In this tutorial, we will learn about the most common types of MVPs: emails, shadow buttons, 404/Coming Soon pages, and explainer videos. These techniques allow you to test your idea without creating an actual product, saving you time and money.
If you already have an email service and a mailing list of customers or interested people, you can create an Email MVP.
Simply email them a pitch for the product, and see who bites. There’s no actual product, but you can see who is interested.
Pros of Email MVPs:
- Quick and cheap
- You can segment customers into categories
- You’re starting out with a pool of interested users
Cons of Email MVPs:
- Can seem sloppy
- Can damage your brand image if you go in for a hard sell
To make a successful Email MVP, make sure the pitch looks like the other emails you send. Know what your audience expects from you — don’t betray their expectations.
If you do go this route, pair it with a landing page for a more professional effect.
To make a Shadow Button MVP, the company places a button in their app or website that “links” to the new product or feature—except that the product or feature doesn’t exist yet.
If users click on the button, the button either does nothing or alerts the user that the feature is coming soon.
Companies track who clicks the button to measure interest in the product.
Pros of Shadow Button MVPs:
- Easy to implement
- Gives good data
Cons of Shadow Button MVPs:
- Gives the user a bad impression of your site
- Looks broken
To make a successful Shadow Button MVP, make sure to thank users for clicking on the button. It’s also good to limit who can see it.
404 is an error message displayed by a browser indicating that an Internet address cannot be found. To make 404 and Coming Soon MVPs, companies put up a link to a new product or feature. Instead of linking to the actual product, it takes users to a 404 message (“Page not found”) or a Coming Soon page.
Of course, the product isn’t actually coming soon, but you can track how many people visit this page to gauge interest in the product. You can even add a sign-up form for interested users to join your email list.
Oculus Rift used this method for its original product. Before making the final version, they put up a pre-order page with an image of the rough prototype.
This method is good for early adopters of new technology, as they’re often used to unpolished products and pages.
To make a successful 404 MVP, make sure it’s designed and written well. Make sure Coming Soon pages look sharp, too. And don’t leave the temporary pages up for too long.
Explainers are videos that explain your new product or feature to the user. Of course, like the other MVPs, the product doesn’t really exist.
Videos take more time to make, but are more professional than the previous three methods.
Track how many people watch the video until the end to see if who’s interested. A tool called Wistia can do this for you.
These videos often end with a call to action (like signing up for an email list).
This is how Dropbox started. Sandwich Video is a popular agency that has produced small explainer videos for a lot of tech companies. You can check out some of their past work here: Sandwich Video's Projects
Pros of Explainer MVPs:
- Video converts better than text
- Can explain more complicated concepts
- Easy to share
Cons of Explainer MVPs:
- Could be wrong for your customer type
Video works great if your company has the means to create it or outsource the work easily. It’s also important that your users are familiar with video.
You can use tools like PowToon, GoAnimate or Fiverr to create cheap videos if you don’t have a large budget for production.