Creating a minimum viable product (MVP) gives startup founders a way to showcase their ideas and get valuable feedback about which features their product should include. So, what is minimum viable product development? This complete guide to creating an MVP covers the definition and criteria for success.

What Is an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)?

An MVP is a minimal version of your product for testing within the market. Building a minimum viable product allows development teams to validate assumptions and get feedback on the product’s core features. This type of development is an iterative process designed to help the product team identify user needs and then satisfy them over time.

The MVP development approach fits naturally with the lean startup philosophy—building products for which there is already a demonstrated desire. Lean startup methodology focuses on creating products that will already have a market as soon as they're launched. Launching an MVP helps a startup gain traction with its core user base while learning about which features can be added to make the product better serve future customers.

Some startup founders aren't prepared to build and launch a minimum viable product, so they may choose to make a prototype or proof of concept to pitch to investors instead. Alternatively, founders may decide that an MVP wouldn’t be enough to help them penetrate a market. In that case, the founders need a minimum marketable product instead, which goes above and beyond what’s only viable.

Building a Minimum Viable Product: A Step by Step Guide blog by Bubble
An MVP is a fully functional version of a product with only the core features. On the other hand, a prototype demonstrates the general idea of a product—like its look, workflows, and user interface—without being fully functional. A proof of concept is less built out than a prototype and demonstrates that an idea is technically feasible by validating assumptions with target users. Read more in our blog, "The Advantages and Disadvantages of Building a Minimum Viable Product."

Why Create a Minimum Viable Product?

Building a Minimum Viable Product: A Step by Step Guide blog by Bubble

So many startups build minimum viable products because it’s one way of quickly delivering a product to capture value while minimizing costs. Nearly a third of startups fail because they run out of cash, so minimizing costs is crucial. Launching the MVP also gets a product to market earlier, which offers two primary benefits:

  1. First and foremost, starting with a minimum viable product gets your product into the hands of real users. The feedback you receive from this initial user base is invaluable as you continue to develop your product. Each iteration can be focused on improving the experience of your actual users and solving real problems instead of addressing theoretical needs.
  2. As an added plus, launching an MVP can help a startup enter a market and begin building traction. The initial users will spread word of your product organically if it is functional enough to benefit them. Generating some word of mouth helps a product grow its user base, especially as the startup releases future iterations, updates, and new features.

Despite the benefits of minimum viable product development, teams occasionally encounter pain points as well. For example, groups that launch an MVP and then never look back are unlikely to find success because the MVP is meant to be a starting point, not a final destination.

Additionally, MVP development can fail when teams ship something before it can even be considered genuinely viable by the desired user base.

Finally, groups may not wish to launch an MVP when stealth is of the utmost importance, and there is a risk that your competitors can catch up if they get a look at your product.

If the benefits of developing an MVP outweigh these potential problems, here’s your step-by-step guide to creating a minimum viable product.

How to Build an MVP?

Building a Minimum Viable Product: A Step by Step Guide blog by Bubble
  1. Conduct Market Research: To create a successful MVP, you need to know your minimum viable product criteria. For this reason, conducting market research is a crucial first step that will tell you about opportunities within your target market and with your future users.. Once you understand how your product solves a market need, you can determine the minimum you can do to make your product viable.
  2. Map User Flow: Once you know how your product can add value for your users, it's time to visually outline out its step-by-step user flow. How will your initial users finish a task, complete a goal, and navigate the pages in your product to get value from it, and what minimum features are critical for them to do so at this early stage of product development? You can rank every feature from high to low priority based on how essential it is to solving the user's problem.
  3. Build & Launch: Mapping out the features is one thing, and actually delivering those features is another. You'll need developers, a no-code app builder like Bubble, or both to help you deliver a viable product.

After building a product and including enough of the core features, you’re ready to launch the MVP. Understandably, the minimum viable product might not be as polished as it will be in the future. Still, by the time it launches, it needs to be usable and engaging enough to satisfy your first group of users.

  1. Continue Iterating: It’s best to continue iterating after launching the MVP. After all, a minimum viable product is not a finished masterpiece. Continue to build, measure, and learn as you receive feedback from your initial user base. When you master this approach, your product might start to grow faster after being launched because you’re integrating feedback.

Successful Outcomes of MVPs

To see how startup MVPs become giants, consider some of the following examples:

  • Foursquare started as nothing more than an app that let people check in at different locations to win badges. Foursquare continued to build for its user base and eventually became a leading location data platform.
  • GoodGigs founder Dale Wilkinson turned his idea for social impact into a functional MVP in a matter of weeks using Bubble’s no-code platform, and is already collecting revenue and user feedback to expand its current feature set
  • Amazon started only as an online bookstore. Because it sold so many books, it was able to master their operational strategy and expand to add and even build other products, eventually becoming the massive marketplace it is today.
  • The team of the no-code forum builder Nucode was able to build an MVP on Bubble, then scale that MVP to version 2.0 without running into limitations or scalability problems.

Each of these examples succeeded because the teams did minimum viable product development the right way. The founders set out to solve a simple problem and did so without unnecessary bells and whistles. They also kept going after launching an MVP, validating their expectations about the market and user needs to continue iterating on the product. This process is how startup founders bring their ideas to life and make continuous improvements over time.

About Bubble

Bubble is a leader in the no-code movement. Bubble offers a powerful point-and-click web editor and cloud hosting platform that allows users to build fully customizable web applications and workflows, ranging from simple prototypes to complex marketplaces, SaaS products, and more.

Millions of users are building and launching businesses on Bubble—many have gone on to participate in top accelerator programs, such as Y Combinator, and even raised $365M in venture funding. Bubble is more than just a product. We are a strong community of builders and entrepreneurs who are united by the belief that everyone should be able to create technology.