Why You Need to Know About Minimum Viable Product - BuildFire

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Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Building a Mobile App.

Ian Blair

Why You Need to Know About Minimum Viable Product

When you first came up with the idea for your mobile app, I’m sure you had a clear vision.

That vision is going to change. Depending on what stage of development you’re in right now, you may have already recognized this reality.

Your mobile app sounded great in theory, but once you start applying those concepts and turning it into a reality, things don’t go as planned. Mobile apps won’t survive without the consumer.

So waiting until your app officially launches to hear customer feedback is a gamble and not an effective strategy. What happens if your app isn’t received well by the market? Time to start over from scratch.

But if you develop an MVP, you’ll learn this early on, before you dump money into features that you don’t need.

You should be constantly testing your app and idea throughout your development process. See how your user base responds to what you’re building.

Defining the MVP of your mobile application is one of the most important parts of development.

Screen Shot 2018 02 06 at 4.29.40 PM

That’s because it forces you to think critically about what you can reasonably accomplish given your resources.

It also prevents arguments and conflicts about what features can be removed if and when the development process runs over time and over budget.

That’s because the feedback in the early stages will tell you exactly what should stay and what should go.

An MVP also allows you to build a roadmap for future versions of your mobile application. I’m sure you’re not planning to just launch your app and forget about it.

You’ll be striving to make improvements even after the app launches. With an MVP, you can put together a strategy for rolling out updates to keep users coming back for more features and content.

I don’t care if you’re a first time developer or someone who has been in the industry for over ten years, you need to know about the minimum viable product.

Here’s everything you need to know about an MVP and how it can make your app better.

What is an MVP

In the sports world, MVP stands for the “most valuable player.” While the acronym has a different meaning when it comes to mobile app development, it shares a common meaning in terms of value.

MVP stands for “minimum viable product.”

The reason why it’s so valuable to your business, or in this case your mobile app, is because it helps you find out crucial information during the early stages of development.

An MVP is the bare bones of your app. It has just enough of the minimum core features that allow someone to complete the simplest use case of an app.

So you’re not building a polished product here with all of the bells and whistles. Instead, you just want the app to be usable, so you can get feedback about specific features.

You don’t need to worry about the background music or advanced animations. Just focus on the basics.

There are lots of common misconceptions about how to build a minimum viable product. You’re not just developing your app from start to finish and testing with each step. Here’s a visual representation to show you what I’m talking about.

mvp car

I love this example because it’s something all of us can relate to. If your final product is supposed to be a car with four wheels, then your MVP won’t include a two-wheeled version or a car that’s just a frame.

Instead, it needs to work and drive. Then slowly but surely you can add more features, switch up the body style, and add a new paint job.

Applying this concept to your mobile app means that the app needs to be functional or else it’s pointless and impossible to test effectively.

The purpose of an MVP

You might be asking yourself if this is really necessary for your app. Can’t you just test the product when it’s done? Is it really worth the time to develop an MVP?

No matter what kind of situation you find yourself in, I promise that you can find a purpose for your MVP. I’ll explain in greater detail some of those scenarios and how you can apply your MVP for those purposes.

Speed up the learning process

There’s always going to be a learning curve when you’re building an app. You think things are set up perfectly, but you won’t really know until users get their hands on it.

Creating an MVP can dramatically accelerate the learning process.

That’s because you’ll figure out early on which concepts work and which ones need be improved or even tossed to the curb.

It’s much better to figure this out sooner rather than later. Why wait until the sixth month of development to see if your app works if you can test it with an MVP in the first?

Create a base for future products

Your MVP can help you create a roadmap for each version of your app.

roadmap

The whole concept of your business and app could take years to fully develop. But you can still release an initial version.

Think about a company like Amazon. They started out by only selling books. Look where they are today. You can get virtually anything from their ecommerce platform.

Once the proof of concept was established and the company was branded, it was easy for them to expand.

If they tried to launch the company that they are today on day one, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been so successful.

Limit wasted development hours

Development takes time and costs money.

If you’re running an efficient development process, it’s going to bleed your bank account dry.

However, if you focus on developing your MVP, it keeps everyone on track toward the common goal. You won’t have to worry about having to start over from scratch after your app is complete.

You’ll be getting valuable insight through each step of the MVP, which limits time having to change a ton of code that was already written.

Instead, mistakes will be on a much smaller scale and easy to fix. This keeps your developers happy and working at a reasonable pace. It also keeps your costs low, since you’re not having to pay for the extra time.

Test your hypothesis with a limited resources

Think about the idea you currently have for a mobile application. Turning that idea into a fully operational app and business may seem like an uphill battle, and it probably is.

Depending on the scope that you’re considering, it could cost you upward of $100,000 and over year to develop.

You’re pretty sure that your idea will work, but you want to test it out before you go through that long, grueling, and expensive process.

That’s the perfect opportunity for you to build an MVP.

I’m sure you’re familiar with Uber. They’re a global brand that revolutionized the taxi industry.

But they didn’t start out that way. Their concept had to be tested first.

uber 1

The company wasn’t even available in every major US city when they first launched. They built the bare bones of the app and tested it out in one market.

