Are you interested in creating a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product, but unsure where to begin? Many times, companies will create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to get them started before making a major investment to build out every feature and functionality! 

First off, what exactly is a minimum viable product? A Minimum Viable Product (MVP), in the context of a SaaS business, refers to the most basic yet functional version of a SaaS product that meets the minimum requirements of the target business customers. Essentially, it does exactly what it is supposed to do, but nothing beyond the intended base offering. 

The MVP is designed to demonstrate the core value proposition and key features of the software to early adopters while also gathering valuable user feedback, iterating, and improving the product. By focusing on the essential functions of the app, an MVP allows for faster development, reduced initial costs, and the ability to test and validate the product's market fit before investing further resources in its development and expansion.

An MVP or minimum viable product at Red Hook is a production-ready web or mobile application that has the core features and workflows that users need in order to find value in the product and validate the idea. As users begin using the web app or mobile app, it is your job to collect their feedback and implement improvements to keep users happy and grow the user base. An MVP will also likely have some bugs or at least unexpected behavior as the organization learns how users can best leverage the app. 

There are a few concepts to break down there.

What is a Production-Ready App?

Are you ready to take your SaaS MVP product to the marketplace? First, ask yourself whether your app reliably features each of the following: 

  1. Functionality: The app has all its core features implemented, and they are working as expected, providing a seamless user experience.
  2. Performance: The app is optimized for fast loading times, efficient resource usage, and minimal latency to ensure a smooth user experience even under heavy loads.
  3. Security: The app has undergone rigorous security testing, and appropriate measures have been implemented to protect user data and prevent unauthorized access or attacks.
  4. Scalability: The app can handle increasing numbers of users, requests, and data without a significant drop in performance or functionality. This is achieved through efficient architecture and infrastructure.
  5. Reliability and Stability: The app has been thoroughly tested to minimize the occurrence of errors, crashes, or downtime, ensuring consistent availability and performance.
  6. Maintainability: The app's codebase is well-structured, documented, and modular, making it easy to update, troubleshoot, and expand upon as needed.
  7. User Experience (UX): The app has been designed with a focus on providing a user-friendly interface, smooth navigation, and an overall pleasant experience for the end-users.
  8. Cross-platform and Cross-browser compatibility: The app is compatible with various devices, operating systems, and web browsers, ensuring consistent performance and user experience across different platforms.
  9. Monitoring and Logging: The app has built-in monitoring and logging systems that track performance, errors, and user activity to facilitate efficient troubleshooting and optimization.
  10. Compliance: The app complies with relevant industry standards, regulations, and accessibility guidelines, ensuring it can be used by a wide range of users and meet the necessary legal requirements.

Functionality: What are the Core Features and Workflows?

Functionality refers to the range of features and capabilities that an app offers, which are essential for fulfilling its purpose and meeting user needs. In a production-ready MVP web app, functionality is a critical aspect that ensures the app delivers the intended value to its users. Here are some key considerations when it comes to app functionality:

  1. Core Features: The app should have all its essential features implemented, addressing the primary needs and pain points of the target audience. Core features are the backbone of the app, enabling users to perform the necessary tasks and operations with ease. This may include login, forgot password, profile settings, and more.
  2. User Interface (UI): The app's UI should be intuitive, visually appealing, and well-organized, allowing users to navigate and access different features without confusion. A well-designed UI contributes to a positive user experience, encouraging user engagement and retention.
  3. User Experience (UX): The app should be designed with a focus on the end-users, taking into account their preferences, needs, and expectations. A seamless UX ensures that users can easily perform tasks and achieve their goals within the app, leading to greater satisfaction and loyalty.
  4. Responsiveness: The app should be responsive across various devices, screen sizes, and orientations, adapting its layout and elements to provide a consistent user experience. This ensures that the app can cater to a diverse range of users, regardless of their device or platform.
  5. Accessibility: The app should be designed with accessibility in mind, catering to users with different abilities and needs. This includes considering factors such as color contrast, font size, and screen reader compatibility, making the app more inclusive and user-friendly.
  6. Error Handling: The app should be capable of handling user errors and unexpected scenarios gracefully, displaying appropriate error messages and guiding users through the process of resolving issues. This reduces user frustration and helps maintain a positive user experience.
  7. Testing: Rigorous testing should be conducted to ensure all features and functionalities are working as expected, and any bugs or issues are identified and resolved before deployment. This includes unit testing, integration testing, and user acceptance testing, which collectively contribute to a stable and reliable app.

Performance, Security, Scalability, Reliability, and Stability

Although running a tech business can be thrilling and exhilarating, it often requires making tough choices and trade-offs in terms of time. Striving for 100% perfection is ideal but rarely achievable in reality.

The areas mentioned above are where many clients are tempted to cut corners, especially in their minimum viable product. While It may seem reasonable in the moment, neglecting these aspects for an extended period can jeopardize your entire product. If the app is too slow, users will likely become frustrated and abandon it.

