How to build an MVP
For everyone who is interested in MVP development: this is a step by step guide on how to build an MVP. What will you find in this article? At the start we’ll focus on explaining the concept of a minimum viable product – what it is, why you should consider creating it and what are the purposes of MVP development. The next sections will cover the steps to be taken to build a minimum viable product from the idea stage to the finished product, its management and maintenance. Then, you’ll also find a DOs and DON’Ts section where you’ll receive some hints on what should be done and what should be avoided.
What is an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)?
MVP is a minimum viable product, which means a mobile app with a minimum set of features needed to meet the core objective and most important users’ needs. You can build this kind of app to save money and to see if the product idea was a good one. It’s not much different from any other mobile app but it’s a trimmed-down version of your fully-fledged app.
It simply contains fewer features than a complex solution and can have a simpler design. Usually when you want to build a minimum viable product you aim to expand it later. Of course, if the first version met your expectations.
So basically, MVP is about providing users with the most important features, releasing the product as soon as possible and checking if it fits the market.
Find out more about the basics of a minimum viable product from this article.
Why should you build an MVP?
So why would you even bother dividing your big idea into small pieces? Why do it when you can create a "full" product with all the features?
Firstly, building a minimum viable product is among our 4 simple ways to speed up mobile app development and it’s one of the simplest ways to cut costs. But even if you have a lot of time and your budget is fairly enough to build a really big product, it’s worth pausing for a moment and thinking about how confident you are that it will be profitable. Because that is the objective, isn't it? You want to make money from your app. For this to be possible, you need to focus on how to reach the target users and how to make them want to use and recommend your app. This is much easier if you decide to build your app in parts and find out from the users themselves what should be the next feature, what should be improved and maybe what should be dropped.
The main purpose of creating a minimum viable product is to test the idea and the overall viability of the product. If the concept met the objectives and you received enough insights from the users, you can develop the MVP further being confident that everything is going as it should.
Step 1: Shape and validate the idea
The first step of our how to build an MVP guide focuses on the business idea itself. It matters how you came up with the idea and why you want to create a product. If your idea is based on a problem to solve that you’ve noticed in a specific area, it’s probably a good choice to give it a try. Sometimes people try to force a concept for an app that isn’t even needed and will probably bring little users. But it can’t be judged on the idea stage. It all comes from the research.
So whatever path you have followed and wherever your business idea came from, you need to make sure it brings you a solution that is effective and profitable. The first thing to do is write down the idea and build it so that it’s fully understandable for others. Then you can present it to the target audience and ask for their feedback.
Step 2: Do the market research
This step can actually mix with the first one because the market research is essential to validate the idea. Once your idea is clear it’s time to assess who is the target audience, so people who will use your app. To do that, it will be very useful to create a user persona. You can also get a free user persona template here to conveniently write down all the information.
You should also do the research among similar apps to check if your solution can be competitive. What should you pay attention to when browsing the competitors’ apps and businesses? Here are some hints:
- Target audience
- Value proposition
- Business model
- Rates and reviews
- Core features of their apps.
Doesn’t matter if competitive apps are on MVP stage or these are fully complex apps. Your minimum viable product has to be useful and competitive so that you can validate the idea and then make profits on it.
So when doing the market research, you can take advantage of a model called competitive analysis. It’s simply an in-depth research of competing apps to find flaws in these products and lacks in features, and get to know their audience needs. Here’s an article digging into the topic of competitive analyses and a guide on how to do it and here you can find another template to write everything down conveniently.
Step 3: Gather future users’ feedback
You should also collect feedback and insights from target users. It will probably be harder than in case of the existing ones, because you can’t ask them directly through the app that wasn’t built yet. But a successful MVP is the one that users want to download and use, so it’s better to find ways to collect people’s feedback before you decide what should be implemented at the development stage.
Look for people who can belong to your target group and ask for their opinion on your idea. You can also try with surveys. Luckily, people like answering surveys. Don’t make it too long and complicated though. If your business already has clients and you’re planning to build a product for them, it’s very easy. You can gather their feedback from social media, you can reach subscribers by email etc.
