Different Types & Purposes Of MVPs: How To Choose The Right One?


May 10, 2018
MVP Types. Photo by Deva Darshan on Unsplash

Generally speaking, MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is a version of a new product that includes just a few essential features that allow you to ship a product to early adopters and get some feedback from them to check your hypotheses. Most startups know how important it is to have an MVP before investing major resources in building an actual product. But it becomes complicated to implement because there are different types of MVPs that are used for different purposes in different cases.

Selecting the right type of MVP depends upon the reason you are creating it. Categorizing MVP types into low versus high fidelity is always relative to the real product. It’s much more important to understand when it’s more practical to use low and high fidelity MPV regardless of their label.

Low fidelity prototypes usually are used to:

  • Better understand the problem and related issues
  • Check how important the problem is for customers
  • Get confirmation if the problem is worth solving
  • Understand what kind of solution would be most welcomed

High fidelity prototypes help to:

  • Determine how much customers are willing to pay for the solution
  • Find early adopters and evangelists (passionate and enthusiastic customers who will spread the word about the product)
  • Optimize various aspects of marketing strategy (value proposition, call to action, communication channels, etc.)
  • Identify most potential viral growth techniques

While choosing the type of MVP for your particular hypothesis verification, you should consider:

  • What is the biggest risk you have right now and how you could check it?
  • How much time do you have to build this MVP and get results from it?
  • How much money do you have at this stage? What amount would be smart to use? Don’t plan anything fancy for your first tests!
  • What makes the most sense in your case? Which of the hypothesis validation strategies would bring your startup to the next level?
Low vs High Fidelity MVPs
Low vs High Fidelity MVPs

Customer interviews

Customer interviews are designed to collect information about the problem customers have and the solution to the problem you intend to provide. The interviews should try to explore customer needs rather than sell your product. This can be done by listing the problems you intend to solve and then asking what customers think about them and how they would rank each problem (from the most painful down to not essential).

User story

A user story is something more than just describing what your product is and does. It is a short story about a user, what problem he has, how he uses (or will use) your product, and how he captures (or will capture) value from it. A user story usually describes a process or steps taken by a user and captures the value of the product. Products already in the market usually have many user stories, but to create an MVP you can start from a single story and modify it according to your findings.

Digital prototypes

Digital prototypes such as mock-ups, wireframes, and actionable prototypes can be used to demonstrate the product’s functionality in a way close to the actual experience and perception. These prototypes can be low-fidelity sketches as well as more complicated interactive applications that a beta user could test and feel the experience as close to using a real product (app, platform, website, etc.).

Paper prototypes

Paper prototypes are quite similar to digital prototypes, except these are physical. You can make a simple sketch on paper or make cut-outs to show your product and help to visualize the user experience. The main advantages are that paper prototypes can be used by almost anyone, requires little time and efforts, can be easily and quickly modified, and need very little explaining or not at all.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Blogs and forums

Blogs and forums are a great way for checking your ideas within the target market using minimal efforts. To set up a blog on WordPress or Joomla costs little except for the cost of hosting services. Having your own blog gives you a two-way communication with your potential customers, which might be extremely valuable in the process of creating your high fidelity MVP. Of course, you’ll have to figure out how to drive traffic to your blog, but at the same, it’s possible to check other hypotheses: what channels are more effective, what aspects of your message drives more attention, is there an interest in your topic at all?

Explainer video

An explainer video is a short video that explains what your product does and why people should buy it. Often it‘s a simple, 45 – 90 seconds animation. Sometimes it’s extended with developer and customer interviews. You can hire a freelancer (Freelancer, UpWork, Fiverr) to create quite a decent video with voice over at price of $200 or even lower. Sometimes it’s cheaper to create a video than a website!

Landing page

A landing page is the main web page where visitors are directed after clicking a link from an ad, e-mail, blog post, or any other another communication channel. The main task of a landing page is to instantly communicate the value of your offering, overcome possible objections, and call visitors to action (usually to submit their contact details, place a pre-order, or even purchase a product). The landing page helps validate your value proposition (product-solution-market fit), sales arguments, pricing of the product, and even to choose most effective communication channels.

Audience building

Audience building is a simple idea. Before creating a product, build a virtual community (tied to the problem you intend to solve or even to your end product). If you can create such community using low-cost or even free methods (Facebook or Linkedin groups, newsletter, blog, etc.) it would be an indicator that there is a group of people interested in the topic and, you would already have a list of potential customers, once you create a higher fidelity MVP or even the product itself.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Ad campaigns

Ad campaigns are a great way to run market validation surveys. Google and Facebook advertising platforms allow you to choose demographics to target your potential customers. Other advertising channels almost always allow targeting based on the interest of potential customers, be it a section in a news portal, niche blog, magazine, newspaper or other media channel. This lets you run a low-fidelity test to see which features or aspects of your product are most appealing to potential customers (if you use different aspects in your message, but on the same channel).

Micro survey

Micro-survey is just one or two questions long, thus it has better response rate, is more reliable, and can be precisely targeted to the specific customer situation.

“Fake door”

“Fake door” is an easy way to measure whether your existing customers will be interested in a new product or feature. The main idea of “fake door” is to show the access to a particular feature, benefit, or product when you don’t have it yet and to measure how many of your customers would try to access it. For instance, you could put a call to action button on your website, but when a visitor clicks it, they get the message “coming soon.”

Single featured MVP

Single featured MVP tests a single, essential feature of the product. The theory is that, if you can’t find a single, super important feature that can stand on its own (at least for early adopters), adding more features won’t make your product much more desirable or essential. Using this type of MVP also prevents users from being distracted by other, maybe non-essential features, and makes them pay attention to the essence of the problem or solution.

Physical 3D model

A physical 3D model is a more impactful prototype but is also more expensive than a paper one. Usually, 3D models can be printed or molded from several types of plastic and metals. If your startup is building a technical product that has to be manufactured, you might consider creating a 3D model first.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

“Wizard of Oz”

“Wizard of Oz” is an MVP when you put up a front that looks like a real working product, but you manually carry out product functions. This is very efficient if you want to check whether you’ve got a desirable product or service before you actually build it. Plus you can also identify the pain points of the product or service, possible problems of delivering them, and unexpected customer actions, among other things.

Concierge MVP

Concierge MVP means that you start with a manual service instead of providing a product. The main thing here is to make the service consist of exactly the same steps people would go through with your product. Usually, the product or service is delivered as a highly customized service to selected customers.

Piecemeal MVP

Piecemeal MVP is something between the “Wizard of Oz” and the concierge MVP. You make people go through the process of using your product, but instead of delivering them manually, you create them using existing tools.

Crowdfunding MVP

Crowdfunding MVP could be described as selling it before you build it. The idea is very simple: launch a crowdfunding campaign on platforms such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo or any other, and raise money to create a product. For the best effect, you’ll need to create a prototype or demo video, and then see the reaction you get.

Whichever type of MVP you’ll choose, don’t overload it with unnecessary features and details. That’s the main rule to follow. Start your first MVPs including only most important features which are directly related to the problem and solution. Later you can add other features and benefits if you have the essential idea already confirmed. Remember, time is important! The simpler and easier your MVPs are to create, the more experiments you’ll be able to run, and the more validated knowledge you’ll gain.

More findings and practical step by step advice is published in the book Startup Evolution Curve: From Idea to Profitable and Scalable Business. To find out more about Donatas, click on the interview here.

Cover photo: Deva Darshan on Unsplash

Read next