tested function.
Lowered risks: The resource-efficiency of this approach means that you will have less to lose in case your idea does not succeed.
Transparency: if your users know that they are being served by people, not a machine, they will appreciate your honesty.
Yet, Concierge MVP is not risk-free. As a service provided by humans, it leaves a lot of room for human error. This error may significantly affect the findings of your market research.
The greatest example among concierge minimum viable product lean startups is the story of Zappos. Back in 1999, the founder of Zappos was not sure if the idea of buying shoes online would attract customers. So, he tested his idea by taking pictures of shoes in the mall and posting them on his website. If any pair of shoes was ordered, he would go to the mall, buy the shoes, and send them to the customer. You can learn more about this iconic story and many others in my recent article “Successful Businesses That Started With MVP Development but Now Are Rocking the World”.
Wizard of Oz MVP
Wizard of OZ MVP is sometimes also called Flinstone’s MVP. If you have seen either of these movies, you will have no problem understanding this MVP model.
Do you remember watching the “Wizard of Oz” movie? The Wizard changed appearances from a giant green head to a beautiful fairy, from a ball of fire to a horrible monster. Yet, eventually, it turned out that the Wizard is an ordinary old man who hid behind the curtain and pulled levers.
Now, if you ever watched The Flintstones, you must remember the car that the family drives. At first sight, it looks like a perfectly normal modern car. But when you pay attention to how it works, you understand that all the job is done not by an engine but by the driver himself.
This is how a Wizard of Oz MVP works. It looks like a perfectly functional product, while in fact, everything is done manually. Such an approach is to MVP development is easier and cheaper to implement, while it does help to achieve the very goal of MVP — to collect customer feedback.
The major difference between a Concierge MVP and a Wizard of Oz MVP is the following. In the first case, the user is aware that they are being served by an actual human. In the second case, the fact about job being done manually is hidden from users.
The benefits of this MVP model include:
Cost-efficiency: At first, it is much cheaper to pay people to do some simple work manually than to develop a sophisticated app with a functioning algorithm.
Speed: If you develop a simple shell rather than a full-fledged app with a smart algorithm behind its curtains, the development will take considerably less time. You can make use of this time to market your MVP earlier and to receive customer feedback much faster.
Honest feedback: as opposed to Concierge MVP, the users of Wizard of Oz MVP are more likely to give honest feedback. It is easier for humans to criticize the machine than it is to criticize humans.
However, there is one hidden threat. If you do not try to implement the automatic feature but test it manually, there might be a chance that this function cannot be automated or implemented properly. To make sure that it can, do not forget to develop a Proof of Concept! Also, you should consider that you will need people to do the job manually. So, if you have nobody to help you in-house, you will need to spend some time hiring assistants.
If we order the aforementioned types of MVP methodology from the simplest to the most complex ones, here is how it would look like:
Which type of MVP you should implement depends on the goal that you pursue and on the resources that you have at hand. KeenEthics as an MVP development company will gladly help you with any approach you choose.