Step 4: Build a product roadmap
This stage has to be done together with the team, so if you’re planning to work with a software development company, it’s time to choose one and start the cooperation. Product roadmap is a shared source of truth that outlines the vision, direction, priorities, and progress of a product over time. It's a plan of action that aligns the organization around short and long-term goals for the product or project and ways to achieve them.
Product roadmaps are created or extended every time a product release is planned. They include:
- Strategic goals (product strategy)
- Key releases and features related to the goals
- User stories and user flow
- Overall timeline of the project.
Step 5: Plan the budget and get the funds
It’s not like every MVP development costs are the same. Once you know what features are to be included in the minimum viable product and requirements for the product are clear, it’s possible to estimate costs.
Remember it’s better to wait longer and raise more funds than build a product with the cheapest freelancers on the market, ending up with an app that isn’t usable and is full of errors. If you have a fixed budget and it’s not enough for your idea, rethink the core features or try to get more funds before the project kicks off.
Step 6: Develop the MVP
It’s all ready! Time to develop the minimum viable product and make it public. But hold on… It’s not like it can be done in a few days by the development team and as a product owner you have nothing to do here. Depending on the features you and the team have chosen as the most important ones, this can be the longest part of building a minimum viable product and you will also be involved in it, even if you don’t write the code. You should be in touch with the team or MVP development company daily, to dispel their doubts concerning the app features etc.
Quality assurance engineers will check the app all the time, but you should also control the work and the product. If something isn’t right in your opinion e.g. with the user flow, you can simply say it when it’s still easy to be fixed and changed. When people report problems once the app is finished, it’s a real pain to make changes, plus it costs.
Let’s have a look at what the team should look like regardless of whether you outsource the development of an app, build an in-house team or bring together a team of freelancers.
Here’s who should be involved in the project:
- Developers – that’s probably no news. Developers take care of the implementation of features based on the UI and UX design.
- Quality Assurance specialists – unfortunately, they are often overlooked in the mobile app development process, which is a big mistake. QA testers check every detail of the performance and appearance of the app, not only using particular features but also using programs that thoroughly examine the entire code automatically. Read more about QA testing and why it’s so important here.
- Designers – apart from creating the first versions of the UI and UX in the product, they are also in close cooperation with the rest of the team at the development stage. Whenever any feature is to be changed or a new feature to be implemented, designers are the first to analyze what it should look like. So it’s definitely worth having them in the team, even if you already have the app design done.
- Project manager – projekt managers take care of the whole project organization. They have many important tasks, but generally speaking, without a PM, it is very difficult or even impossible to keep the work well organized. Usually they are the decision makers regarding the division of responsibilities and breaking down large tasks into smaller parts.
Although it all depends on our project specifics and the budget, here’s what it should basically look like so that you make sure that your app will be successful.
Step 7: Launch and promote the MVP
This is the time to celebrate! Your app is released and you can download it from mobile app stores. Even if it’s “just” the minimum viable product, it’s exactly the success you need. Now that the product is available for the target audience, your task is to promote it. Set your marketing strategy right from the start to let the target audience know the product. Early adopters who like the user flow and the whole functionality of the app will probably recommend it to their friends but that might not be enough. Remember that the aim of minimum viable product development is to test the idea on as many users as possible, to draw conclusions and be able to extend the app further. That’s why it’s important to promote it. If you’d like to know more about different possibilities of promoting and advertising your mobile app, check out this article.
Step 8: Collect users’ feedback
Now you can gather feedback and insights from the actual users of your app. The early adopters can tell you even more about the success of your MVP than various metrics you’ll measure by yourself. This step is just as important as the rest because when you decide to develop the MVP further, you’ll need users’ opinions to decide what features should be implemented or/and extended.
Here you’ll find some hints on ways to get to know users' opinions and gather their feedback from different sources.
Challenges for MVP development
There are many challenges ahead when planning to build a minimum viable product. You’ll have to do a very comprehensive research concerning the competition, the market, target audience, development technologies etc. You’ll also need to decide which features should be included in the minimum viable product so that it’s actually viable, useful and enjoyable.
Why do minimum viable products fail?
It happens that the MVP turns out to be unprofitable and the idea for development has to be rejected. That’s why it’s so important to check the viability of the idea before further development. Companies often forget about it and decide to develop even if they aren’t sure if the solution can be successful. Check out Why do software projects fail? Most common mistakes and how to avoid them to learn more about this topic.