Once it was successful, they expanded to other cities. After the concept was proved in the United States, they branched out overseas.

As time passed, Uber continued making changes to their original idea. They changed the type of cars that picked people up as well with the launch of UberX.

Earlier I talked about how you can use an MVP to create a base for future products. Well, Uber did exactly that when they launched a completely separate app, UberEats.

See if your developers have the skills to build your app properly

Not everyone that has a mobile application knows how to write code. You can outsource development to an independent contractor, agency, big corporation, or even someone overseas.

You might even decide to hire a developer to work as an employee for your company.

But before you bring someone on board for the long haul, you want to make sure that they can do the job. Having them start off by building your MVP is a great first step.

This will help you kill two birds with one stone. First, you’re getting an MVP, which you now know how beneficial this is to your mobile app. But you’re also getting to test out the skills of your developer.

If they can’t do something as simple as building the bare bones of your mobile application, they’re probably going to struggle to develop the whole thing. So it’s in your best interest to cut ties with this person early on.

But if you don’t build an MVP, you may not realize that your developer doesn’t have the right skills until it’s too late.

Get your app in the hands of consumers as fast as possible

Once your MVP gets built, it can be tested by users. Not only are you getting valuable feedback based on their experience, but it’s also a promotional tool to build hype for when your app officially launches.

Even in the early stages, it’s always great to create a buzz about your app. If people have the opportunity to use it, then they’ll talk about it.

Furthermore, your MVP will help you build your final product much faster too. That’s because you won’t be spending as much time fixing a ton of mistakes all at once.

By implementing changes along the way, it just makes for a much smoother development process, which means people will be downloading your app before you know it.

How to Define an MVP

The first thing you need to do is figure out who is going to be using your app.

What do these people want? That’s what you need to build for first.

You’ve got to conduct market research to figure this out. For example, let’s say you’re building a banking app. You need to find out what people want to use this app for.

banking app

Based on this information, it would make sense for your MVP to have a feature where the user can check the balance of their account.

Your app is eventually going to have lots of features, but you need to prioritize that list when you’re building the MVP.

Let’s continue with the banking example. Based on this market research, how important is it for your app to locate the closest branch or ATM? It’s much lower on the priority list, so it doesn’t need to be included in your initial MVP.

You need to be able to distinguish between needs and wants.

Just because you want a feature in your app, it doesn’t need to be in your MVP.

Consult your resources to determine how much you have to work with and how much time you have.

You should also know the difference between minimum viable product and minimum marketable product. Just because you have a great MVP, it doesn’t mean that people will actually want to buy it.

Realize that your end goal still needs to be a great mobile app. So your MVP should be part of that overall goal. Just keep trying to make the best product you can. Try not to sacrifice too many of the bells and whistles that will really make your app stand out.

Make sure that the MVP gets tested. As you can see from everything that we’ve previously discussed, testing is a huge component of a successful MVP.

Give it to a select group of early adopters and see if they can use it. If it works for them and their fresh eyes, you know that you have a baseline to build on.

How to Promote your MVP

Your MVP doesn’t need to be a big secret. You shouldn’t wait until your app is completely built to start marketing it. The same concept applies to your MVP.

If your mobile app is a startup company, make sure you build a website right away. Use this as a platform to announce your MVP.

Let people sign up and beta test it. Use online tools like Betabound to find early adopters to test your app.

betabound

Not only will you get the preliminary quality assurance done, but you’ll also have a fresh insight and a built-in audience to use the app when you’re done building it.

Another way to promote your MVP is through video marketing tactics. Record videos of you developing your app.

Release these videos on your online marketing channels such as your website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

This can generate an early buzz, and build anticipation for the release.

64% of people say that they are more likely to buy something after watching a video about it online. Furthermore, 90% of consumers say that videos assist them with a buying decision.

If you need to raise more money for your app, put it up on a platform like Kickstarter.

Not only will this help promote your app to the general public, but it will also help spread the word to potential major investors.

How to use your MVP

Once your MVP has been developed and promoted, now what are you supposed to do with it?

Built from it.

Use it as the baseline for future product iterations. It should also be the basis for scaled-up versions of your mobile app.

Keep your MVP handy when things go wrong. Since the basic product is well defined with the needs vs. wants, you can avoid lots of internal fights and wasted time arguing. Instead, decisions will be clear based on how it was received and used by the testers.

Use the MVP as a proof of concept.

Your MVP can do basic functions and demonstrate the viability of your app, so this proof of concept can be shopped to potential investors.

Conclusion

MVPs are critical for developing your mobile app.

An MVP gives you a goal and also shows that your app is viable.

It’s beneficial for developers and also makes things easier for you as the owner of the app.

While an MVP ultimately will help you reach your final product faster and more productive, it can be used for such a wide range of purposes along the way.

You can test the hypothesis of your idea, even with limited resources. It also reduces wasted time during development and helps you see if the person you hired to build your app is qualified.

MVPs speed up the learning process, create a base for future products, and get your app in the hands of users as fast as possible.

Your MVP also gives you something to fall back on when development issues occur.

Use this guide as a reference for how to build, promote, and implement an MVP into your mobile app development process.

What features of your app are you prioritizing to be included in the minimum viable product?

Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.