#Guides #Tech | 14 min read | Updated: 8/26/2022

How to Decide on MVP Features to Leave Competitors Behind

Updated: 8/26/2022
, Project Lead
#Guides #Tech
14 min read

In 35% of cases, small businesses fail because the market doesn’t need their solutions. However, our own experience shows that building a minimal viable product (MVP) is the best way for startups to minimize the risk.

With an MVP, a significant amount of time and money are saved. Results are seen much sooner and can be adjusted accordingly. Direct feedback from your target groups is immediate and is useful for monitoring progress.

As the first version should have a limited set of functions, how do we know what MVP features to include?

Here at Sloboda Studio, we’ve released over 100 MVPs and analyzed dozens of methods to select the proven ones. We’ll guide you through them and outline key feature definitions and prioritization techniques for a successful MVP launch.

Why Do You Need to Choose and Prioritize MVP Features?

A minimal viable product is the core concept of the Agile methodology. It refers to a product with basic but valuable features built to test the product on the market.

The fewer features a product has, the easier it is to divide your team’s attention between various business responsibilities, and the faster you can adjust to any changes in the market once they appear.

When thinking about an MVP, many people imagine something that is incomplete, partially functioning, or simply a prototype for a future app.

The truth is, if created wisely, an MVP is not just a concept, it’s a ready-to-use product.

An MVP might have limited options compared to the final app. But technically, it is finished and completely usable.

Selecting the right feature set for a minimal viable product isn’t an intuitive and spontaneous process. It requires research and thorough preparation. Careful feature prioritization pays off because it allows a startup to:

  • Create a unique, high-demand product.
  • Launch a new product in a short amount of time.
  • Help you achieve your business goals.
What are the Benefits of Feature Prioritization?

How to Define Features for Your MVP

You may have tons of ideas for your new service or app. But be honest when questioning yourself:

What are the main parts of your product?

What are the features your product can’t exist without?

That’s your foundation, and that’s where you start.

At Sloboda Studio, we focus on 3 strategic areas to define MVP scope:

  • Business value: Can we measure the cost of a feature?
  • Relation between the feature cost and its complexity: How complex is a new feature? Can we use a simpler one?
  • Timing: How much time do we need to create a new feature?
Defining MVP Scope

That said, there is no ultimate strategy for identifying the list of MVP features necessary for launching. Yet, there are some steps you should take to define the significance of each functionality for your future product.

Identifying the Target Audience and Their Pain Points

Before you go into distinguishing where to begin, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Who are your primary customers?
  • What do they want?
  • How will they use your product?

Start with “who?” Who is the customer you want to get a hold of initially? What is most important about them? For example, their age, gender, or lifestyle.

What pain points does this person have, and how can your product help them? Then, try imagining yourself in their place. What would be important to you? Now you have an idea of who your early adopters are.

Deciding How Your Product Will Solve Users’ Issues

Once you have a clear vision of your target audience, think about the problems your potential customers face daily. Then, define what functionality will help resolve those problems and improve their lives.

A clear definition of user issues is more important than you think.

Poor solutions can be reworked or adjusted. However, if the product is oriented to the wrong problem, consumers will not choose to buy or use it.

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Checking Who Your Competitors Are

If you are building something new on the market, with nothing to compare it to, you will not have any problems with competition. At least not at first.

However, most products will have to keep up not just with their customers’ interests but also with other businesses.

Does it make sense to launch a minimal viable product with fewer critical features than your competitor has? They already have it up and running, which means they already have a pool of customers using their app. So, you need to be competitive. This might mean that your MVP will include quite a few features and will take longer to build. For a startup, this might not be an easy task to handle.

It is of the utmost importance that you find a way to get certain pieces of critical information before you kick things off. This will require a bit of digging. You can look at the reviews and feedback on your competitor’s product to fish for ideas and see whether people are pleased or dissatisfied with the product.

In the modern world of the Internet, users are very generous with sharing their opinion. Another option is to try the competitor’s product out, get an idea of what you are dealing with, and think about how to improve it. Then, apply these ideas to your own product.

When building a house, you can’t paint the walls if there are none. Imagine your future MVP that way. Think about the key features in your competitors’ products that make them appealing to customers. Stick to that one strategy – sometimes, less is more.

All in all, doing a competitive analysis to uncover the why, what, and how behind the competitor’s product, as well as examining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT), can be of great help.

Outcomes of competitor analysis present a clear picture of where your startup and the potential product stand in the market and what you need to do to outperform the competition.

Defining Product’s Killer Features

The next step is to develop a list of features. Write them down, and while writing, split them into “must” and “nice to have” categories. All the nice-to-haves you can instantly put aside. This doesn’t mean you’re never doing them, but they are unnecessary for the minimal viable product.

Now, run through your list a few more times to see if there is anything else you can save for later. If possible, give it to a business analyst or product owner to look at. A fresh look can lead to some good ideas. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t need all the bells and whistles, but it has to work properly.

