Nowadays, it has never been easier to launch a new product or service to users. This is in large part due to the myriad of new tools and services that can step in to provide part of your user’s journey that used to require the entire department, meaning you can now bootstrap your way to a profitable and popular product with nothing more than a laptop and creative imagination. This is the perfect environment to test and build your MVP: low overhead costs, but high quality and reliability. If you’re using another company’s product to support your efforts, then they are taking care of the reliability and scalability of that part of your product allowing you to remove one more thing from the list of things that you need to worry about.
If you haven’t already, then we would suggest that you read one of our other guides in order to gather a better idea on the general principles you should have in mind when building and designing your MVP.
The list of tools we’ve outlined below is split into the following sections.
- Product Glue
- Payment Options
When it comes to the first steps (we’re talking beyond the back of napkins here), you need a tool to help you solidify and share your vision. From apps to packaging, the design is important. Get continuous feedback from colleagues and friends on your ideas, then iterate and track your design progress until you arrive at its final form. Here are some of the tools available to support you.
Definitely gaining popularity in the last few years, Sketch is many designer’s go-to when it comes to designing anything. Intuitive and easy to use, the no-nonsense interface allows creativity to flow and provides a productive work environment. Many people prefer this software compared to Adobe Photoshop.
It has the added benefit of a strong plugin system allowing you to extend its functionality and implement other services – such as InVision or Lokalise (allows you to translate your designs into multiple languages).
Price: £95.22 (single payment and updates for a year).
Perhaps the gold standard for graphic design, Adobe’s Illustrator has been an industry leader for years. With all designs being vector-based, you can be assured that they will look good on any screen and at any size. Arguably a slightly steeper learning curve than Sketch, where Illustrator really shines is being part of the Adobe family and the ability to integrate seamlessly with the rest of their suite of tools – like Photoshop or InDesign.
Price: Single apps from £19.97 per month or all apps for £49.94 per month. (Hot tip – purchase subscriptions over Black Friday weekends to get a reduced price deal).
One of the top advantages of Marvel when it comes to design software is its online platform. It’s accessible and usable from a web browser, meaning you can design anywhere with any machine (practically). The interface is simple, intuitive, and allows you to quickly pull together designs for practically any digital product.
Furthermore, you can use the prototyping tools to link screens and interactions together creating a realistic mockup of the final product. This early-stage feedback really can help you nail down the user journeys before you commit to actually building your MVP as well as potentially highlighting any confusing areas in your design.
Price: Free Tier (1 project limit) | Pro (Unlimited Projects) £10-£14 per month.
Taking the prototyping features of Marvel one step further, you arrive at Proto. If you want to build codeless prototypes that work like your end-of-the-line product, then this is where you come. One of the best features of Proto is the ability to preview the prototype on different devices, allowing you to get a tactile experience with what the end product will feel like.
Price: from £19.00 per month (with a 15-day free trial available).
If you’ve finished your designs or prototypes, perhaps you are now ready to get something in front of customers. Or maybe you want to start signing people up for a waitlist, collect emails for a newsletter or merely provide a cornerstone for your business going forward. Regardless, there will come a time when your product will become customer-facing, and we’ve rounded up the tools and services that can make this the easiest and most pain-free experience for you.
Landing Page Generators
It’s pretty much a given these days that any business needs a presence on the web in some form, whether that is a full-blown website, a Google business page, Facebook page or just an Instagram page; customers need to be able to find you. If you don’t know how to code, then don’t worry, these services can get you up and running with a website quickly.
Squarespace is so good that you can rarely ever tell you are on one of their sites. In fact, their designs are award-winning. That means you get an award-winning designed site for a fraction of the cost of having a designer create one for you.
The thing about Squarespace is that it just takes care of the time-consuming stuff – things like hosting, SEO, analytics, payments, a store, updates and security.
If your product is a physical item or doesn’t require a technological implementation, then Squarespace is a good place to start, and perhaps stay.
Price: From £10.00 per month all the way up to £30.00 per month depending on your requirements.
