How Long Does it Take to Build a Minimum Viable Product?

Helen Stetsenko
Helen Stetsenko
Tech Researcher and Writer

Going to market quickly is essential for any software product. Most startups begin with MVP development that helps deliver a product with basic functionalities quicker and cheaper. It manages to obtain a clear vision for building the full product version, including what features to focus on further and what audience to target.

The question is, how long should it take to build an MVP to match all these goals? It depends on a few essential factors that you should consider when planning your resources and project timeline. Let’s observe them all.


Table of contents

    MVP Goals and Functions

    Each startup builds its product upon certain assumptions regarding the future solution. It is hard to discover the right set of features and their implementation until the software is released to a real market. The MVP concept helps to reduce the risks of losing big money in case of failure and gives essential insights regarding the actual customers’ behavior, preferences, and expectations. We’ve outlined all the benefits of creating an MVP in our What is a Minimum Viable Product long read.

    Unlike a proof-of-concept, a minimum viable product (MVP) is a workable product version with basic features developed to ensure that the chosen product vision and implementation fit market needs. It usually comes with minimum functionality to introduce the consent to users and solve their specific problems. - Andrey Onopriyenko, CTO at KeyUA

    A product team might choose to start with an MVP for a few reasons:

    • Validate the idea on real users before committing a significant amount of time and money to full product version development.
    • Release a product to the actual market as soon as possible to start earning profit.
    • Research the market needs, define the target audience, and collect other valuable learnings to form the final vision and strategy.
    • Prioritize the directions for further investments based on feedback from real customers.
    • Collect funds for development (in case of no-development MVPs).

    How to Build an MVP

    To evaluate the required resources for the future MVP, you should understand what stages the MVP creation process involves. The time frame to build a minimum viable product will depend on the chosen MVP type. Here is an approximate step-by-step guide to planning a minimum viable product:

    • Identify Your Business Goals: seeing the end goal and the desired result helps to choose the right direction to reach it. That is why before jumping into the development, outline your long-term business objectives and success criteria for the future product.
    • Map Out A User Journey: it helps see the future prototype from the customer’s perspective. It gives insights to design the application to make it convenient for users and engage them to make an order or bring another result you expect. Remember to focus on actual user problems. The more options you choose to provide users, the more time it takes to build an MVP.
    • Pains and Gains: after identifying the user flow, think about what problems can occur with each action and the success scenario.
    • Outline the MVP Features: after you’ve outlined the user’s needs and the required actions to get the desired result, it’s time to list the features that should be built. List so-called ‘opportunity statements’ to each user and define the features that match them.

    feature selection process for mvp

    MVP Feature Selection Process

    Prioritize the chosen features to those that will be developed for an MVP and those that might be included for later releases. Estimate how much time the planned features may need for implementation. The final result of these findings will explain how much time for MVP development is required. If you are limited with a specific timeframe or budget, you can always reduce or extend the work scope.

    Get a deeper glance at how to build MVP in our dedicated post: How to Build a Minimum Viable Product for Your Startup.

    How to Calculate The MVP Development Time?

    The timeframe for building an MVP depends on the complexity of the future product and the initial format you’d like to start with. For example, you can begin with a web app creation or a mobile app for a single platform like iOS or Android. Sometimes startups decide to create a website and mobile apps in parallel, aiming to cover as many potential customers as possible. All these decisions rely on the business goals and available resources. The required time to build MVP includes the following:

    • Time for a research and analysis phase: to transfer your product idea into a development project, you’ll need to conduct marketing research, create user stories, investigate what technologies would be suitable to use, and outline the specs for future development.
    • Time for development: it includes UI design, front-end development, back-end development, testing, and deployment.
    • Time for an MVP launch: the public release requires a marketing campaign to engage the customer interest and make it noticeable on the market.