Think of feature selection this way: if you are lost in the forest, it does not matter what color your phone is or how wide the screen resolution is — as long as it has reception, and you can make a call to get help.

The cost is another reason to cut out certain features from the minimal viable product. If you are on a tight budget, look through the costs of your features and exclude the ones that exceed the budget. If you are positive that the feature is a must-have, try to look for alternatives or ways to reduce costs.

At this point, involving vendors that have experience in the MVP development process and understand the business side, technical aspects, and the potential of each technology can help discover inexpensive ways to make must-have features affordable.

Implementing a User-Centered Development Approach

The value determines the existence of any product. In this respect, a user-centered approach to product development is about figuring out how easily users can get value from selected functionality.

Even if the feature list you have already compiled is right on target, users can help you determine what’s more important when developing the product. Thus, you should:

  • Seek validation from real people.
  • Ask what problems customers face that have not been solved yet, instead of what features they would like to see in the product.

In the end, a product is nothing more than a set of features until the customer wants to use it. There is no sense in investing in a solution if it doesn’t fulfill users’ needs.

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The Best Feature Prioritization Techniques

In the business world, prioritization isn’t that simple and straightforward. Plus, startups are sometimes prone to underestimating or overestimating certain features.

Below, we focus on how to prioritize MVP features and make an overview of the practical techniques you can use to create the ultimate feature set for your project.

User Story Mapping

User story mapping is a simple yet effective prioritization method requiring collaboration among all team members, from business owners to developers and designers.

The workflow is designed as a map of the usage sequence, where the horizontal line represents the usage flow, while the vertical line shows the value of features in order of importance.

To start with story mapping, it is necessary to define users’ goals and divide each into sub-activities. These actions should show how your users act and the benefits they want to get by doing so.

The result is written down as a user story: “As a user, I want to (action) to get (value)”.

Let’s say you are trying to build a service marketplace. To get started, you need to create simple feature descriptions that showcase your product from the perspective of users or customers.

We’ll take one of our recent projects as an example to illustrate the process. Salita is an online marketplace MVP built from scratch by Sloboda Studio. The client came to us at the idea stage of the project to solve the language barrier for immigrants in Norway.

Before our team got into the actual mapping, we created several user stories, such as the following:

As a user, I can find interpreters by filters such as languages, schedule, and name to narrow the search results for my needs”.

Based on the stories, we prioritized features and organized them into visual mapping.

Salita User Story Mapping

Story mapping helped us classify features by priority, identify a list of tasks, and move to sprint planning.

MoSCow Matrix

This technique is used to determine what is critical for stakeholders and customers by dividing features into four groups:

  • Must-have features: core functionalities your product can’t do without;
  • Should-have features: those that are valuable but not vital;
  • Could-have features: functionality that is nice to have because they positively affect the user experience, but can be realized later if you lack resources now;
  • Won’t-have-this-time features: functions you can introduce later.
MoSCow Matrix

Numerical Assignment

This method distributes MVP functionalities between critical, standard, and optional priority groups. These groups should be clearly defined.

The decision-making team should agree on what these groups represent, then give each group a numeric value, and rank all the desired features according to their priority. A simple prioritization table looks like this:

Numerical Assignment

Priority groups: critical – 1, standard – 2, optional – 3

Home page featuresPriority groups
Book an assignment1
Check current assignments1
View favourite interpreters3
View statistics and calendar2
 Based on our project for interpreters: Salita

Bubble Sort Technique

This prioritization technique involves several steps:

  1. Listing all of the product features.
  2. Taking the first two features and comparing their functionalities.
  3. Placing a more influential feature at the top of the list.
  4. Making the same comparison with other pairs of features.
  5. Rearranging functions by importance.
Bubble Sort Technique
Based on our project for interpreters: Salita

The procedure repeats until there are no features to reorder. With each iteration, the most important features will appear at the top of the list, just as bubbles rise in sparkling water.

Effort And Impact Technique

The framework evaluates features from the perspective of how hard and complex they will be to implement, and how many benefits they will bring.

Each feature falls into the following categories:

  • quick wins;
  • major projects;
  • fills-ins;
  • features to reconsider.

For our recent project, the Sloboda Studio applied the Effort and Impact method. It proved effective in solving complex challenges and visualizing a long list of features by priority.

Our cooperation with Foody began by building a minimal viable product for the marketplace and resulted in creating a custom platform with these features:

  • Registration
  • Home page
  • Profiles
  • Recipes and collections
  • Video and image uploading
  • Payments
  • Admin panel
  • Rates and reviews
  • Clickable banner
  • Autoscaling

Obviously, this list of functions is broad. Before the start of the project, the Sloboda Studio assessed the complexity of implementing each of those features, as well as the value from both customer and business sides. Let’s see how the Foody Effort and Impact chart is visualized.

Effort And Impact Technique
Based on our project for chefs and culinary influencers: Foody

Opportunity Scoring Technique

The technique aims to determine which features are in demand and which are not.

