How to build an MVP – A guide for non-tech professionals

November 25, 2020

In today’s fast-paced economy, a business’s success is directly proportional to how quickly its product can adapt and satisfy the consumer’s needs. A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is both an expression of your idea and a test of your business and marketing assumptions, and the best news is that you don’t need a technical background or coding experience to launch one.

MVP Guide

1.  From idea to paper

All project conception should begin with a story map, often with plain pen and paper. Still, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start or what to focus on.

Define the why: 
There’s no point in having a key if it doesn’t open the right door. In this case, your product (key) should be the perfect fit for your audience (door). What problem does your product solve? Who is your target, and why should they care? Most importantly, what makes your solution the best one to solve this problem?

Prioritise Features:
In these stages, simplicity is essential. Overthinking the technical aspects will be a detriment, so, if you’re a non-tech founder, here is where you will stand out the most.

Write down a list of all the tasks you want your users to complete with your product, and then, categorise these by ‘must-have’, ‘should have’, and ‘can have’. All those with ‘must-have’ represent the smallest number of features required to deliver an MVP with a unique and well-designed user experience that helps users solve their problem efficiently.

Try looking at the product from a user’s perspective and ask yourself: Can I launch my product without this feature? If yes, deprioritise it. If no, then evaluate the resources required to add that feature and decide whether it’s within your timeline and budget.

Choose your approach
How you present your MVP is a vital part of your strategy. Picking the most appropriate MVP approach (from chat concierges to landing pages) will be vital in determining how to acquire feedback and develop your product.

Follow the (cup)cake model:
The cake model follows a simple logic: start with a dry cake, and then get to adding icing and filling as the project develops.

The only problem is that, to a user, a dry cake is not desirable to begin with.

Instead, the Cupcake model lets you start with something small but sought-after.

Take Groupon, for example. It started as a WordPress blog and hundreds of manually emailed PDFs. When enough people signed up for a deal on the WordPress blog, founder Andrew Mason’s team would manually send them the coupons via Apple Mail. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a complete product that delivered the same value as today’s Groupon.

Analogies aside, the cupcake model shows how an MVP doesn’t need to prove the success criteria of the final solution definitively, but just enough to demonstrate that your final results are attainable

2. From paper to conception

There are some common off-the-shelf tools to build MVP without coding, and if that’s the route you want to take the more power to you. Still, sometimes coding is necessary for a particular idea to come to fruition. Because the goal is to invest the least amount of time and money, as a non-tech founder, you have a few options to follow:

Getting a co-founder with a tech background
Most people assume that you need a co-founder taking care of the technical side of things if you “can’t”. This is not the case, although having a business partner who knows the ins-and-outs of the tech side is an advantage.

Pros: they excel in areas you don’t; you cut your workload in half; you have more funding opportunities

Cons: finding the right fit is difficult; your business/idea is no longer yours; they might not be cut out for it in the long term

Outsourcing MVP development
Another option is to hire a team of freelance developers with programming or coding experience.

Pros: you make the decisions, your idea remains solely yours, and short-term commitment.

Cons: there’s a lot of searching involved, and you’ll often get the quality you pay for so make sure you choose well!

Dedicated Development Team
Developing companies specialise in helping startups build digital products, and usually have all the resources you need. For example, here at Purr, we provide support if you have an idea for a new product or app that your business wants to offer or an idea for a new startup that you want to found.

Our latest case study, Materials Market, is a great example of how to turn an idea into a working MVP.

Pros: focused approach, knowledgeable team, cost-effective, fast development, transparent management

Cons: suitable for long-term projects, not a one-size-fits-all solution

3. Mistakes to avoid when building an MVP

Innovation is born from failure, and on average, nine out of ten startups will fail. This shouldn’t deter you from pursuing your goals, but it should give you a heads up of what to avoid.

Aiming for Perfection
To recap, an effective MVP is a single feature-oriented version of your product – uncomplicated, but desirable. If you overload your product with too many features and it fails, you lose the time, resources, and money that could’ve instead been used to develop the next stages of your idea.w

With that said, don’t fall into minimalism either, or you might end up with a product that is useless to potential customers. Remember that your product must also be viable!

Not Accounting for User Feedback
Your product is built for users, so taking into account the user feedback at each stage of development is essential.

Do your research and know your market inside out, so you are confident that your product is a) in line with the market’s needs, b) it doesn’t already exist, and c) it’s unique

Skipping the Prototype
Prototypes are a visual representation of your idea and make the development process easier. It’s the step between the “idea” and the “complete product” (an MVP to your MVP).

You need it to clear the doubts about the UX design and look of the product, to test its likeability with end-users before moving on with actual development.

To wrap up

Bringing a new product to the market is always a significant risk, and despite there being no fool-proof method to go about it, building an MVP is your best bet. An MVP ensures a useful product for the target market, a plan for consistent revenue generation, and a way to win over investors and possibly a potential technical co-founder.

The best part? You don’t need to be a tech expert to get started. From DIY manners to outsource it to experts, all you require is a potential idea and the will to make it happen.

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