Something simpler? Then Carrd is where to look next. One page. Simple, effective and to the point. Quickly build out pages and layouts to get people excited about your product. All designs are responsive, meaning you don’t need to worry about what it looks like on mobile versus desktop.
Taking it to the next level, they allow you to integrate external services (widgets, forms and analytics) to boost the power and reach of your site. You could get a fully functional MVP up and running with Carrd powering the front end, allowing users to pay with Stripe for products or services and collecting relevant information through the embeddable forms.
By being simple, Carrd offers you perhaps the fastest path to getting a website up and running. People can start discovering your business today.
Price: Free! Pro account is £7 per year.
Differentiating itself from its competitors by focusing on using blocks (think contact forms, feature sections, photo galleries, etc.) to build your website – all beautifully designed with stunning typography. Tilda also brings powerful integrations to the party, letting you integrate services like Google Sheets, MailChimp, TypeForm and Zapier.
To put it bluntly, you could quite easily build an MVP using Tilda. With enough connections and integrations, you could connect the dots between your product and the delivery (not necessarily physical delivery) of that product to your users.
Price: Free! (But no custom domain) | £8.00 per month for all the features and a custom domain.
The ultimate combination of design software and website creation, Webflow lets you take minute control over every aspect of design when it comes to your site. With the free tier, you can even skip a separate design phase and design straight in Webflow, allowing you to save time and take advantage of their easy to use web-platform.
With a customisable CMS and hosting options, you can easily go from concept to delivery, and very soon they will offer the ability for you to sell subscriptions directly from their site, expanding the business capabilities of their service beyond amazing design prowess.
Price: Free tier (but no custom domain) then ~£9 and up for a custom domain.
Whilst being a website builder like many others, Wix offers a far more customisable backend. So, if you are technically able and want to dig into serverless computing, database management, and an open platform to allow connection to 3rd party APIs and pretty much any external data source, this is the online website builder to choose.
It allows you finite control over your product or service and to create something more bespoke without having to do all the heavy lifting yourself.
Price: £6 per month.
For a long time, WordPress has been the go-to product for getting yourself a website. There are thousands upon thousands of themes to choose from and as many plugins to help you expand and grow your startup as needs must. However, there is a level of technical prowess required to get a WordPress site set up and properly functioning. But once it is set up, the expandability and general utility of the process explains why 35% of the internet is powered by the product.
Price: Free if you can host it yourself, or get free hosting. Otherwise, from £3 per month.
Sometimes your product just needs a good old fashioned form… whether that is to collect customisation information on a bespoke product, details for fulfilling a service, or to gauge interest for your eventual product, forms are a vital part of any startups customer-facing journey. Here we’ve rounded up some of the best options on the market currently.
As we discuss in our other guide to creating your MVP, getting feedback from your users is vitally important to understanding whether or not you are on the right track, whether your product resonates with your target audience, and whether or not you need to go back to the drawing board. Using forms to collect this data is just one of the ways that you can do this. Google Forms is free with a Google account and allows you to import the data directly into their Google Sheets. This means you can set up your analysis on the backend and have it ready to go as responses come rolling in. Being able to add multiple different types of questions, images and YouTube videos means that you are covered for any stage of feedback gathering. It is easy to imagine scenarios where you might upload product demo videos and ask potential users specific questions about their thoughts on your product, allowing you to tailor it even further before launch. Finally, you can add logic to skip questions or branch users off into certain segments if you need to drill down in your customer base even further.
Typeform takes the form filling game to a different level; they focus entirely on how they can “turn data collection into an experience”. Their forms are beautifully designed, powerful and work across the full range of devices. One of the biggest draws of Typeform is its simple interface for building questions, giving you a live preview as you work. With multiple question types allowing for different scenarios, logic to skip questions, ability to create branches or simply create a master questionnaire for every scenario you need to collect feedback, Typeform excels at this. But there is another level of benefit that comes with Typeform… as it is a data entry platform at its core, this allows you to attach other services to it and easily link them through things like Zapier. In other words, you could create your MVP without ever typing a line of code. Carrd (landing page) + Typeform (take requests) + Stripe (take payment) + Zapier (link all steps together) + Trello (track requests and tasks) + Mailchimp (send status emails and keep customers up to date) and you could easily have a service-based business providing something unique to customers.