To carry out opportunity scoring, you should reach out to your prospects and ask them to evaluate similar features of already existing apps. The results of the survey provide information on the importance of the defined features, and the level of satisfaction with the existing solutions.

The method uses a Satisfaction and Importance graph to measure and rank opportunities.

Opportunity Scoring Technique

As a prioritization exercise, the team can assign each functionality on the list according to two indicators:

  • How much effort is needed to bring this feature to market?
  • How much value does this feature bring to the customers?

Based on the answers, the team visualizes the result as a matrix or graph.

Effort vs Value

Kano Model Technique

This user-centered model considers the following types of MVP features:

  • Threshold: basic functionalities your customers expect to use.
  • Performance: these features are not must-haves, but can significantly increase the level of user satisfaction.
  • Excitement: attractive functionality your customers do not expect to have, but can be pleasing when they get them.
  • Irrelevant: features that make no difference to the application.

It’s essential to understand which features belong to which group. To get this information, you should conduct market research or create a questionnaire that asks users to complete the following sentences:

  • I like it
  • I expect it
  • I don’t care
  • I could deal with it
  • I dislike
Kano Model Technique

Then, you need to analyze the feedback and sort your features by group.

Speed Boat Method

This is a collaborative innovation game organized as a brainstorming session. The team imagines that a product is a boat that navigates through a turbulent sea to get to a destination (an MVP release). Each new feature can either accelerate your boat or slow down the workflow as an anchor.

Speed Boat Method

As you can see, there are quite a lot of methods and techniques that can be used. The key idea here is to put your customers and their problems in the spotlight, as they are the ones that define your business’s success.

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In the beginning, some of the features you have considered for later use might prove to be useless, or would be better off replaced by something more important.

However, the core is your most valuable part. It’s a basis for everything you are going to build in the future. If you choose the wrong functionality, or the functionality doesn’t work properly, you may have to start all over again.

So, be critical and think carefully about who the product is aimed toward, what problems it should help solve, and how those problems should be solved. To make things easier, you can incorporate a dedicated development team that will help with all project stages.

Our Experience

Sloboda Studio is a Clutch TOP 35 Custom Development Company with 12+ years of experience in building MVPs for startups and SMBs for such industries as:

  • Real Estate
  • Marketing and Advertising
  • FinTech
  • Healthcare
  • Food and Beverages
  • Human Resources
  • Media and Public Relations

We have successfully completed over 200 projects for customers from the USA, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway, and many other countries.

Here are a few examples of the MVP building projects that we’ve been working on.

Greater Vacation Rentals

Greater Vacation Rentals is a rental marketplace that allows users to book accommodations for vacations.

Greater Vacation Rentals
Greater Vacation Rentals Home Page

The founders wanted to build a secure platform for vacations similar to Airbnb, where hosts could share their properties easily while travelers enjoy quality accommodations.

In 3 months, we transformed the client’s idea into an MVP marketplace. Our team developed all the core features and integrated external APIs for payments within a short period of time and on a tight budget.

For this project, Sloboda Studio built web and mobile apps based on the Sharetribe platform. Also, we conducted a discovery phase to determine the project’s technical requirements and design wireframes. Then, we began building an MVP based on Sharetribe Flex.

Foody

Foody is a recipe marketplace built from scratch. The platform allows global chefs and popular culinary influencers to sell their recipes, and allows foodies to buy them.

Foody
Foody Home Page

Our clients came up with the idea to create the recipe platform during the COVID-19 pandemic, when they tried to cook at home.

As a result, we built a custom platform with unique visual and text content for everyone who likes to cook delicious meals at home.

Since the official release, the platform has increased its new functionality by 150%. And we are still working with them by scaling the marketplace with numerous features.

Sum It Up

Building an MVP can be a great way to start your business. It can help you see the greatest rewards with the least possible risks.

Make sure your MVP is simple and easy to use, but gets the job done. Every product is different and there is no golden rule for achieving perfection.

Feature prioritization techniques are a great help in decision-making. With the above methods, it is easier to assess all possible actions around any functionality or idea. If you keep asking the right questions concerning why your product exists, how it should look and work, you will reach your goal.

At Sloboda Studio, we can help you prioritize the order of the features you want to add to your project and develop your MVP product. Feel free to contact our team for expert consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Features should be evaluated based on two critical measures: developers’ effort and the value the features bring to the product’s end users. Functionality should also be prioritized based on how well it achieves business goals.

MVP should solve one specific problem. It generally has the core functionality with 2-3 main features.

An MVP is created to check hypotheses and avoid unnecessary expenses. It’s important to define and prioritize features, because you have limited time and money. Also, you should choose just the key features among all the potential ones that will work for your product’s success.

You should start by defining your target audience and their problems, as well as thinking of ways how your product can solve those pain points. Then, write down the list of critical features and exclude the ones that are not must-haves or exceed the budget. Also, it is necessary to analyze direct and indirect competitors.

There are a variety of strategies and techniques used for prioritizing MVP features. No matter what method you choose, the key priorities are en