The Difference Between MVP and MLP Explained

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The lack of market need is the main reason why most startups fail. Business owners invest a lot into building a good product, marketing it properly, and onboarding a solid team. But what if there’s no interest? 

Often, the expenses on development and maintenance of the business are higher than the potential of the product — and that’s, unfortunately, completely normal. Luckily, there’s a way to prevent unnecessary expenses and detect the lack of market interest in time, which is a minimal viable product (MVP). 

What is an MVP?

An MVP, an acronym from a Minimal Viable Product refers to a simplified version of the product. Its functionality and interface are enough to fulfill the main need and capture audience interests. Additional features like customization, personalization, small extra benefits are not included in MVP.

MVP is a stripped-down version of a product with functional features and interface, enough to test the idea. Even in the worst-case scenario, the business will have enough funds and will be able to explore the pivoting options. 

The purpose of a minimal viable product is to provide users with a way to explore the product and understand its main intent. An MVP should be appealing to the audience, which means having a well-tested look and feel. However, the functionality and interface are still quite simple.

Why use an MVP?

The Minimal Viable Product is the shortest possible way from idea to business. Instead of planning to enter the market for years trying to create the perfect product, it’s better to run MVP, as Airbnb, Dropbox, and even Instagram did in their time. 

One of the key reasons to use MVP is to test your ideas in the real market. By launching a minimal viable product, you save your money and time. Since the early days of the product’s life, you’ll know if users need it and how to improve it.

Let’s see what else you can do using an MVP:

  • Identify risks at an early stage at a relatively low cost.
  • Avoid serious functional problems in the future. 
  • Analyze actual user behavior and preferences, rather than make assumptions.
  • Increase customer loyalty. 
  • Predict demand. 
  • Optimize product development and marketing process. 
  • Understand how to monetize a product based on actual user needs. 

An MVP will show you if your idea works. It is a good way to justify market demand for a product and then get support from investors or partners.

Keep in mind, before you create a product, you need to find out who needs it, what challenges it must meet, and how it will help you earn money. An MVP using will provide you with the answers to these questions.

Good examples of MVPs

The practice of building a minimum viable product is a long-standing one on the tech market. From recent unicorns to decade-long established companies, businesses were building an MVP to test their ideas. Let’s take a look at minimal viable products, developed by popular companies. 

Facebook

Facebook started out as a directory of Harvard students, where users could manage their networks, profiles, and communicate with classmates. The name of the product shows its origins — at Harvard, student directory books were called facebooks. The site was introduced to a limited target audience – Harvard students. After the website became successful, Zuckerberg started offering memberships in other Ivy League universities, including Yale, Stanford, and others. 

Up till 2005, Thefacebook was a network for students, but it expanded beyond Ivy League, and even beyond the U.S. Thefacebook was eventually renamed to Facebook and released as a public network. 

Twitter

Twitter’s MVP, released under the name of Twttr, was beta-tested to a limited number of users before a public release. The tool technically became public in 2006 but got successful after the Southwest interactive conference a year after. Suddenly, the number of tweets increased by 3 times. Since that event, the platform gained popularity.

The MVP version allowed the team to run beta-testing, check the demand for the concept, and improve the product. That way, when a tool was presented at the conference, it was fully ready for widespread adoption. 

Amazon

Amazon, as an MVP, was limited to a single book category. Although the team had ambitions to build an online store that could sell anything, they consciously limited themselves to a simple field. Selling books allowed them to test the concept of a low-stake industry, with products that can be easily stored, shipped, and bought. 

A purchase of a book doesn’t require much decision making. The item is cheap, easy to transport and market. This served perfectly for the end goal – to check if customers trust online shops and verify the processes. 

Uber

Now Uber is known as one of the most functional and best designed mobile apps out there. Obviously, this wasn’t the case right away. Initially, Uber allowed users to book rides via SMS. Then, an app appeared, but its interface was far from what we know today. Another difference was the target audience. Now, Uber is an international service, but back then, it was just a small San-Francisco based startup. 

The 4 secrets of MVP creation: a step-by-step guide

Successful companies like Facebook, Uber, Twitter, and others needed an MVP to test the validity of their concept. For all of them, it was a chance to test a target audience and determine what functionality is truly essential for capturing users’ interests.

The technology of the MVP itself was simple. The most important components of MVP development success were careful research, a well-thought-out concept, and a well-defined target audience. 

Do market research

Doing market research for an MVP entails evaluating the potential number of users, locations, and niches that a service could cover. A business owner should determine how many people can benefit from the value of MVP.

1. SWOT-analysis 

A business owner can analyze the market and location by its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. 