Price: Starter plan is free (includes 3 forms and 100 responses per month) then the lowest tier is £28 per month.
“Excel on steroids”… that was how we were first introduced to Airtable. It is so powerful and adaptable that the use cases stretch fair and wide. However, we had to pick one place to put it, so we’ve stuck it in data collection. But in reality, it can replace your spreadsheets, small databases, Trello boards, forms, and much more. Using the forms to collect data is free, and the data is automatically stored in a spreadsheet format allowing easy manipulation and exporting. Like many of the tools we’ve listed, you can connect Airtable to other services to create far more powerful things. If you’re technically savvy, you can connect using their API, and at a base level use, it is a CRUD DB. At a higher level, you can use it as a middle man between your customer-facing product and your internal team.
Pricing: Free tier, then £8 per month (annual).
The most important thing about Formstack is the great selection of data integrations; you can pass off the data you collect easily and efficiently to a wide variety of sources. The list is pretty extensive – you can check it out here. This allows you to use Formstack as your customer portal to the rest of your business. Collecting data from aspiring customers, gathering feedback from those you have already converted, or sitting in the middle to join processes together, Formstack can help facilitate the collection and distribution of data in your MVP. And most importantly, allows those with little to no technical understanding to create powerful, useful systems for their customers.
Price: 14 days free trial, then ~£15 per month for five forms.
When it comes to selling your product, you might be a business with many physical products across multiple genres, or you might simply be selling a single digital product. With tools like Stripe, Zapier and Carrd you can string together a comprehensive and effective storefront, but perhaps you want more features and the security of knowing someone else has handled all the more complex stuff (refunds, carts, etc.) – if that is the case then we have some solutions for you below.
Maybe you have heard of Shopify; maybe you haven’t, either way, if you bought something online that wasn’t on Amazon in the last few years then there is a high chance that it was on a Shopify store. They take the hassle out of starting a business in eCommerce, from being available across a whole range of devices, to having a backend to track and manage the orders placed. They have a wide range of themes (over 70 to be exact) and give advanced users the ability to customise the HTML and CSS, allowing you to create something that is fully in line with your brand and business. Going further than that, they give you blogging functionality so you can deepen engagement with your customers. When it comes to calculating the business tax on products, Shopify has you covered with most major countries and jurisdictions included, allowing you to focus on the product and getting it to the customer.
Price: After a free trial it starts at $29 per month (with a 2.2% + 20p credit card charge on purchases).
Next day delivery – the bane of any business trying to sell anything that competes with Amazon, or whose competitor offers the same. Well, did you know you can list your products on Amazon, and, not only that, use their fulfilment by Amazon functionality to have products arrive at your customers doors the next day. By using Amazon, not only are you putting your product in front of millions more people in the largest online store in the world, you’re getting the benefits of their extensive delivery and logistics network. Add in a targeted in-platform solution, and you can reach consumers when they want something and when they need something, without having to get them onto your site first to make the sale.
Pricing: £0.75 per item sold for less than 35 items per month or £25 per month (excluding VAT) and unlimited sales.
BigCommerce is perhaps lesser known than the previous two; however, it has a number of advantages. For one, it can integrate directly with Amazon, Google Shopping, and eBay to provide you with a one-stop platform for all your products. BigCommerce also supports over 250 local currencies in 129 countries, meaning that the challenges of selling abroad get just a little smaller. If you wanted to have a custom storefront to build a unique shopping experience for your customers, then BigCommerce can also function as an API giving you the power to control all aspects of the business. They handle the tricky stuff (checkout and order creation) while you deal with bringing in the customers.
Pricing: Starts at ~£24.00 per month (depending on sales and features).
