What Are the Main Types of MVPs?
In the startup world, building an MVP is an integral part of ensuring that your ideas are worthwhile and hypotheses are right. In a traditional sense, a minimum viable product is a simple yet fully functional early version of the solution that the target audience can use. However, the lean startup methodology is rich in choice when it comes to what kind of tactics you can use for testing feasibility. On this page, we'll introduce you to the various MVP types your startup or business can apply.
Types of MVPs Based on Fidelity
In general, you can place minimum viable products into two categories: low- and high-fidelity MVPs. Fidelity here stands for how close the product resembles the planned final and full version. While both deliver visible MVP benefits, let's quickly overview the major differences between them.
Such solutions generally don't fall under the classic MVP definition, but they imply low investment methods aimed at getting feedback, investigating the market and user needs, and validating hypotheses. These are a good start for those who want to test the waters first without committing to actual development or much investment.
In most cases, low-fidelity MVPs don't require building a product. Instead, they are applicable if you want to test proof-of-concept, find out whether there is demand, and get to know the audience and their needs better. Bottom line: use these types of MVPs to discover whether making the product is even worth a try.
Such types of minimum viable products require more effort and are more time- and resource-intensive. High-fidelity MVPs suggest having a functioning solution, even if it'll be basic and fitted only with core features. Surely, the MVP cost for such projects is higher than with low-fidelity approaches.
The MVP's main aim, in this case, is to:
- find early adopters and first customers;
- attempt to make your first profit;
- test the solution's early version with a real audience;
- learn what to improve and how to move further based on feedback and data.
This way, you can learn as you go, get feedback, and gradually build the product. You'll constantly tweak the product development roadmap to focus on releasing the functionality the audience expects and is willing to pay for.
MVP Types Without A Product
As we've mentioned, there are many kinds of low-fidelity MVPs that are applied for user research, validating assumptions, and spiking user interest in a product or service without the need to even build a product. Certainly, this can help mitigate the risk of lost investment and time. Let's take a closer look at the so-called MVPs that come before the actual MVP.
Smoke Test or Landing Page MVP
If you're running on a tight startup budget, you can start your validation with something as simple as a landing page. Sometimes called smoke testing, this type of minimum viable product is a basic yet great way to test hypotheses such as "Will the solution be profitable?" and start collecting user contact details for your customer base.
In essence, you just need a single web page that can help raise interest. Usually, such MVPs include information about the product, concept, pricing, and unique selling point and have calls to action to invite people to subscribe. You may even put up several versions of the landing page to test which message, layout, etc., resonates and performs better. Either way, it won't take much time or cost you a fortune.
The method is commonly applied for checking the feasibility of tech startup ideas. In fact, giving some landing page MVP examples, Buffer used this approach to test whether there was enough interest for their product. Their page had a short summary of what the product is about, a note that it's being developed at the moment, and a sign-up form that would give access to pricing option details for the upcoming tool. This page was sufficient, and the team managed to collect many prospects' contact details.
Email Campaign MVP
Just as with other types of marketing MVPs, which resort to social media, email is another communication channel that can be used as a minimum viable product to share information and track responses. You can send out emails to prospects and potential clients, explaining what your product is about, encouraging them to take specific action (like signing up for the waitlist), or sharing insights on the progress or your product's latest news as a way to build in public.
What can help you craft neat emails? Consider applying such startup tools as Mailchimp to create newsletters and email campaigns. And, of course, this path makes sense if you already have a list of prospects and would, for example, like to validate an assumption among your target audience. Moreover, this tactic can be more fruitful if it's used in combination with others (say, together with a landing page) instead of as a standalone approach.
Actually, Product Hunt started out with an email MVP. They sent digests to their subscribers and soon discovered a demand for something more, so they decided to carry on with building the platform.
Fake Door MVP
Basically, such an MVP simulates or mimics the product or feature. In this case, you try to hook users by pretending that the product exists but then notify them that it's under construction or is "coming soon".
What's the point? Fake door testing is created to check user interest, build an audience, gauge demand, and get feedback. You gather user contact information and measure various engagement metrics and KPIs, such as the click-through rate and the number of subscriptions. This approach is worth considering if you already have a user base and, for instance, want to test interest before building a feature.
The fake door can be as basic as a pop-up, ad, banner, CTA, notification, or something that can raise curiosity. It invites users to get early access, become beta testers, or check out the new feature or product. In reality, the non-existing product or feature may currently just be something that visually displays the future product (like a low-fidelity prototype, screenshot, or wireframe). When the user goes through the "door" (clicks or leaves their contacts), they find out that the product isn't available yet, but that you're working on it.
Although you're practically like an illusionist showing the audience a magic trick, you get to monitor user behavior. This will allow you to ensure demand, learn more about your target audience, study startup analytics, and make data-backed decisions.
On the flip side, however, if the fake door is implemented poorly and users feel like they were deceived, you can lose credibility and harm your brand's trust. Therefore, note that communication with the target audience is crucial, so you have to be transparent, deliver what you've promised, and stay in touch to notify the users of the updates.
Another way to test the product is by modeling it. For example, you can make wireframes, mockups, or a clickable prototype that'll provide an interactive experience and clearly show how the solution should function. If we put a prototype vs. MVP side by side, the latter will suppose that there's a working and usable solution, whereas the former is more of a demonstration of the capabilities.
When could a prototype serve as an MVP? Just as with the previously described types of MVPs, it can be a way to test usability and whether the solution is reasonable before getting entangled in costly development.
Video Demo MVP
As it follows from the above, if you have a prototype or a working yet unfinished version of the product, you can film an explainer video, teaser, or demo to showcase what the product is capable of. The approach is wise if:
- you can't provide the product in its current form for beta testing;
- it's too early for launch yet (for instance, due to ongoing development work);
- you'd like to create some hype around the product and rush demand among early users before MVP launch.
