You Should Never Skip The MVP Discovery Phase. Here’s Why

Find out why the MVP discovery phase is essential in MVP development, setting the stage for success by aligning your product with market needs and user expectations.

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by Matias Emiliano Alvarez Duran


Jumping straight into MVP development? Hold on a sec! Let's talk about MVP discovery — a step you really shouldn't skip.

In this quick read, we'll explain why the discovery phase is the map to your MVP and how working with a partner like NaNLABS can help you navigate the process.

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What is the ‘discovery phase’ in MVP development? 

The discovery phase is a critical initial step in the MVP development process that sets the stage for successful development. It's where you lay the groundwork, exploring the essential elements that shape your MVP. This phase includes:

  1. Conducting market research: This is the foundation of the MVP development process. Using tools like surveys, focus groups, and interviews, you identify your target audience, understand their needs, and analyze your competitors. It’s all about spotting market gaps your MVP can fill.

  2. Defining your value proposition: Here, you clarify the unique benefits your product offers. It's vital for guiding your focus during development, ensuring what you build resonates with your customers.

  3. Finding the right development partner: Team up with a partner that brings more than just coding skills. You need a team that contributes to idea refinement and project strategy, like NaNLABS, who actively engage in elevating your concept from the beginning.

  4. Defining core features: Also known as project scoping, this is where you decide on the key features of your MVP. Weighing up functionality vs. design in MVP development involves a delicate balance between staying lean and ensuring your product effectively solves user problems.

This phase is the key to strategically positioning your MVP for success in the market.

Why do you need the ‘discovery phase’? 

Objectives of the discovery phase

The primary objective of the discovery phase is risk reduction. Creating a new venture is inherently risky, and the stakes are even higher when custom development is involved. This phase aims to:

🎯 Validate the market need: It ensures that there's a real demand for your product, preventing you from building something that doesn't address a genuine user problem.

🎯 Clarify the product vision: It helps in refining and defining what your MVP should achieve, aligning it closely with your target audience's needs and expectations.

🎯 Set realistic goals and expectations: By understanding the market and user requirements, you can set achievable goals for your MVP, ensuring that your venture is grounded in reality.

Benefits of the discovery phase

Giving the discovery phase the attention it deserves comes with several key benefits, crucial for the success of any MVP.

Cost-effectiveness: By clearly defining your MVP development scope and features, you avoid the excessive costs associated with unnecessary or over-ambitious features. Custom development can be expensive, and the discovery phase helps in allocating resources more efficiently.

Increased chances of success: With a deeper understanding of your target market and user needs, your MVP is more likely to meet the market demand effectively, increasing its chances of success.

Informed decision-making: The insights gained during the discovery phase equip you with the knowledge to make informed decisions throughout the development process, from choosing the right technology stack to prioritizing features.

Early risk identification: It allows you to identify and mitigate potential risks early in the development process, reducing the likelihood of costly errors or missteps down the line.

By investing time and resources in this phase, you're gearing up to launch an MVP that resonates with your target audience and stands a strong chance in the competitive market.

The pitfalls of rushing or skipping the discovery phase

Skipping the discovery phase is a false economy. It might seem like you're speeding up development, but the risks and eventual MVP development costs of misalignment, underestimation, and irrelevance can far outweigh the time saved. Here's what cutting corners could cost you:

Lack of focus and product clarity

Without a thorough discovery phase, your MVP can become a jumble of features without a clear purpose. This lack of focus not only confuses your target audience but also dilutes the impact of your core offering.

Missing product-market fit

One of the biggest risks of bypassing discovery is launching an MVP that doesn't resonate with your intended users. Understanding your audience is key to creating a product-market fit and building a product they'll actually use and love.

Underestimation of complexity

A hasty start often leads to underestimated project scopes. This can result in missed deadlines, budget overruns, and a final product that doesn't meet user needs – all costly mistakes in both time and resources.

Unrealistic expectations

Without a clear roadmap laid out during discovery, expectations can become misaligned. This misalignment can lead to a negative experience for both the customer and the development team, often manifesting as frustration and disappointment.

Inadequate technical feasibility assessment

Rushing through or skipping discovery means you might not thoroughly evaluate the technical feasibility of your MVP, leading to impractical or overly ambitious features that are difficult, expensive, or even impossible to implement.

Overlooking the competitive landscape

Discovery involves analyzing competitors and the market. Skipping this can lead to developing redundant features or missing a unique market position, whether in a crowded red ocean or an unexplored blue ocean.

What exactly does the ‘discovery phase’ entail? 

The process and timeline

The discovery phase varies in length depending on the project's complexity but generally spans several weeks. NaNLABS approaches this phase through a blend of synchronous meetings and asynchronous communication, including intensive question-and-answer sessions alongside documentation and thoughtfully written-down ideas. This flexible approach accommodates different client preferences and ensures a thorough exploration of the project.

Key deliverables of the discovery phase

  1. Project document: This comprehensive document outlines the vision, objectives, goals, target audience, and problem your MVP aims to solve. It details the requirements and specifications, breaking down necessary features and functionalities.

  2. User personas and roles: A critical output is the clear definition of user personas and roles, ensuring the MVP is tailored to its end-user needs.