(What Connects Customers to Your Product)
A unique category of service is that of the ‘product glue’. These services are the binding agent between two other services. For example, submitting a form on your website needs to trigger sending an email, but either you can’t build it yourself or the service you’re using doesn’t offer an email integration then you need something to connect them together. This is where the product glue companies come in; they take other companies API’s and connect them together through their interface and service. This is usually done in a simple user interface which makes it super easy to do.
If you’ve been reading this piece chronologically, then you’ll have seen that we’ve mentioned Zapier a couple of times already. And that is because these products can be incredibly powerful and useful. Zapier works by allowing you to create workflows; these are typically three-part things but can be much longer. For example, you could have an email with a specific subject line (ORDER – perhaps) trigger an action. That action copies relevant information, and inserts it into a Google sheet, before notifying your fulfilment team in Slack that a new order has come in. The hardest part to understand when it comes to Zapier is not what you can do with it, but what you can’t do with it as it encompasses so many possibilities.
Pricing: Free tier (100 tasks per month) then ~£15.00 per month (which includes 750 tasks per month)
The free alternative to Zapier doesn’t have as many integrations, but it does have most of the important ones, for example, Gmail, Twitter and Evernote. This means you can still create powerful integrations and experiences for customers. Or, you can simply improve your life by automating simple, boring or repetitive tasks that take up valuable time. Set emails to be saved in specific folders with certain titles or post Tweets with your latest Instagram posts automatically. Because IFTTT works straight from your phone, it is super simple to set up and get running. Further, combine web-hooks and servers to create even more powerful setups using your own custom logic and integrate with their services. One bonus, if you’re creating smart products or services, perhaps you might want to integrate your own services with them and allow your customers to use your product in ways you couldn’t imagine, or simply just make their own lives easier. It can also provide a great platform for discovery, allowing new customers to find your service when they are trying to solve a very specific problem.
Perhaps not as technically ‘gluey’ as the other two in this section, Trello earns it’s spot by being an incredibly useful productivity tool that ties in with lots of different services in multiple ways. By creating ‘boards’ and ‘cards’, you can organise your own tasks, but more importantly, other peoples. If your business is more service orientated and you have a distributed workforce around the globe, or even just in different parts of the same country, then this is an effective way to coordinate with your team, assign tasks, keep track of issues, or mark goals. By connecting with a variety of other online apps and services, Trello becomes product glue through its more human integration and connectivity. Perhaps there isn’t an API to connect to services, or you have people that do highly specialised and individual tasks – these can be documented, tracked, added, removed, instigated, timed and alerted all from this platform.
Price: Free (limited connectivity), ~£8 per month for unlimited integrations and ‘power-ups’ (effectively more advanced cards).
At some point, your business might need to accept payments. If you are more B2B focused and you can survive with a smaller number of direct invoice related transactions or by other means, then you might be able to do without a payment gateway. However, if you’re expecting to be consumer-facing, then you will almost certainly at some point need a way to process transactions. Many platforms have these built-in; Shopify, for example, has its own payment processor, as does SquareSpace and Wix. But if you have a unique service or perhaps are not involved in the eCommerce business, then you will need something more bespoke that you can ‘plug-in’ into your system. A while back, it was common for tech teams to build their own payment processing, however, in recent years that has all but evaporated as companies have risen to prominence by offering a better service, security and ease of implementation. Plus, with the increased regulation around accepting online payments, storing credit card details and just generally money being used online, building your own solution would take months, if not years, and would hold back the development of your actual product. That being said, here are some great options for accepting payments (plus a few brick and mortar options).
If you’ve been online in the last few years and paid for something, you’ve probably at some point or another used Stripe. They have grown massively to handle billions of dollars of payments every year and helped millions of business take off. The most valuable aspect of Stripe is its functional utility. It provides the groundwork and systems for you to create whatever your business requires. It has a powerful API that allows you to create subscriptions, deferred payments, singular transactions and multiple transactions, all protected by machine learning fraud detection. Further, they are leading the way in educating entrepreneurs and businesses alike on Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) and integrating it into their platform, meaning those that use their services will be complying with EU regulations. With multiple features to help with all aspects of managing payments, Stripe has you covered globally. Take Stripe Connect, for example, empowering you to pay suppliers in over 30 countries around the world without the need for independent bank accounts, local subsidiaries or partnerships.
