7 Things Startups Should Avoid When Building an MVP

The IT industry has the highest failure rate for startups. And a large portion of those failures are due to their Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

Despite this fact, some 1.3 million tech startups throw their hat into the ring every year. It seems there isn’t enough alarm about the possibility of failure. If there were, more people would rely on the advice of those who succeeded.

There isn’t a magic formula that will guarantee success, but there are reasonable indications of what doesn’t work when creating an MVP. Some mistakes seem to repeat themselves. With that in mind, these are seven frequent pitfalls of building a successful MVP.

1. Trusting Your Instincts Over Market Research

Here’s a good mantra for anyone in the process of creating an MVP: Don’t create products that no one needs. Repeat that to yourself until you’ve internalized it completely. Unfortunately, this simple message falls on deaf ears far too often.

A common mistake that startups make is believing that market research shouldn’t dictate decision-making. This type of thinking leads to either poor market research or proper research that ends up being ignored. The latter is much more insidious because quality market research usually isn’t cheap.

A great example of this is the ride-hailing app, Hailo. Hailo raised over 100 million dollars on the premise that it would help taxi drivers in New York find fares. As it turns out, NYC cabs were doing just fine and didn’t need any help getting customers. Hailo quickly buckled under pressure from Uber.

2. Trying to Impress Rather Than Learn

The term Minimum Viable Product has a lot of information packed into just three words. Each of those should be respected insofar as they guide the design process. The goal of an MVP is not to blow people away with a feature-packed application. It’s to get to the point where a product can start to provide valuable feedback.

An MVP should first roll out with just enough features and UX to satisfy early adopters. Anything past that is potentially a waste of resources. Even worse, it can produce feedback that isn’t aligned with the real goals of the startup.

3. No Prototype Phase

Many startups seem to assume that a market-ready MVP is the starting point of their journey. In reality, a prototype phase should always take place before the MVP rolls out.

This phase doesn’t have to be too complicated, but it’s remarkably useful in identifying potential future obstacles. It can be as simple as a few steps.

First, identify the core features and functionality. Then, create a rough wireframe of the UI to iron out any snags. And finally, create a prototype with essential features and interfaces. No-code platforms, like MVP.dev’s favorite: Bubble.is, are a massive asset in prototyping. At this stage, it’s crucial to work quickly, and these kinds of platforms streamline the MVP process.

4. Assembling the Wrong Team

This pitfall is self-explanatory, but means many things. It could be unprofessional team members or people who don’t work well together. However, it’s most often a lack of experience. Inexperienced team members can bog down a project more than anything else.

This is another situation where codeless platforms can be a valuable tool. Platforms such as Bubble.is give people who are non-technical the basic tools to create web and mobile applications. They’re a great way to remove coding barriers on the way to your MVP even if the team isn’t as experienced as you’d like it to be.

5. Not Committing to a Vision

Once the prototyping is complete, the first foray into the hands of real users will be the MVP. From there, there is a lot of learning and iteration. With every step of the product’s lifecycle, you’ll be inundated with feedback — and that’s a good thing.

However, a lot of that feedback is not going to be in line with your original goals. It’s up to you to separate the input that aligns with your vision from the one that will lead you too far astray. Otherwise, you’ll end up diluting the product to the point that everyone may like it, but nobody loves it.

6. Overcommitting to a Vision

The flip side of that is when startups become so married to their original idea that they refuse to change. Remember that the main goal of the MVP is to generate feedback. If that feedback falls by the wayside, there is no purpose to the MVP at all. The product is being built for the users, not for the startup.

When work starts on an MVP, it’s never with a complete understanding of its users. Even the best-laid plans can only predict so much. The MVP will help you understand the needs of your users, and that will sometimes mean substantial changes. If the core functionality remains sound, you should be willing to make those changes.

An important part of the feedback and learning will be analytics. Things like retention rate and daily active users will give you more actionable data than any single person.

7. Using the Wrong Method

You’re probably familiar with Agile and Waterfall methodology. Agile is the way to go for creating MVPs. Success rates are much higher and it’s almost always less expensive.

Agile development approaches problems in the same broad way that a startup approaches their MVP. With the Agile method, testable iterations are delivered on a steady basis. This aligns perfectly with what an MVP is trying to accomplish.

The name of the game is adaptability when it comes to MVPs. And the fact is that even you as a startup founder aren’t sure of exactly what you need. Traditional development methods will deliver a product according to specs, but you may find out that product isn’t what you needed at all. Agile development allows teams to realize where problems lie every step of the way.

Knowing is Half the Battle

These aren’t the only missteps a startup can make on the road to launching MVP. However, avoiding these will avoid a lot of the obvious problems along the way.

The single most important one of these is ignoring market research. More startups fail because they make a product no one needs than for any other reason. The second most common reason for failure is running out of money. If you manage these seven mistakes well, you can rely on no-code platforms to get you where you need to go quickly and within your budget.

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