Zero to MVP the right way

Mandy Trilck

Mandy Trilck

An MVP (minimal viable product) is the standard starting place for building an app

The idea is to build a simple version of an app, test it with users and then use the feedback to improve the app.

While originally the definition of an MVP included just about anything that could prove a concept, such as a paper prototype, it’s become the norm to develop a basic version of the app as an MVP.

This focus on product building has a basis in logic. Users are expecting more and more out of the products they use. Founders are anxious to put something real and attractive in the hands of users and investors to get the most valid testing results.

Since even an MVP can be costly to make, this is a risky gamble that has caused many founders to flame out before they can startup.

Rushing into an MVP doesn’t usually pay off

First, it’s important to understand that the journey from idea to product isn’t a direct route. It’s a dynamic process that transforms an idea into a solution.

The all important feedback loop doesn’t go into effect only once an MVP is released. Rather, several opportunities for feedback loops exist before any code is written.

Step 1 – Define and understand the problem

Behind every great idea is a problem that needs to be solved.

“Needs” to be solved is a tricky concept because there’s a big difference between “have to have” and “would be nice to have.” This is always something that is much clearer in hindsight than in the moment. A founder has to play the role of investigator to determine whether their supposed user pain point is real.

At this stage several learning processes can be put into motion to understand the problem, such as surveys and interviews.

Step 2 – Identify and test assumptions

Every idea has an assumption (or several) that underpins its potential for success. If that assumption is proven false, the whole business is not feasible.

Imagine, for example, if people were not willing to buy shoes without trying them on first. Zappos would never have existed if this were the case.

Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn, in order to test the home shoe buying assumption, created a simple website that offered shoes from local stores. If users ordered shoes, he would pick them up from the store and ship them himself. This was enough to prove that users would be willing to purchase shoes online.

Step 3 – Create and test solution

“I want to build…” the idea for how to solve a problem is usually in mind from the beginning. Yet at some point a project will start to focus more on the solution than the problem.

So we can say that the solution phase truly begins once the problem and assumptions have been worked out and a product starts being built. 

In many cases, this process can begin with prototyping tool like Invision. The idea is to make a clickable wireframe that users can try out and give their feedback. 


When it comes to making an app there’s no one formula for getting it right. What is common to all however is that going all in on a product without validating the idea is a bad strategy. 

Bringing an idea to a full product is a complex process, and those who work hard to test their product with as minimal risk possible have the best chance to win.

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