What’s the key to low cost mobile app development? Preparedness. But how are you supposed to know how to prepare if you’ve never built an app before?
Well, as soon as it began, your search is over – below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to the quickest and most affordable model of mobile app development: MVP.
Really quick – before we get into it, let’s go over what a Minimum Viable Product is (when it comes to apps, at least). A MVP is an app that focuses on solving its main pain point, and very little else. All features, design, and graphics focus on helping to provide a solution to the main pain point – hence the term “minimum.”
MVPs do one thing, and they do it well.
Now, here’s how you make one:
Step 1: Research
This is all about how to build an app for the lowest cost possible; and the key to all development costs boils down to one singular ingredient – time.
Your app’s design is crafted through a combination of creative thinking, mouse clicks, and keystrokes; your app’s code is built by process-oriented imagination, and a whole lot of keys being pressed in rapid succession on a keyboard. There’s nothing magical about the development of an app.
Now, this isn’t written with the intention of giving the impression that developing an app is easy – quite the opposite, in fact. Building an app is kind of like writing an interactive choose-your-own-adventure novel, but it’s written in a language computers can understand, while also remaining readable for us humans.
And in order to pull that off in a streamlined, cost-effective manner, you need to complete all of your research before going to a developer with your app.
The first step to research is…
Determining your pain point
All apps are beholden to one goal: solving their pain point. For a MVP to be a MVP, however, it must only provide the solution to its pain point. Any feature included in a MVP app must play a role in helping to solve this problem – this is to ensure no time is wasted spent developing out features that aren’t truly needed for users to receive enjoyment and benefit from your app.
The reason this is your first step taken on the road of app development is because everything that you do during the development process will be determined by the pain point of your app – from the market research you conduct to the features your developers implement.
A good pain point is both marketable and actionable – meaning there’s an audience or group of people who want a solution to this particular problem, and are willing to do something about said problem.
Let’s say you’re making an app like BrewTrader – just for some context, it’s an app that gives craft beer enthusiasts a platform to find and trade beers with other users.
Take a second to analyze that sentence. You know you’ve come up with a good pain point when you can explain the whole idea of your app in one sentence. Think of it like a thesis statement; if you can’t construct a grammatically correct sentence that covers the entirety of your app’s functionality, your MVP isn’t focused enough. It should be succinct, but meaty.
After knowing the problem you want to solve, and how you want to help solve it, you can move on to the next step of research:
This step serves two purposes – it gives you an idea of what your competitors are currently doing (obviously) – but more importantly, it will serve as a roadmap for ideating your app’s feature set.
If you want your app’s development to be quick, (and therefore low cost), you’ll need to know every feature your app will utilize; this includes knowing details like where in the user flow a feature will exist, how it will interact with the user, and if you’ll need supplemental features or APIs in order to properly implement the original feature.
Download the top three competitors and use their apps for at least one session from start to finish. Get an understanding of what they do correctly, and make a note for later. Then, go find the lowest rated app (be careful about security risks) in the same category, and pay attention to what they did wrong.
Knowing what’s incorrect is just as important as knowing proper UI/UX design. It helps to prevent you from making a decision that might seem like the makings of a previously-unimagined and creative UI/UX solution – but there is more than likely a reason the top performers use the UI/UX flow they already have.
Also, begin your ASO research now – pay attention to keywords the top competitors are using. When starting out with a new app on the App Store or Google Play, pick five keywords, and focus in on those.
Market research and marketing
There’s a million different options for conducting your market research, but some key data to be aware of are:
- Target age range (different age groups respond to different mobile marketing strategies)
- Target preferred platform (we recommend iOS if you’re starting with a MVP)
- Target interests
As soon as you know what your app will be called, you have a logo, and you have a description of what your app will do, build a website. Even if you only have content for one landing page, make it, and make it live.
SEO takes a while to take hold, and having something to link back to within your social campaigns will help to build a solid SEO foundation. Apps on the App Store and Google Play require both SEO and ASO to thrive – so don’t neglect either.
