Building MVP for Startups: A Step-by-Step Guide

published on 26 February 2024

Building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is a crucial step for startups to validate their product idea without a hefty investment. Here’s a quick guide on how to effectively build an MVP:

  • Understand Your Audience: Conduct market research to define your target customer persona and their needs.
  • Value Proposition: Determine your MVP's primary benefit and how it stands out from the competition.
  • Map the User Journey: Outline user goals, actions, and pain points to focus on essential features.
  • Prioritize Features: Use methods like MoSCoW to decide which features are a must-have for your MVP.
  • Build and Test: Focus on simple design and leverage existing tools for development. Test rigorously and gather user feedback.
  • Launch and Measure: Drive awareness and track performance metrics to gauge success.
  • Iterate Based on Feedback: Continuously improve your MVP based on user input and success metrics.

This step-by-step approach ensures your MVP addresses real user needs, stands out in the market, and is developed efficiently.

What is an MVP?

An MVP, or minimum viable product, is like the simplest version of what you want to sell. It has just enough features to work and solve the main problem for your users, and it helps you learn what they like and don't like about it. Here's what matters about an MVP:

  • It has just the basics to make users happy.
  • It's all about checking if your idea is something people want.
  • You can get it out there fast and without spending a lot.
  • It's great for getting feedback to make your product better later on.

By focusing on just the must-haves, startups can get their MVP out the door quicker and cheaper than if they tried to launch a complete product from the start.

Why Build MVPs for Startups?

Building MVPs is smart for a few reasons:

  • Check if your idea works: Putting out an MVP lets you see if people actually like your product idea. This way, you're not just guessing; you're getting real info from users.
  • Learn from users: By launching early, you can quickly find out what users think so you can make your product better. This feedback makes sure your final product really meets their needs.
  • Show it's popular: An MVP can prove people are interested in your idea, which can help you get money to make the full product.
  • Save time and money: Skipping the extra stuff at the beginning means you can develop your product faster and cheaper.

In short, making an MVP helps you get to market faster, saves cash, and gives you the real-world proof you need to get more funding and perfect your product.

Step 1: Conduct Market Research on Target Audience

Finding out who your users are, what they need, and what's already out there is super important.

Define Your Target Customer Persona

Think about who will use your product. What's their age, job, or where do they live? What problems do they have that your product can solve? Imagine this person, give them a name, and keep them in mind when planning your product.

  • Imagine your ideal user and jot down their details
  • Think about their age, job, how much they make, and where they live
  • Understand what drives them, their challenges, and their lifestyle
  • Give this imaginary person a name and picture to keep it real
  • Always think of this persona when making choices about your product

Identify User Needs and Problems

Talk to potential users to figure out what they really need. Look at online forums and social media to see what issues they're facing. Focus on the main problems your product can solve.

  • Chat with possible users to learn about their needs and issues
  • Use surveys to gather more opinions
  • Look through forums and social media for common complaints
  • Write down the big problems you see people talking about
  • Pick the most important issues your MVP should solve

Analyze the Competition

Check out what your competitors are doing. See what's missing in their products and think about how you can do it better. This will help your MVP stand out.

  • Find out who your competitors are
  • Look at their products, prices, and features
  • Spot what they're missing
  • Think about how you can offer something better
  • Decide what will make your MVP different

Doing good research helps you make a product that people will want to use and that's different from what's already out there.

Step 2: Determine Your MVP's Value Proposition

Figure out the main benefit your MVP will give to your target users. This helps you make product decisions and guides how you talk about your product.

Identify the Primary Consumer Benefit

Find out the key way your MVP will make target users' lives better. All features should support this benefit.

To find the primary consumer benefit, think about:

  • How will my product make the target user's life simpler?
  • What big problem will it solve for them?
  • How will it make things better for them?

For instance, if you're making a food delivery app, the main benefit could be helping users save time and hassle so they can enjoy a meal without needing to shop or cook.

Keep this main benefit in mind for all decisions - every feature should aim to boost this value for users.

Define Your MVP's Differentiators

Explain how your MVP will offer more value than what's already out there. This helps you stand out.

Think about:

  • What solutions are already available for the user's problem?
  • How will your MVP offer more value?
  • What unique features or ways of doing things set you apart?

If a rival app offers free delivery for orders over $20, you could stand out by offering free delivery for all orders.

Pinpointing these special features makes it clear why your MVP is the better choice for delivering value to users compared to other options they might have.

Use what makes you different to guide how you talk about and position your product. Highlight the reasons why your solution is the best choice.

Step 3: Map the User Journey

When we talk about mapping the user journey, we mean looking closely at the whole experience someone has with your product, from start to finish. This helps make sure your product is easy and clear to use and points out the main tasks it should help with.

Outline User Goals and Actions

Think about what users want to do with your product and the steps they need to take to get there. This helps you see what features are really necessary:

  • List the goals users have in mind when they use your product
  • Map actions they need to do to reach those goals
  • Note pain points where they might get stuck or frustrated
  • Identify key tasks your MVP needs to handle well

Understanding this flow helps you keep your focus on what users really need from your product.