    There are two main approaches to estimating the MVP development timeframe:

    • Agile: it is an approximate evaluation of the project based on the requirements that are currently available. Usually, it is a ‘from - to’ time frame that can be modified when the entire picture becomes more complete. If you just have an idea that is not technically validated yet, you can request the project estimation from your outsourcing partner.
    • Fixed: it defines the precise time frame and requires detailed requirements outlined beforehand. It is suitable for startups who are already specific with all project specs and are ready to start the development without additional investigations.

    Each method has its advantages and drawbacks. The right choice depends on how well you understand the desired result and how precisely you’ve elaborated the project scope. Here is a sample of an estimation that KeyUA gives to clients who came up with the detailed specs for MVP development:

    mvp development time estimation

    The MVP Development Time Estimation

    This estimation is given in labor hours, meaning the hours for the entire team. Usually, a 1500 h project takes 3-4 months, assuming that many tasks will be handled in parallel and a few different specialists will be working in a team. It is an average time to build a minimum viable product that directly solves some specific customer needs.

    Real Case: GetCoverLetter MVP Estimation

    GetCoverLetter is a product by KeyUA that started from an MVP development in 2018. It is an online cover letter and resume builder that helps job seekers prepare hiring documents to win the desired positions.

    getcoverletter screen today

    This is what a full-scale product GetCoverLetter looks like today.

    Yana Trihub, the startup founder and mastermind, got an idea to create such an online service based on her personal recruitment experience and in-depth research for talent. Many skillful and educated candidates fail to get hired simply because they can’t correctly present their professional backgrounds to employers.

    The MVP allowed only generating a cover letter for a limited list of professions based on the user’s input. The overall project scope included:

    PhaseThe scope of workEstimation, hours
    Market Research & AnalysisCompetitors analysis, research for the most demanded features and their value for consumers.80 h
    UI/UX DesignUX/UI prototypes creation, edits, and advancements, making decisions upon the final version.200 h
    Front-end DevelopmentThe development of a web application adapted for different screen sizes for desktop and mobile750 h
    Back-end developmentSetting up the server-side and architecture with scalability to add more features in the future300 h
    Testing & QATesting each product feature to ensure bug-free performance before the release120 h
    TOTAL: 1450 h

    These are the actual numbers of how long it took to develop the GetCoverLetter MVP. Front-end development took almost half of the total time. It was the most challenging part, as this web application processes most of the requests on the front end. A few developers were working in a team simultaneously, handling many tasks in parallel. As a result, a ready-made MVP was released only 4 months after the development started.

    The idea successfully hit the market. The released MVP unveiled a massive demand for hiring document generators on the market. Soon the team released a new web app version with a resume builder on board.

    How Much Does It Cost to Develop an MVP?

    Unless you have an in-house team of developers, you may need to hire outsourcing specialists to implement your MVP project. Here are two main options:

    • Hiring individual freelancers to work as a team on your project.
    • Hiring a software development company to outsource the entire development.

    Working with individual freelancers may be cheaper, but you get fewer guarantees for success and more complicated team management. Hiring an outsourcing partner implies a higher cost that is justified by lower failure risks and usually faster and higher-quality deliverables. Here is an outline of both alternatives:

    freelancers vs outsourcing company for mvp development

    Freelancers VS Outsourcing Development Company

    The chosen approach, together with the project scope, define the final MVP development cost. The location of your outsourcing development team may also influence the budget, as the hourly rates for software development highly vary in different regions. The outsourcing partners from Eastern Europe offer one of the best cost-quality terms today.

    Final thoughts

    When planning an MVP development, you need to understand how much time and money it may require. It helps to plan your expenses and the release date. The time frame depends on the product complexity, the chosen MVP type, and your business goals regarding the future product.

    If you need to find out how long does it take to build an MVP of a specific product, the KeyUA experts would be happy to analyze your requirements and provide a detailed estimation. We are ready to assist at any stage of your MVP building, from the initial research to programming, testing, and release to the market. Get a high-quality, successful MVP with our expert technical assistance.

    Wondering how much time may be required to build your MVP? Please send us your project specs to get a precise estimation.

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