In mobile application development, a minimum viable product is a working version of an app that contains basic features that satisfy customers’ needs. Mobile application development projects are complex and costly. It is easy to use up valuable resources on non-essentials. Investors are always cautious when putting money into new mobile app projects and want to see a proof of concept. The concept of a minimum viable product is agile development conversations.
In this article, we explore why you must start with an MVP on your next mobile application development project. Successful tech start-ups have evolved into multi-billion-dollar companies using the MVP process to evolve their product gradually to add functionality and focus resources on the most important elements of the product.
A Minimum Viable Product Allows You to Test the Business Case
It is not until you take your product to the market that you can claim it makes business sense. When building the MVP, you must make assumptions about user needs and then hypothesize your product as a perfect solution. When the stripped-down product goes to the market, you have time to see customer reactions and feedback. Best on the feedback, you can either double down and improve on existing features or scrap some in favor of what customers might be asking for. It is easier to make changes on a light product as opposed to one that is already feature-heavy.
Winning Investor Confidence
As indicated, building mobile applications is an expensive venture especially when the underlying concept is scalable to a global level. You need to hire engineering teams and invest heavily in marketing. This often means having to raise money externally. However, such external capital wants to see a working version of the product in the market and evidence of scalability. For the team working on the MVP, it is wise to focus resources on the primary features to have something to pitch to investors. An MVP, therefore, is essential in winning investor confidence and perhaps even raising a company’s valuation compared to when you only have an idea on paper.
Figuring Out a Monetization Strategy
Mobile applications built for use by the public can use different approaches to remain sustainable. A large number of apps rely on running ads to maintain a free plan for all users. In a few cases, the promoters of the app are not sure whether a premium plan would be appealing to the market. By building a simple version of the app, the team can stretch out its runway to test this hypothesis. If enough people show interest in a paid ad-free version of the app, the team can work on pricing plans and the product roadmap. The team may also decide whether to have different tiers to still keep some users on a freemium plan or scrap that altogether.
An app is not user-centric unless there is clear evidence of the product roadmap being defined by customer needs. By not taking a feature-heavy product to the market at the beginning, the product team allows users to contribute to the evolution. Some teams make the mistake of confusing sophistication for utility. Customers will always go for the latter. Resources are better utilized when directed to implementing feedback from those who are already using the app.
Having an active user community is particularly important for any application that seeks to improve over time. A lot of apps have moderated user community forums where people discuss their experiences, and bugs faced, and come up with suggestions on what new features they would like to see. This pool of knowledge is gold.
A Clean User-Interface
A minimum-viable product with only the most useful features means that the UI of the app will not have too many icons, buttons, or windows to navigate to. The target users will find it easy to understand and utilize the app end-to-end. As you add more features, users will not find the changes too dramatic but instead their experience will improve gradually. This is quite common today where apps have small updates every few weeks to fix bugs and improve functionality.
Cutting the Time to Market
Getting to the market quickly is important in any project management endeavor. It can not only save costs, but it can give the company first mover advantage in a new field. Depletion of resources before launch could mean the death of an otherwise great idea. Getting to the market a few months after a competitor has launched might mean not ever making up ground on them. As such, it is better to build a simple but workable MVP and get it to the market first. Selling is always the most difficult part of the job. If you can sell the MVP, you can work on adding more features down the road.
Preparation for Scaling
The MVP process allows the product team to add features gradually with the long game in mind. Before each feature is added, the team is sure that it adds utility for users and will not need to be scrapped a few months down the road. The tech stack chosen for such projects and the documentation should enable the company to scale its user base without compromising the quality of experience for users.
With the MVP approach, the team is likely to work in sprints where weekly or fortnightly objectives are set, implemented, and reviewed. This approach is a great foundation for scaling a mobile application.
As highlighted, app development projects are often faced with the risk of resources running out before the product is out in the market. Potential investors also want to see a working product in the market before committing large amounts to the project. This is part of their risk management process. However, an often overlooked cause of project failure is feature creep. This is where the development process gets delayed because new ideas keep being added to the product before launch. A project that could have gone to the market within a few months ended up stalling because resources ran out.
Adopting an MVP approach keeps the project guided. New ideas get shelved until the product is in the market. The product team then establishes a methodology for determining what to implement during each sprint in the evolution of the product.
What Risks Come with the MVP Approach
There are great benefits to the MVP approach to product development. However, there are also some valid concerns over compromises made to have the MVP ready within a given timeline. First, limiting the scope of features to include in the MVP may end up hurting the value of the product in the eyes of target customers and potential investors. Two features might be equally useful but limited resources might mean one feature has to be dropped. Such a choice could end up derailing the project altogether.
Another risk is that the product team is likely to spend a large chunk of the budget on features and very little on the UI design. However, the compromise may be too big that users end up dismissing the product because of the UI. The team must walk the thin line of prioritizing features while still delivering a good enough design as well.
Again, in situations where several competitors are rushing to get to the market first, a company that has a bigger budget to play with has an undeniable advantage. They can hire a bigger team and prioritize both features and a world-class UI/UX design. Such cut-throat competition could spell the end for a company that had invested significantly in its own MVP.
Building a Winning MVP
Regardless of these pitfalls, by working with an experienced in-house or external mobile app development partner, your company can implement the MVP approach successfully. Five main steps can be customized depending on the nature of the project.
- Market Research- You need a firm understanding of the market in which your intended mobile application will launch. If there exists competition, you must be clear on what your app does better than the competition. The hypothesis should be based on empirical evidence as opposed to a hunch. Talk to customers, and industry leaders, or study reliable secondary research from reputable sources. You may find that your intended product does not offer enough value to the target customers. This will save you potential losses in money and time.
- Target User Identification- Next, you will need reliable metrics using which you will assess the success of your MVP launch. You will specify the demographic identifiers of your target audience, the number of downloads expected, the user rating expected, and so forth. These objective metrics provide a yardstick that you can then use to decide what needs improving. For instance, did you get enough reach using the publicity tools employed? If not, perhaps you need to spend on inorganic marketing to expand such reach.
- Feature Prioritization- The third major step is determining what features to include in the MVP and the rationale for it. It is important to envision the user journey as they interact with the product. It is at this point that you also determine the layout of the content. Further, you determine the placing of buttons as well as other UI elements such as color and fonts. The look and feel of the mobile application should be designed to evoke specific feelings. In cases where you have target users with varying needs, you should prioritize features that will serve the most valuable customers by volume of business.
- Developing the MVP- The next step is to build out the MVP for release into the market. At this point, you may need a landing page from where people can sign up before the launch. The landing page may also serve to redirect users to a community forum or blog. A blog is useful for the product team or anyone else involved in building the MVP to share knowledge about the application.
- Taking in Feeback- The final step in the minimum viable product journey is taking in feedback from those who use your product. You must be ready to go through many iterations of your product as each version goes to market.
Build Your Minimum Viable Product
A minimum viable product takes away some of the complexities of the mobile application development process. Through it, you reduce the project scope and ensure that resources flow towards clearly stated objectives. However, figuring out the features to prioritize can be difficult especially when a development team has never taken a similar project.
Working with an experienced mobile application development company has major advantages when building a project for the long haul. At NS804, we have numerous years of experience in handling mobile application projects from conceptualization to completion. We will help you design, build, launch, and keep improving the initial version of your project. If you would like to talk to our team about your upcoming mobile application development project, reach out to us through our website.