Price: 1.4% + 20p per transaction for EU cards and 2.9% + 20p for non-EU cards.
Braintree, another payment gateway, is a close competitor to Stripe and has some large businesses that use it (Uber and Dropbox). Its main selling point is versatility allowing multiple methods of payment to be accepted across a wide range of situations. For example, Apple pay and Android pay or even Venmo (in the US) are supported, allowing customers to have a clean, quick checkout experience. By integrating these options, Braintree makes it very quick and efficient for customers to checkout, reducing the number of carts left full. Being a Paypal service, it offers a level of reliability and scale as well as the brand recognition that other payment providers find hard to match. Customers know Paypal, and therefore, there is a preset level of trust. A new service, in beta, Braintree Auth pioneers deep integration with 3rd parties allowing merchants to connect their accounts to your service (think accounting software, of custom payment analytics). Add on the ability to take payments in-store, and you’ve got a full-service payment gateway provider.
Price: 1.9% + 20p per transaction (with custom pricing for enterprise).
Celery is unique because it fulfils a very specific need… delayed payments. In a world where people often pre-order or pledge (think Kickstarter), having the ability to accept payment but not charge the customer until certain conditions are met is the key to building customer trust and proving valid and irrefutable interest in your business or product. The power of Celery comes in the ability to seamlessly get a crowdfunding campaign started on your website with just a few lines of code, but going further than that, their API integrates with all the marketing and business tools you might need (Mail Chimp, MixPanel, Salesforce). This allows you to get a very accurate picture of the current state of pre-orders or crowdfunding pledges. By owning both the frontend and backend experience (whereas Kickstarter or Indiegogo are very formulaic), you can create a business rather than just a product. You can manage engagement beyond someone else’s platform. With no fees or card information required to get started, you can start taking orders immediately and only pay when you charge.
Price: 2% per transaction, plus Stripe fees (they use Stripe as their payment gateway) – Enterprise and volume discounts are available.
iZettle is another PayPal company and specialises in brick and mortar payments with its own unique card readers (one of which is part of an ocean initiative and made from 75% ocean plastic) that allows you to accept all different kinds of payment types including contactless. Further, they are completely cord-free, allowing them to be used untethered across the many different places you might want to accept payments. With a tamper-proof design, payment data encryption, and transaction protection, you and your customers can be assured of protected payments. Cash-based business? Not a problem, iZettle has accessories like cash registers and receipt printers to give you freedom wherever your business takes you. Something that really sets iZettle apart is their cash advance offering allowing you to expand and grow your business and pay back the loan through a set cost of transactions rather than a variable interest rate. This can provide key cash injections to allow you to expand when you need to and help your business grow.
Price: eCommerce comes in at a flat 2.5% fee with only 2% being charged on Paypal transactions.
Perhaps the smallest card reader, the Square system allows you to take payments quickly and effectively with a myriad of options for different scenarios. Take the Square terminal that has contactless, chip and pin and mobile payments built-in along with a receipt dispenser giving you an incredible self-contained speedy system for processing payments. Or the Square reader that costs just £19 to get going, and start accepting payments today. Something the other services don’t directly offer is a restaurant-specific package giving food-based entrepreneurs a leg up to get their grub palace up and running. With fully integrated software solutions (that integrate with online orders), you can be ready to go from the day of delivery. If you want to make sales over the phone, then that is also possible with Square. It allows you to keep track of your teams analytics – so you know how well your business is doing at any given moment. With hundreds of options and integrations, along with templated sites to get your online store up and running, Square provides a powerful and versatile option in the payment space.
Price: 2.5% on transactions (+ potential monthly fee if using other services).