Why Building a Minimum Viable Product is a Must (and how to do it)

In just over a decade, we have gone from the creation of the very first Apps to having an App for basically anything.

 

Remember looking at those friends who had a lot of Apps on their smartphones and thinking I’ll never need that many. How will I ever fill up all the “App Space” on my phone?

 

And now, the list of Apps seems endless. Have something you want to do? Want to remember when you last watered your indoor plants or do some sophisticated data analytics. Anything you can dream of – there is an App for that.

 

And there is no shortage of new ideas for Apps either. Luckily with more than 7 billion people on the planet, we are equally unlikely to run out of end-users who want to use the App that comes from those brilliant ideas. 

 

The saddest part of this is that so many of these ideas never make the jump from idea to being downloaded and used! The product development process often seems overwhelming and so many ideas never make it to that Final Product Launch Day.

 

Final Product Launch is what we are shooting for when thinking about MVP

 

This is why every single time an App goes live on the Appstore/Playstore, it’s a pivotal moment for us at AppBoxer. 

 

We get to celebrate and see the results of all the work that went into the App’s formation.

 

That new App showcases the inventiveness of an individual (you, the client), the market intelligence uncovered by Growth/Product/Business Analysts and the creativity of Designers. Underneath this shiny new product is hours of coding by Developers and rigorous Quality Assurance testing by the team. 

 

It’s the moment all of this effort is being put to that final test. Being downloaded and then used by customers. These customers are the ones that decide the fate of all the work done by project teams spanning different countries, time zones, religions, experiences and thought processes. 

 

Hence this final moment of an App/website going live holds immense value in its lifecycle.

 

However, all the components have to be done right – like a cake recipe, forget one ingredient, add it in the wrong order or beat it too hard or too softly and it may be a flop. 

 

Full Product App development lifecycle – focus on the right people not process

 

The team that supports and turns your dream into reality is what can make that cake from ordinary to incredible. When you are developing an App, you can think of it as a lifecycle where everyone involved plays particular and important roles with varying responsibilities through all the different development stages:

  1. You! The inventor or entrepreneur, who is central to everything and you conceptualised the idea.
  2. Growth Analyst – key person to identify the value of your idea and help you see the opportunities to change the world if we take this idea through to the finished product together.
  3. Product manager – checks, validates and establishes proof that a market for your idea exists.
  4. Business Analyst – shapes the development pathway, taking the idea forward to identify and fill in technical and functional gaps.
  5. Technical Architect – estimates the effort and time needed to deliver the idea while building robust system architecture for a safe and scalable product.
  6. Designer – ensures that end-users see your idea in all it’s beautiful simplicity and magic with the careful research and slick UX/UI of the App.
  7. Creative Head – creates a Solid Branding platform to arouse desire and show clearly how your App can meet the end user’s needs.
  8. Developers – nothing to say here except for the evidence of their genius in the ability to smash out thousands of lines of code in the App development process.
  9. Project Manager/Producer – enables seamless communication across the development cycle to ensure a clear pathway and leads the team along the journey.
  10. Quality Assurance Team – tests your product thoroughly, so there are no surprises (glitches/bugs) that disappoint customers after launch.
  11. Release Manager – here we go… your idea is being prepped and primped to be launched out into the big wide world.
  12. Digital marketing team – feeds your dream to the world and creates excitement and anticipation with your target end-users.
  13. Support Team – really these folk hold the whole thing together by continually making sure that your idea is validated and all feedback comes back to the development team to ensure constant improvement.

 

Now this may seem pretty overwhelming, and it is undoubtedly a pretty exciting ride to go from idea conception to a fully developed product. This is where a fantastic team and a well constructed Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to learn from is so important. These will help you fast track the process to the final product.  With an MVP your potential customers will have already played with something before buying your final App. And you will also have the experience of quickly turning your idea into something tangible.

 

So why bother with a minimum viable product (MVP)?

 

Why not just create something perfect with all the functionality in the first place? It can seem counterintuitive to spend time on a bare-bones or MVP version. But it may surprise you to find out that having an MPV in the development pathway can be the differentiator between “entrepreneurs whose ideas successfully reach the market as concrete apps” and “entrepreneurs whose dreams remain just that — dreams”. 