Pinpoint User Pain Points

Find out where users are having a tough time and figure out how your MVP can make things better for them:

  • Find pain points by watching how users interact, asking them directly, or looking at feedback
  • Rank issues by how big of a deal they are and how often they happen
  • Determine fixes - think about how your MVP can solve these problems
  • Prioritize fixing the biggest headaches first

By tackling these issues, you make sure your MVP makes users' lives easier and their experience smoother.

Comparison Table of User Journey Mapping Methods

This table compares different ways to map out user journeys, looking at how easy they are to use, how detailed they are, and when they're most useful.

Step 4: Prioritize Features for Development

Pick out the most important features for your MVP by sorting them based on how much they matter to users. This helps figure out what you really need to build first.

Define Minimum Viable Features

List the very basic things your product must do to work and meet the main goal for your users.

  • Think about the main thing you want your MVP to do for your users
  • Write down just the features needed for that goal
  • Skip any extra stuff that’s not essential
  • Keep it simple - only include what’s absolutely needed

By sticking to just the necessary features, you can get your MVP ready quicker and without spending too much. Avoid adding more than you need because it can make things more complicated and slow you down.

Use a Prioritization Model Like MoSCoW

The MoSCoW method helps you sort features into four groups: Must-have, Should-have, Could-have, and Won't have for your MVP launch.

  • Must Have: These are the features your MVP can't do without. Focus here first.
  • Should Have: Important features that would be great to include if you can. Look at these next.
  • Could Have: Extras that are nice to have if there's time and budget. These are low on the list.
  • Won't Have: Things that aren’t needed right now. Save these for later.

Sorting features this way helps you see what’s really important for your MVP. By putting off less crucial items, you keep your project manageable and focused. Change what you focus on based on what users tell you after your MVP is out.

Step 5: Build and Test Your MVP

Focus on Simple, Intuitive Design

When creating your MVP, aim for a design that's easy to get. Make sure it's simple and clear so new users aren't confused. Use easy symbols and pictures to help explain things better. Test your design with users to find tricky spots, then make changes based on what they say.

Leverage Existing Tools and Services

Use tools and services that already exist to speed up your build. For example, instead of making your own payment system, you could use Stripe. This gets your MVP ready faster and cuts down on future work.

Rigorously Test Product and Gather Feedback

Check your MVP carefully to find any glitches. Make sure it handles unexpected user inputs well. Try it out with a few people from your target audience to spot any issues with how it's used. Ask for their thoughts through discussions or surveys to learn what works and what doesn't. Use their feedback to make your MVP better, like fixing problems or adding features they want. Be ready to make quick changes based on what users tell you.


Step 6: Launch, Get Adoption and Measure

Drive Awareness Through Focused Marketing

To let people know about your MVP, concentrate on marketing that speaks directly to those who are most likely to use and love your product:

  • Use social media and search ads that target specific interests and keywords to find potential users.
  • Ask bloggers and influencers who talk about your niche to feature your MVP.
  • Promote your MVP in Facebook Groups, Subreddits, and forums where your potential users hang out.
  • Encourage people who try your MVP early to tell their friends about it through referral programs.

Make sure your messages clearly explain why your MVP is awesome for each group of people. Watch how well your ads are working and tweak them to get better results.

Track Relevant Performance Metrics

Here are some important things to keep an eye on to see if your MVP is doing well:

  • Customer acquisition cost: This tells you how much you're spending to get each new user. It's crucial for figuring out if growing your user base is financially doable.
  • Lifetime value: This helps you understand how much money you can expect from a user over time. It's key for planning your budget.
  • Engagement metrics like DAU (daily active users) and WAU (weekly active users): These numbers show if people are really using your product regularly.
  • Churn rate: This is about how many users stop using your MVP. It's important for spotting problems with keeping users around.
  • NPS (Net Promoter Score): This score helps you know how happy users are with your MVP.

Set goals for each of these metrics based on what's normal in your industry. Keep testing and changing things based on what the data from your MVP tells you.

Step 7: Gather User Feedback and Iterate

Keep asking users what they think through surveys, talks, and reviews. Use this feedback and how they use your MVP to make it better.

Analyze Qualitative User Input

Listen to what users are saying to find out what needs fixing or improving for the next version of your product.

  • Talk directly with users to get detailed thoughts on their experience
  • Use surveys to gather opinions from more people
  • Keep an eye on app store reviews and social media for any complaints or ideas
  • Look for patterns in the feedback to figure out the main issues to focus on

Group feedback by topic to see what's bothering users the most:

  • Problems with how the app looks or works
  • Features that are missing
  • Bugs and other technical issues
  • Issues with pricing or payments

Keep track of how often these problems come up. Fix the ones that a lot of people mention first.

Define Success Metrics Benchmarks

Set clear goals for important numbers that show how well your MVP is doing.