Inadequate app security can lead to easily exploitable vulnerabilities, resulting in insurance claims, unhappy users, and negative publicity. To avoid making headlines for the wrong reasons, ensure that your MVP maintains a reasonable level of security without compromising user safety.

Scalability might not be your primary concern if you're testing a concept and aiming to minimize costs. However, a sudden surge in popularity due to PR from a prominent influencer in your market can be both a blessing and a curse. If your product cannot handle the increased load, you'll need to scramble to release a new version, provided that any users remain loyal during the transition.

Reliability should be integrated into the infrastructure and architecture of the application as much as possible. Utilize serverless and auto-scaling cloud-native technologies to minimize the manpower required to maintain your services. In most cases, platforms like AWS or Firebase can effectively manage uptime concerns on your behalf.

Maintainability, Monitoring, and Logging Your MVP

Writing maintainable code is often one of the key differences between junior and senior software engineers. If you don’t have a programming background, it may be hard to tell if your development team understands how to write maintainable code. However, some basic research and conversations should help you get on the right path with your MVP app. You can start with questions like:

  • Are we building the product in a modular way?
  • What are we doing to ensure changes do not cause downtime?
  • What is our testing strategy?
  • Do we have an alert in place if something goes down?
  • Can we see errors before users do?
  • How long does it take to update production?

Cross-platform and Cross-browser Compatibility

Depending on your target user base, your MVP could be a web app or a mobile app. In some cases, you may have the funding and need to launch both a web app and a mobile app simultaneously. Regardless, the platforms, browsers, and devices you choose to support at launch can impact the scope of work, timeline, and investment. 

Determine what makes the most sense for your business and how quickly you can follow up with additional versions to address gaps. Incorporate platform, browser, and device support into your roadmap, or explicitly label them as out-of-scope until specific conditions are met.

Ensure Your MVP Meets Compliance Regulations

It's crucial to research your market and execution thoroughly to ensure you're not violating any compliance regulations that could shut your business down or land you in trouble. Typically, these issues can be easily avoided with due diligence. Make sure that you consult with experts in tech, product, finance, and particularly legal.

Consider your target audience. Is your app global, US-based, North American, or something else? Define the scope so you can understand the regulations that apply to you. Google Play and the Apple App Store also have varying regulations depending on the region.

All websites and applications should include a privacy policy, terms of service, and contact information. If launching outside of the US, ensure GDPR compliance. The CAN-SPAM Act requires including your business address in email newsletters and communications footers. Additionally, it's a good practice to provide an unsubscribe link or options to manage or disable email notifications from your application. Avoid tarnishing your domain reputation by sending unwanted emails, especially if an incorrect email address was used, which happens often. If your app is for children, you will have additional compliance regulations to consider.

Why Not Build the Perfect App From the Get-Go? 

The reason people start with an MVP is that we are operating on assumptions about what the users will want.  Even if you do market research and talk to your users up front, as they are integrating the product into their life, they may find things were not as useful or sticky as they thought.  They may think of new needs that are more valuable than the original problem the software was trying to solve.  

With that being said, it's important to pivot your product as needed based on what your users need. Building all of the features upfront can be costly and time-consuming.  Additionally, even if you think it's perfect, your users may disagree.  It's important to get the product into the hands of users before you have used your entire product development budget.  That way as you learn, you have a budget left over to make changes. 

What are the Business Outcomes of Creating an MVP?

Developing a SaaS MVP can lead to various business outcomes, both positive and negative. Understanding both positive and negative outcomes is crucial for businesses to continually assess their progress, iterate on the product, and adapt their strategies accordingly.

Positive Outcomes of an MVP

  • Product-Market Fit: A successful MVP can validate the product-market fit, indicating potential for market traction and success.
  • Customer Feedback and Improvement: An MVP enables businesses to gather valuable feedback from early adopters, leading to improvements and feature prioritization.
  • Faster Time-to-Market: Focusing on core features allows companies to launch their product more quickly, gaining a potential competitive edge.
  • Cost-Effective Development: Developing an MVP requires less initial investment, minimizing risks and allowing for more effective resource allocation.
  • Investment and Partnership Opportunities: A successful MVP can attract interest from investors, partners, or potential clients, providing necessary funding or support for growth.
  • Brand Awareness and Market Presence: Launching an MVP can help establish a company's presence in the market and build brand awareness for future marketing efforts.

Negative Outcomes of an MVP

  • Inefficient Resource Allocation: An MVP might not be enough to validate the product-market fit, leading to wasted resources, time, and effort.
  • Customer Dissatisfaction: If the MVP lacks critical features or fails to meet expectations, it may lead to dissatisfaction or negative reviews, harming the company's reputation.
  • Difficulty Scaling: An MVP may face challenges in scaling or expanding to cater to a larger customer base, requiring additional resources and adjustments to the product.

How Do I Get Started Creating an MVP? 

Now that you know what an MVP is, you may be getting excited to build yours. Whether you don’t know where to begin or you have a fully fleshed-out idea for a design and want to plan it together, let's chat. Reach out to our experienced team of developers to create the ideal first version of your SaaS product.