All the leading products we see in the market have been continually improved over time based on End User feedback, and they started as barebones offerings with the minimum product functionality. 

 

Eric Ries, who popularised the term and concept, defines Minimum Viable Product as the ‘Version of a new product which allows [you] to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about [your] customers with the least [amount of] effort.’

 

In the interest of keeping it simple, here are our tops 5 tips for ensuring your MVP is beautiful simple and you can get the maximum out of it with the least amount of effort and cost:

 

1. Identify the needs of your early adopters:

Have a product-specific audience in mind that could help you in identifying their needs and hence what the key features to include in your MVP very early on. It is useful to think about the features that they might be looking for by ranking features in terms of Impact and Urgency. Create a list of all the features/functions your App could have. Then, rank their importance using the diagram below, those that are in the Urgent and High Impact part are your “Must Haves” followed by high impact but less urgent as “Should Haves” and so on. It is a nice simple way of ranking, and then creating a timeline and budget for including each of these features with your development team to work out which will go into the MVP and which will wait for the Final Product.

 

2. Have a Laser-sharp focus

Design & Branding process is very alluring and an easy way for first-time entrepreneurs to lose their focus. Here the KISS (keep it simple) rule applies – development time (and cost) can increase exponentially in tweaking and continuing to ask designers for different colours/branding/themes. Branding and UX/UI is an integral part of the realisation of your idea, however with the first iteration of creating a MVP that is not our purpose. Many slick successful products that we see were very basic (and let’s face it kind of ugly) when they first were launched. Remember that the MVPs purpose is to test the usability and adoption of the product. 

 

Also, testing has shown that the more simple (and ugly) a design is, the more likely a test user is to give honest feedback and ideas for improving the design as it seems like a prototype rather than a finished product or fait accompli.

 

Once there is something tangible forming entrepreneurs often begin seeking opinions of friends and family about the feedback on the product and want to incorporate them into the MVP. All this feedback, new ideas, and possibilities for improvement provided to you are valuable but should be collated and broken up in features which can be used to create a Roadmap for the future product, not the MVP.

 

3. Just do it! Start coding:

The longer your App stays in the design/branding phase, the harder it is to let it go into the development phase. An MVP is supposed to be rapid development so we can:

  • Receive the real-world validation/feedback quickly
  • Get your idea out while there is a need for it in the market
  • Get the jump on potential competitive products so we can grab a significant amount of market share.

 

Hence it’s essential to move fast while creating an MVP and take it quickly from Design to Development to Market. Stay focussed on getting your App into development with the leanest and meanest MVP possible.

 

4. Feel the heat in the market:

Only real users (not family and Friends) can validate your idea and App. You don’t need to canvas and advertise your MVP to the entire universe. Go and find your potential customers and ask them to test your MVP. Validate your idea with those who have shown interest in your product on the Landing Page you have created to get your early adopters.  Your App just has to successfully answer an identifiable problem in the market, i.e. satisfy one need. So get the product out there into the market and see what happens. Warning, brutal honesty can hurt, but it is so worth it.

 

5. Sprint

Keep moving fast through the whole MVP and feedback process. Once your users start asking you to provide new features / fixing bugs & issues, you can not afford to stop or slow down. 

 

Feedback is an excellent achievement – this means you have achieved what you were trying to with an MVP, and there is a need in the market for your product. You need to be Usain Bolt (world record-holding sprinter) when it comes to incorporating changes and fixing issues. The faster your response to the market’s needs are, the more engaged your user base is, and this will flow onto skyrocketing adoption rates. 

 

Sprint through this cycle to get to your finished product. “More Adoption >> More Users >> More Feedback >> More Features” and before you know it, you’ll be ready for the full product launch.

 

Sprint towards the sweet spot where your MVP has accumulated 1000 real-world users who have tried out and validated your idea/app and who want to see improvements implemented, then by directly responding to the wants and needs of this explicit market population you’ll be pleasing the very people who matter most for your future success!

Happy MVPing…(and then onto the final product launch!).

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