These are my 3 biggest mistakes when building an MVP

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What is an MVP: MVP means Minimum Viable Product and is a technique of creating a product with basic features to gather feedback from users really quickly.

An example would be a food truck preparing pizzas in front of customers‘ houses. Think about all possible features. And now think again about what features you really need to test your idea with real customers. Do you really need a special truck for your first customer or is it enough to bring your pizza oven to the location and a table for the preparation?

Another example would be a software idea, maybe an AR app to show art in your own house. What features do you really need to show your idea to first customers? Do you really need a website with a shop for this? Do you really need to add specific art to your favorite list? 

This sounds easy but if you are in the flow of developing your product this can get really tough. 

Here are the 3 biggest mistakes that I did while building an MVP.

Featuritis

I would definitely recommend defining a hard scope at the beginning of the project. I also prefer to develop my MVPs in an agile way. In SCRUM you have a product goal. Here you can define the scope of your MVP and use it as a North Star. In every sprint you should ask the question does this task or story really help me to achieve my product goal? In the past, I was definitely not focused and lost my way to the top of the mountain completely.

Too much scope and too long time to market  

An MVP is by definition, not a perfect product. Most of the time you want to test one of your ideas. So break your idea down to the minimum amount of features. For example, does your idea have to look good or do you need to test your idea on different platforms? Yeah of course you can hire a designer to build a beautiful product. But how much time does this take? Find and hire a designer, tell him what you want, make changes, and implement his ideas. In most cases we are not talking about days, we are talking about weeks or months. So start as small as possible and ask your first customers how to improve your product instead of guessing about this on your own.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and it clearly wasn’t an MVP.

A missing plan

This point is similar to the previous one. I was working on a project with two other people. At first, the project sounds simple. Create an application to show art in your own house by using Augmented Reality. We didn’t have a plan like “in 6 weeks we have a prototype that can show ONE painting in your house by using AR in an iOS app”.

What we did instead was the following: we checked the native iOS AR framework. After that, we checked the native Android AR framework. After that we checked unity. After that, we checked flutter with a unity plugin. The AR feature wasn’t working so well in particular the camera could detect planes on the floor much better than planes on the walls. For us, this wasn’t a good finding because most of the time you wouldn’t place your paintings on the floor. To improve the recognition we used post-it notes on the walls. After that, we lost our focus completely. One of the guys was building a webshop with WooCommerce. Then we tried to integrate this shop and its objects into our flutter application instead of working on our core AR features. Long story short, we couldn’t release an MVP to test our idea.

Write down your goals and create a plan for how to achieve them.

How to avoid these mistakes:

  1. Prioritize your backlog. 
    • It is very good to write down all of your ideas to keep your head empty and focused. But not all of these ideas are important at the moment. Some of these ideas you will probably never finish. Instead of instantly working on new ideas write them down in your backlog and prioritize them.
  2. MVP means MINIMUM Viable Product not PERFECT Product
    • to keep your motivation high try to make your MVP as small as possible. If you want to sell products for example start on a platform instead of creating your own webshop. 
    • Test your ideas fast instead of creating a big project nobody ever wants. Use your customers’ feedback to improve your product step by step
  3. Write down your product goal: 
    • If this goal is hard to achieve use clear milestones. To achieve these milestones you can work with agile techniques like SCRUM or OKR. 
      • Example: “We create an iOS app with an AR feature to place a painting in your own home.” First milestone: Check, and test different technologies (Native iOS, Flutter, Unity…) and decide which you want to use. Second milestone: your app recognizes planes on the walls. Third milestone: You can place something on the wall plane. Fourth milestone: you can place a painting with a specific (changeable) size on the wall.
    • Work in iterations: Ask yourself for every story in every sprint does this help me to achieve my goal? 
Reach your written product goal step by step through iterations.

For further information on how to efficiently work in iterations, you could take a look into Scrum, or for bigger projects/goals and a more strategic approach, you could look into OKRs.

See you at work.

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