You’ve read all the advice on creating your own startup, and you know all the advantages of launching with a minimum viable product. But when that basic app is staring you in the face, it’s hard to resist the temptation to add on just a couple more features. How can you restrain yourself from building more than your MVP?
The urge to tinker with your MVP comes from thinking of your launch as the end of a process, instead of the beginning. No matter how much work you sink into your product now, it’s going to evolve once your customers start interacting with it. Don’t waste time and money making tweaks before you get that precious feedback from actual users.
If your product is lacking something that’s absolutely crucial to your target customers, you’ll find that out pretty quickly once you launch. The worst-case scenario is that you’ll have to launch again. That’s a small price to pay compared to sinking effort and dollars into creating a feature that never gets used.
The process of creating an MVP is as much about your mindset as it is about the product itself.
Success in business often flows from asking the right questions. Building your minimum viable product forces you to ask a really crucial one:
“What is the central value proposition of my business?”
Because you’re a smart person and you believe in your idea, you’re going to be tempted to answer that question yourself. But the only people who are actually qualified to answer it are your customers.
They’re the ones whose engagement with your product will make the difference between success and failure. Launching with your MVP lets you directly ask them what they want.
By shipping your product now instead of slapping more features on it:
Now let’s talk about how to resist the temptation to tweak.
For every additional thing you’re thinking of adding to your MVP, outline as clearly as possible how much it will cost.
Really do this, don’t just ballpark it in your head. Write out a list, and for each feature:
Remember that these aren’t just up-front costs - they’re also opportunity costs.
Every minute and every dollar you spend updating your product now isn’t available for the updates your actual users will request.
Look at your list of proposed features through this lens. Most of them won’t be worth as much as an extra week of interaction with your customer base.
Let go of the idea that you know what your customers want better than they do.
You probably don’t think that’s what you think. But when you delay your launch because you’re convinced you’ve thought of a feature that your product just has to have, that’s what you’re saying.
Think of your MVP as part of your market research. Where are you going to get better data on how customers feel about your app? Download numbers and active user stats will tell you more than a hundred focus groups.
Every time you delay shipping in order to add more functionality, you’re making the choice not to let your users weigh in on the changes you’re making.
At Launchpeer, we’ve seen tons of founders insist on including things like the ability to log in using Facebook profiles. Then they launch their app, and they notice that no one is using that functionality.
Admittedly, that’s not a huge cost by itself. But there are countless examples of never-used features like this, and they add up. The thing is, they’re just as inexpensive to add after the launch if it turns out that customers are clamoring for them.
By the way, just in case all this talk about feedback hasn’t made it clear: your app should include a way to hear from users!
This is something that actually should get added to your MVP if it’s not already part of it. It doesn’t have to be fancy. The digital equivalent of a suggestion box is way better than nothing at all.
If it includes some way for your team to ask customers specific questions about their experience, that’s even better.
The people actually using your product are the ultimate authority on what they want from it. You’re missing a huge opportunity if you don’t have a built-in way to talk to them.
Don’t be afraid to just ship something!
In almost every case, the reason founders give for wanting to add something extra to the MVP is that they think customers won’t use the product without it. That’s usually fear talking.
After all, you can’t be sure that people won’t love your minimum viable product. You haven’t let them see it yet.
Even if you’re right, and your MVP isn’t actually viable, a launch is actually a pretty low-cost way to find out. The worst-case scenario is that no one uses your app.
So what? Add in one or two of the things you thought were missing, and launch again. At least now you have hard data telling you that your product needs more work.
We’ve seen startups launch and relaunch 6 or 7 times without it hurting them in the long run. With each attempt, they’re making a few changes, taking into account what they learned from the last try.
Honestly, most startups will have to do this once or twice at least. It’s no big deal. But the sooner you start testing your business model in the real world, the sooner you’ll find your way to the version that actually ignites interest.
Your customers are the experts on what they want. The sooner you get some kind of a product into their hands, the quicker you can take advantage of that expertise.
Sure, you can add a lot of cool stuff to your app now. But you can do it later, too.
And you’ll be in a better position to tinker once you’ve heard from the experts.