DOs and DON’Ts
Here is some advice on what to do and what not to do before, during and after the release of the minimum viable product.
DO go through all development process stages
The MVP is supposed to serve as a normal app so you’re going to have to get through all development stages:
- The analyses & workshops – they are crucial to find out if there’s a market need for your product.
- Creating designs – the designers team should do everything just like with any other project – wireframes, prototype, hi-fi screens, user flow. All to make things clear and avoid changing anything during development.
- Development – in the development stage all the features are implemented and the app is launched in mobile stores.
Missing out even the small phases of the MVP development process may cause issues also for the future product.
DO consider Flutter for your MVP development
You probably should also consider Flutter for your MVP development. Flutter enables developers to write one code for two platforms (iOS and Android) at the same time. It means lower costs and faster development without any loss on performance of the app. It’s a great solution for minimum viable products as at the very beginning of the project you might find it very useful to cut some costs and to simply not have to choose between iOS and Android.
DO research your target audience
Here are some market segments to be taken into account while doing the research:
- Demographic – when defining the target audience you should take population statistics into account to know your audience and its needs.
- Geographic – location matters. Your product doesn’t have to be useful for the whole world. If your app is supposed to be useful in a particular area, it’s fine. Don’t try to broaden the zone too much at the start.
- Psychographic – it’s very important to know your user’s personality and lifestyle. That's how you adjust the features to your target audience. Try to collect the maximum amount of feedback from them to tailor a solution to their needs. What can be definitely useful in this case is creating a user persona.
- Benefit – will the product features you planned meet users’ expectations? Will your customers use them all? One important thing about the features is prioritizing. You should only include the core features in the minimum viable product.
- Volume – how big is your target audience? You should try to estimate how many users (on average) will download and use the app. Also, monitor the amount of downloads/purchases when the product is released. It should be close to the amount assumed at the beginning of the project.
DO test the performance of your app
After the MVP is released, tracking its performance is crucial to determine what should be done next. Are the core features you implemented useful? Does the core functionality work properly? How many users downloaded and kept using your minimum viable product? What does the user flow look like? By implementing mobile analytics, measuring different metrics and observing user behavior, you’ll be able to set the future development strategy.
DO read the reviews from users
Receiving feedback from users is the top priority after the MVP is released. You can get user feedback in different ways. For example, set up social media accounts and read people's comments. You can also check the mobile stores where they can download the app and check ratings. Encourage the team to collect the opinions from users and answer them – that is actually a very good method to win people’s trust. More ways to know users' opinions here.
DON’T rush the development too much
Companies fail with their MVPs because they hurry too much and want to release the product as soon as possible. This always brings the risk of launching an unfinished app with errors. And it’s not what a minimum viable product should be. It should be a fully functional app with a minimum set of features, enabling the user flow that is effective. Yes, the purpose of creating it is to release it in a relatively short time. But it doesn’t mean it can be done carelessly.
DON’T try to make it perfect
Again, just to sum it up: minimum viable product is not supposed to be fully-fledged. The most important thing is to make use of the core business idea, vision and core features. It also doesn’t have to be the most beautiful app in the stores, because usability is always above the overall look. Plan your future product step by step and make it perfect, the successful MVP is not made to be perfect.
DON’T forget about promotion
Don't treat your published minimum viable product as an initial version that will only become useful after further development. MVP also needs promotion. To meet your goals, you should advertise your app and continue to do so during further development to get enough downloads and to be able to study the app's performance. You can promote your product for example through social media, but any method is good. If it doesn't bring the intended results, this is another reason to rethink whether you should definitely develop the MVP.
Promoting a mobile app doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’d like to learn about mobile app advertising methods, jump to this article.
Conclusion: the MVP development process
As a general conclusion, let us keep this very brief description of the minimum viable product development process:
- Shape and validate the idea
- Do the market research
- Gather future users’ feedback
- Prepare a product roadmap
- Plan the budget and get the funds
- Develop the product
- Launch and promote the MVP
- Collect users’ feedback
To get insights about the common mistakes in MVP development, jump to this article. It will help you get to know what behaviors you should avoid and how to lead a project in the right direction.