Engagement Metrics

  • Daily Active Users (DAU): Aim for half of the Weekly Active Users to be active daily
  • Retention Rate: Keep 40% of users coming back after a month

Monetization Metrics

  • Average Revenue Per User (ARPU): Try to make $15 per user each month
  • Churn Rate: Keep it under 2% per month

User Satisfaction Metrics

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): Aim for a score above 70
  • App Store Rating: Try to get at least 4 stars out of 5

Always check these numbers. If they're not where they should be, think about changes to make your MVP better. If you're doing better than expected, it might mean your product fits well with the market.

Real-World Examples of Successful MVPs

Many well-known companies started small with an MVP, which helped them figure out what people really wanted and how to make their products better.


In the beginning, Airbnb was just a way for people to rent out extra space in their homes to travelers.

  • Started in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk
  • The idea came from renting air mattresses in their apartment for extra cash
  • They made a simple website showing pictures and details of places to stay
  • They focused on offering cheap, short-term places to stay
  • They saw that people liked the idea and used that feedback to grow bigger

Airbnb's start with an MVP showed them that people were interested in their idea. This early success helped them get the money they needed to grow.


Uber started as UberCab, a way to book a fancy car service using just a text message or a basic website.

  • Created in 2009 by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp
  • They saw problems with getting taxis and the high cost of private cars
  • Their first version of the app, UberCab, let people book black car drivers
  • They aimed to make it super easy to get a ride quickly
  • They listened to what drivers and riders said to make the app better, like adding fare estimates

Uber's simple first app proved there was a big demand for an easy way to book rides. This early test helped them get the support they needed to become bigger.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Key Takeaways on MVP Development

When you're starting up, building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is super important. It helps you check if your product idea works without spending a lot of money. Here's what we've learned:

  • It's smart to test your idea with real users before going all in. An MVP lets you try and fail without too much cost.
  • Your product should solve a real problem for people. Focus on what bothers your users the most.
  • Keep asking users what they think and use their feedback to make your product better.

By keeping these things in mind, startups can make products that really help users.

Expanding Beyond the MVP

If your MVP is doing well and people like it, it's time to add more features and grow. Here's how to do it:

  • Look at how your MVP is doing. Figure out what's working and what's not.
  • Plan what new features to add next, based on what users say and your data.
  • Get more people to know about your product and use it.
  • Keep listening to what users say so you can keep making your product better.
  • Think about how to make money from your product, like charging for extra features.

Improving your MVP is an ongoing job. It's better to make small updates often than big changes all at once. Always focus on solving your customers' problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to build an MVP?

Building an MVP can cost differently based on what you're making, how you're making it, and who's doing the work. Here's a rough idea of what you might spend:

  • Simple MVPs that don't need much unique stuff can be around $5,000-$15,000. These often use tools and services that are already out there.
  • MVPs that are a bit more complex might cost between $15,000 and $50,000. These need special design and features made just for them.
  • Really complex MVPs with lots of advanced features could go for $50,000-$150,000 or more. These need a lot of work to figure things out, build, and test.

To keep costs down, think hard about what features you really need to start, use existing solutions if you can, and consider if you can do the work yourself instead of hiring others.

How is an MVP different from a prototype?

A prototype and an MVP are used for different things:

  • A prototype is all about seeing if your idea can actually be made. It's a test to explore how to build your product.
  • An MVP is about seeing if people actually want your product. It's a basic version of your product that has just enough to solve users' main problems and get their feedback.

First, you make a prototype to check if your idea works. Then, you build an MVP with just the most important features to see if people are interested in it.

How do you make MVP in 5 steps?

To create an MVP, follow these five steps:

  • Market research: Get to know your potential users and what's already out there. This shapes your product idea.
  • Ideation: Come up with ideas and features that could solve users' problems.
  • User flow: Outline how users will use your MVP.
  • Prioritization: Choose the most important features to work on first.
  • Launch and iterate: Put your MVP out there, listen to what users say, and make it better.

The key is to keep your MVP simple and focus on what your users really need.

What are the stages of startup MVP?

The stages for creating a startup MVP include:

  • Figuring out what users need
  • Thinking up the product
  • Planning out the product
  • Building the MVP
  • Sharing the MVP with users
  • Making the product better based on user feedback

It's important to keep improving your product by listening to your users.

What is the best approach to building an MVP?

The best way to build an MVP is:

  • Start with just the necessary features
  • Get feedback from the first users
  • Make quick, affordable updates based on what you learn
  • Be ready to change things if needed

Focus on testing your product idea quickly with just a few features.

What are the key principles when creating a MVP?

When creating an MVP, remember these principles:

  • Define the main idea of your product
  • Focus on the most important features
  • Build a simple product that works
  • Get it out to users as soon as you can
  • Listen to what users say
  • Update and improve based on feedback

The aim is to start simple, learn from users, and improve your product.

Related posts

Read more

Make your website with
Unicorn Platform Badge icon