Speaking of social media, you’ll want to make sure you’re putting out as much content as possible. Speak to the voice of your app’s brand, of course, but don’t be afraid to open up a little. Everyone understands that when they’re interacting with a brand’s social media account, they’re talking to an actual human being.
Be open and honest and genuine – know your target audience’s interests, and speak to them. To steal advice from Gary V, if they like the Red Sox, talk about the most recent Sox game. Engage with your followers more than you advertise to them. Then, every once in a while, sprinkle in some native content that speaks about your app’s brand, or the features it will provide, or where you are in development.
People love documentation. You can easily create content for social media by documenting the journey you’re on through the development of your MVP app – take one long-form piece of content, and build a few pieces from it each day. Then cater those pieces to each social platform your brand is on. All of a sudden, you’ll be running a fully-fledged social campaign based on a single piece of content (that you didn’t even have to take time out of your day to make).
Whether you’re developing an MVP app or a fully-kitted-out enterprise level app, the actual process of coding remains largely the same – the only difference is the time table, which is shorter with a MVP, due to the limited feature set that needs to be built and implemented.
The importance placed on knowing your feature set in and out comes into play here – the most effective and efficient way to ensure easy, low cost app development is to make sure there’s no unanswered questions between your vision, what you want, and how you want it to work.
The clearer of a picture you can give, the more information, and the more concrete of a user flow you can produce for a developer, the better. It’s always important to take your developer’s advice, but relying on your own research and business acumen can help speed up the process.
One thing to keep in mind with (and this is specific to) MVP development is that everything doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect. Don’t confuse this with the idea that it’s okay to make a sloppy app – but understand that as long as your users know that your app is in a semi-beta stage, they’ll be more forgiving.
This is why a strong, personal, and open social media presence is so crucial to a MVP app’s success; in order to properly distribute the message that your app is starting with humbler-than-most beginnings (but improvements will be coming), you need to be able to have frank, honest, transparent conversations with your followers. And, they need to be willing to listen.
The purpose of a MVP app is fast, efficient development – the efficiency truly begins to shine after a MVP app’s initial development.
The second word in the acronym MVP is viable. It might be the most barebones version of a product, but it’s still viable. What this means for you is that you can charge for it. Whether your app goes with a pay-to-play model, or subscription to a service, or with sales from ad revenue, you can begin to make a profit from your MVP as soon as it takes hold on the App Store or Google Play.
Post MVP development
As soon as your app is launched on the App Store or Google Play, make sure:
- Your ASO is in place and ready to go
- Your website reflects the launch of your app
- Your social media has (and will continue to) promote your app’s launch
Take the revenue you’re making from your live MVP app, and start implementing updates. Make sure updates focus on fixing bugs, fixing security risks, and providing quality of life improvements to the UI and UX flow.
Be vocal and transparent about what your updates will accomplish and feature – use both social media and push notifications to advertise these updates.
Be aware that when you’re advertising, you need to be extremely aware of just who you’re engaging with. Older generations, like generation X, prefer value-based advertising. As your target market gets younger, they will expect more personalized advertising – in order to properly do this, it’s necessary to use an app analytics platform. Our favorite is Kumulos.
Be prepared, but be ready to adapt
Knowing what you’re getting into is the most important step you can take to ensuring low cost development – but, always be ready for something unexpected to pop up.
To learn more about the in’s-and-out’s of MVP app development, check out our blogs on:
- How to build a MVP iOS app
- Android or iOS: What is the better MVP platform?
- What are the steps to creating an app?
And, for more about planning out an ASO campaign, check out our ASO: 101 blog post.
With carefully planned feature sets, a concrete layout and vision, and some well-planned and executed social media, SEO, and ASO, you can both shorten your app’s development schedule, and lessen your need for monetary investment; giving you the ability to make an app now, and capitalize on an untapped market – rather than waiting for outside investment and finding a highly competitive and saturated playing field.