2. Direct surveys

Reach out to people in your social circle and run a short survey on their opinion on the concept. You can ask questions like “Did you face the following problems?”, “How much would you be willing to invest to solve the issue?”, etc. 

3. Market viability

Analyzing competitors, market trends, growth, prediction, financial dynamics. A business owner should check the viability of the market. It’s important to be aware of key players, their market shares and positioning, know legislations and regulations, and forecasts for the future. 

Market research allows business owners to get context for their development and business growth.

LivePlan no guesswork

Get a clear idea

An MVP should clearly demonstrate the essential value of the product. This version of the software reflects the main functionality and interface. So, before even moving to MVP development, you need to examine the core value, provided by the tool:

  1. Come up with clear positioning: the main concept of the software should fit into 1-2 sentences.
  2. Define the primary target audience. Even if your product is tailored towards multiple user segments, MVPs usually target particular segments. Amazon and Uber limited their reach by industries and locations – you can do the same thing for your business,
  3. Determine objectives. You need to know what KPIs MVP is expected to demonstrate and deliver. Already at this stage, you should be highly aware of data, required for analysis. 

Before you start MVP development, you need to acquire a clear vision of the product. It has to be a concise, feasible concept, limited by constraints of time, location, and budget.

Determine a user flow

Long before entering the development stage, you need to understand exactly how users will act on the platform. This is where UX design and its main artifacts come in. 

  1. User personas: you need to describe who your users are: demographics, interests, career, financial status, challenges, likes, dislikes;
  2. Prototypes: simple illustration of the interface, screens of essential pages of an app or a web page;
  3. Flowcharts: a step-by-step description of the user’s journey on the platform. 

These artifacts will help you understand the interface of your interaction and see it with your visitors’ eyes. These visuals determine the direction in which you’ll build the functionality of an MVP. 

Make a list of functional and non-functional requirements

Once you have a vision for your product’s interface and style, you need to consider precise actions that users will be able to perform. This is what functional and non-functional requirements are for.

  1. Functional requirements: a list of features, scope, and technical characteristics. The functionality can be broken down into groups and prioritized based on user needs. 
  2. Non-functional requirements: a list of criteria that are used to evaluate the MVP. Examples of such are security, load handling, performance (number of requests processed per second and other metrics), security, and others. 

Establishing necessary features and requirements for those allows business owners to understand the purpose of the product. You’ll know exactly what value you provide to customers.

Why run into an MLP?

Minimal viable product isn’t the end of the journey — far from it. There are other stages of product development and improvement, in particular, an MLP.

MLP is a minimum loveable product. It’s a level above MVP — the product has to be no longer just viable, but also loveable. This means, the functionality has to do more than solve problems — it also has to offer great user experience and impress users on an emotional level. 

What are the differences between an MVP and MLP?

In short, a minimum loveable product is the stage after a viable one. This is the main difference, but it’s not the only one. Here are some other important aspects that’ll help you differentiate between the two.

  • MVP’s main scope is functionality, MLP should be, first and foremost, enjoyable to use.
  • In MVP, the focus is on features, in MLP the attention is driven towards user experience.
  • MVP provides practical and rational benefits, while MLP engages users emotionally. 
  • MVP doesn’t have to provide multiple unique benefits, whereas an MLP has to stand out from competitors on the market. 

Key benefits of building an MLP

Once the team is done with a minimum viable product, they can switch their focus on improving user experience, adding personalization, unique benefits, and increasing customer loyalty. 

Building an MLP provides more engagement with users, along with some other benefits: 

  • A client-oriented approach: a minimum loveable product is tailored towards specific customer needs. You can provide more unique benefits and offers, converting more users as a result. 
  • More time spent with the product: an enjoyable UX makes it easier for users to work with a product long-term.
  • Consistent improvements: your team will shift the focus step-by-step from functionality to the interface, keeping both as priorities. 

An MLP is a great transition point from a functional, but not yet fully attractive MVP to a pleasant and highly usable ready product. You aren’t pressuring your team into delivering an “ultimate” product version, but standards are already elevated. 

Bottom line

Both MVP and MLP are essential for developing a valuable product. An MVP assures the smooth performance of essential functionality, whereas MLP makes sure the solution stands out for customers. As a result, your customers can get access to the product as early as possible, and watch it steadily improve. The team has a consistent course of action that they can carry throughout the entire project. 

Roman ZhidkovRoman Zhidkov

Roman Zhidkov is CTO at DDI development company. Roman is responsible for DDI’s technology strategy and plays a key role in driving new tech initiatives within the company. He understands the context of the technology in terms of other technical areas, the customer’s needs, the business impact, and the corporate strategy.



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