  3. Technical feasibility analysis: This includes an assessment of potential challenges, technology stack choices, 3rd party API alternatives, identified risks, and mitigation strategies.

  4. Timeline and roadmap: A visual representation like a Gantt chart outlines the project's milestones, key deliverables, and due dates.

  5. Budget outline: A clear budget for the entire scope defined in the discovery phase is essential for planning the next steps.

NaNLABS' approach

Throughout this phase, NaNLABS' role is to guide, advise, and collaborate closely with the client, ensuring that every aspect of the MVP—from the initial concept to the technical infrastructure—is meticulously planned and aligned with the project's goals.

We place significant emphasis on UI/UX design, well-defined MVP scope, and technical feasibility, including proof of concept (POC) development. The team uses tools like spreadsheets for scope definitions, estimation using T-shirt sizing, and team sizing to ensure precision and clarity.

Client takeaways

At the end of the discovery phase with NaNLABS, clients walk away with a solid foundation for their MVP. The client and the development team have a mutual understanding of the project's direction, potential challenges, and a roadmap to navigate through the development process.

It's an essential step in MVP development that ensures every aspect of the project, from design to development, aligns perfectly with the client's vision and market needs.

NaNLABS’ tips for a successful discovery phase 

Through decades of combined experience in MVP development services, we've honed our discovery process to set our clients up for a smart, strategic, and cost-effective journey – from MVP to full-scale product

Here are some insider tips from the NaNLABS team to save you time, money, and a whole lot of guesswork.

1️⃣ Prioritize user types with the most value or revenue potential

In MVPs, especially in marketplaces or multi-sided platforms, it's all about focusing on user roles that either derive the most value from your product or are the most likely to pay for it. This targeted approach ensures that the MVP appeals to the most crucial segments of your market, enhancing both its value proposition and revenue potential.

2️⃣ Balance risks with known territories

Some risks are necessary in tech, but it's crucial to anchor them in known territories. For instance, when we worked on this digital assistant bot, we carefully chose a tech stack that mixed innovative technologies with reliable, tried-and-tested ones.

3️⃣ Leverage third-party APIs for MVP focus

Don't reinvent the wheel. Identify and integrate third-party APIs that align with your MVP's core functionalities. This was the approach we used in our project with Fluint, helping concentrate efforts on unique features rather than building common functionalities from scratch.

4️⃣ Document and visualize your journey

Keep a meticulous record of your discovery phase so when you reach your destination you can understand how you got there. This documentation helps keep the project on track and provides valuable insights for future reference.

5️⃣ Engage in open, collaborative communication

The discovery phase thrives on open communication between the client and the MVP development team. This collaborative approach ensures that everyone’s expectations are aligned, there’s a free flow of ideas and a shared product vision. 

6️⃣ Iterate based on feedback

Be prepared to iterate your concept based on feedback. Flexibility is key as it allows for adjustments that can significantly enhance the MVP's market fit and user experience.

For more best practices and winning ideas, take a look at our top MVP development examples

Key Takeaways 

Crafting a standout MVP is more marathon than sprint, and the discovery phase is where it all begins. Here’s the gist:

Why we don’t skip the discovery phase: This phase provides a map to your MVP, which means skipping it is risky and likely to lead you off course.

How NaNLABS can help guide you: We begin before the coding does, by asking the right questions and hosting collaborative sessions to guide you from audience research to scope development. It’s how we can ensure your MVP hits the mark. 

“They took the time and effort to scope the project and understand my needs, which is why I chose them. NaNLABS struck a balance between challenging me and ensuring that the solution we were arriving at was something they could deliver—not being the ‘yes-man’ and not the ‘no-man’ either.” - Jeff Hatton, Founder of

What you get: Think of it as your MVP toolkit – a clear project vision, user personas, a realistic timeline, technical strategy, and a transparent budget.

Why it’s worth it: It's simple. Investing time in discovery means saving time, money, and headaches later. You’re setting up your MVP for success from the get-go.

Ready to start off on the right foot? Let's make your MVP a winning one.

That sketch sitting in your library? It’s time to share it with the world. From idea to launch, we can design, architect and code your MVP vision into reality in 3 months or less. Get in touch. We don’t byte!

Frequently Asked Questions About MVP Discovery Phase

  • What is the discovery phase in MVP development?

    The discovery phase is a crucial initial step in the MVP development process where you conduct market research, define your value proposition, and scope out your project, setting a solid foundation for your MVP.

  • Why is the discovery phase important in creating an MVP?

    It's vital for validating market needs, clarifying your product vision, setting realistic goals, and identifying technical feasibility, which helps in reducing risks and avoiding unnecessary costs.

  • Can skipping the discovery phase impact my MVP's success?

    Yes, skipping this phase can lead to a lack of focus, failure to achieve product-market fit, underestimation of complexity, and unrealistic expectations, ultimately affecting the MVP's success.

  • What outcomes can I expect from a successful discovery phase?

    Expect a comprehensive project document, a realistic timeline, a viable technical strategy, and a well-defined budget, all essential for an efficient and effective MVP development process.

  • How long does the discovery phase typically take in MVP development?

    The length varies depending on the project's complexity and scope, but it's a crucial investment of time upfront to save time, money, and resources in the long run.

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