This was the tactic the founders of Dropbox used in the early days of the solution. They made a screen recording of the product in action, introducing users to the tool. The product tour served as an MVP and was less than 5 minutes. Nonetheless, it resulted in a huge success, expanding the waitlist 15 times.
"Sell before you build" is one of the most popular MVP testing methods. This crowdfunding approach is often used by those startups that seek resources to support the team in the course of development.
It implies letting early adopters know that they can back the project or that there's a waitlist to pre-order the product before its launch. In many scenarios, entrepreneurs have at least a mockup, working prototype, or video demo to demonstrate. Moreover, they usually offer better terms and discounts for purchases made before release (for instance, a yearly subscription at the quarterly price).
Although you may get cash inflow and raise money to facilitate development thanks to this tactic, it is crucial to do whatever it takes to deliver a high-quality product within promised deadlines. Otherwise, you risk spoiling your reputation and may get flooded with negative feedback and reviews all over the web from unsatisfied people who paid you money.
Simple Product Version MVP Types
What are the various kinds of high-fidelity minimum viable products? Let's go over a few different types of MVP that imply having a simple but functioning product.
An MVP concierge-style is a solution that is not automated nor multifunctional, there's a human being operating it, and the clients know about it. The delivered service is of good quality but requires manual work.
The whole point is to evaluate whether the feature is necessary and will be sought after. This way, you safeguard yourself from wasting money and effort on developing something no one needs and, at the same time, get to connect with the target audience individually, learning about their pain points and preferences from the inside. If you're a domain expert and have the time to deliver a valuable service, this path is worth considering.
Giving a simple concierge MVP example, Food on the Table was created this way. The renowned meal planning app that shares collections of recipes, food coupons, and grocery lists began as a solution that offered tailored lists and coupons, which the founder searched for and provided himself. It was challenging, but the MVP let him ascertain the feasibility of the idea and served as motivation to build the complete product and work toward achieving product-market fit.
Wizard of Oz MVP
Sometimes this type of minimum viable product is referred to as the Flintstone MVP (remember how Fred "drove" his car by running?). Wizard of Oz is a non-automated solution that gives off the impression that it is thanks to the MVP design and service. All the processes are handled by a person as if they were automatic.
But if we compare the concierge MVP vs Wizard of Oz, the basic difference is that in the second case, customers are unaware that the solution is operated manually. The aim is similar: it is applied to ensure that there is market demand for what you're planning to build and not put in too much time and resources on making the feature, algorithm, or product. But the results you'll obtain will likelier be less biased.
Providing a clear Wizard of Oz MVP example, Zappos started out as this kind of minimum viable product. The founder took photos of shoes and placed them on his site, and whenever someone made a purchase, he would go shopping and send the shoes to the customer by mail. The business turned out to be a success and was acquired for over a million dollars. Interestingly, Amazon was founded similarly.
Such MVPs are sort of like quilt blankets, stitched together from different pieces of fabric. They are created with the use of various ready-made tools and solutions, visibly accelerating delivery time. For instance, this could be an e-commerce store made in a drag-and-drop builder that links up the product catalog, cart, checkout, payment gateways, and other vitals using plugins and extensions (i.e., opting for low-code development as an alternative to custom development).
Thanks to the quick time-to-market, you get to validate your ideas faster. Nonetheless, the possible lack of a ready solution to suit your needs, probable compatibility issues, plugin use costs, and the overall low customization opportunities of generally inflexible off-the-shelf software may turn into one big obstacle.
This means that a piecemeal MVP can be a reasonable choice for a transitional launch pad. Yet, it might lead to the need to develop from scratch and migrate your accumulated contacts, content, and other data if you decide to build the product the custom way.
This MVP type best describes the essence of an agile minimum viable product in its traditional meaning as you emphasize only one killer feature that will best solve the user's pain point. The functionality in focus is the product's backbone and core, meaning that your concept, messaging, and all of your effort revolve around it.
Surely, this approach is sensible when you've done your homework, dug deep into research, been through the discovery phase, and collected enough data to know the market state, the target audience's pain points, and what they expect. But, obviously, this kind of pilot version is much cheaper and quicker to develop than a full-scale feature-packed application or solution. It allows you to test how the product is received and whether it brings users value soon after MVP release.
Many companies chose this development journey, including Foursquare. At the outset, it only allowed people to mark their check-ins based on location and get badges for it. The product then evolved into a popular and multifunctional recommendation app.
Which Types of MVP Should You Choose?
The truth is that you don't have to opt for only one of the MVP types. You can use several different techniques in a simultaneous combo or, even better, implement them as consequent steps. For instance, having a landing page won't hurt, even if you're already at the prototype stage and are planning to move on to building a single-feature solution. There are plenty of MVP tools you may apply for that.
If your current priority is finding out whether the solution is worth your time in the first place, you can go for one of the low-fidelity options. If you want to test the product out in the real world, obtain feedback, and get more consistent results, you'll need to work on bringing it to life (even if it's a shrunk version of what you're planning the product to grow into over time). Either way, to stay on the safe side, you can move from low- to high-fidelity methods and iterate as you go.
Final Thoughts on the Types of Minimum Viable Products
As you see, you can take a shot at various cost-effective types of MVP. The specific kind you choose will depend on your current goals, product, budget, and resource availability. Nevertheless, the major goals of all minimum viable products are more or less universal: starting to test your ideas and hypotheses as quickly as possible with minimal investment.
If you're in search of a reliable tech partner who'll help you develop your product, feel free to contact us to discuss your project ideas. We've been providing MVP development services for startups for over a decade and have helped many companies create successful products. To get a quick estimate, feel free to use our MVP cost calculator.