Whoever suggests you to build an MVP to test your assumptions is going after your money. Yes, many minimum viable products found success in the early 2010s, but only because the market wasn’t oversaturated with apps.
The main problem with developing an MVP these days is customers no longer tolerate compromises. An app’s esthetics, features, security, and ease of use — everything must blend into a delightful user experience to gain any traction at all.
Does it mean there’s no reason to build an MVP for an app? No, by all means, no.
In fact, we recommend our customers take the MVP route all the time. However, there are a couple of things we do differently with MVPs at Topflight, including:
- focus on delightful instead of viable (MDP vs. MVP)
- add a secret sauce before coding an MDP
If you want to learn what’s different with creating a minimum viable product vs. a minimum delightful product and what our secret sauce is about, join the party. It’ll be fun, I promise.
NB, I’m not going to explain how to find customer pain points, identify your MVP’s value proposition, or narrow down a list of features. I’m sure you can handle that. Instead, let’s talk through all the actual MVP development steps.
- The answer to “How to build a minimum viable product?” is to build an MDP (Minimum Delightful Product), which means you build a minimum viable product that delights users.
- Minimum viable product development, done right, starts with rapid prototyping, which includes the creation of an interactive app prototype and user testing.
- Business owners often miss this essential aspect of developing an MVP: integrating their apps with a proper user feedback collection system.
Table of contents:
- What is a Minimum Viable Product?
- MVP Examples
- Why You Should Develop an MVP
- Make a Minimum Viable Product in 5 Steps
- Tips to Launch a Successful Minimum Viable Product
What is a Minimum Viable Product?
When talking about mobile and web app development, MVP means an initial version of an app that goes public and has enough potential to secure investors’ buy-in and/or start generating revenue. How do you know if your app is an MVP?
- You have built it with the least amount of resources
- You have found yourself on the market faster
- You keep thinking about all the features you had to cut
Historically, MVPs leaned heavily on minimum. App owners were churning out half-baked applications to check how many users they could attract and how people used the app. For example, Zillow — the most popular real estate app — could get away with something like that:
Today, with thousands of apps released per month (around 600 apps per day on iOS and 3,000 on Android), the focus has shifted to viable. Because the initial impression is everything, you can’t ignore how your app looks in a mobile store and how smooth of a user experience it provides.
Then again, some would say you can design an MVP by talking to customers and running surveys to collect their feedback. One thing they miss with this approach is the product. There’s no product when all you have is customer feedback on an imaginary solution.
What MVP means to app developers
Surprisingly, custom app development companies (most of them) often see an MVP differently than app owners.
For many app developers, planning an MVP is figuring out how many features they can squeeze into the initial app version given budgetary restraints. They are more interested in fully allocating a budget than in delivering a product customers need.
That’s because most app developers believe you build a minimum viable product to verify your business idea and then pivot based on the customer feedback. And that’s an OK approach if you can throw, say, $30K on an initial version of your app and then spend another $60K on building the “real” product.
What MVP means to business owners
Contrary to that, business owners want to spend the minimum resources on a new product that their customers will love enough to stick around. So they are focusing on the two aspects of the MVP: minimum and viable.
Undoubtedly, you build an MVP to start a profitable business or extend your company’s services. Not purely to check how well you can perceive market needs.
Why MDP is a better approach
At Topflight, we believe that if you focus on all three aspects, including product, you’ll inevitably end up with a Minimum Delightful Product (MDP).
In short, it’s too expensive to create an MVP for a startup, spending anywhere between $30,000 and $60,000 only to find out that nobody needs these features or understands how to use them.
In the 2020s, product design is going to be everything. Users have gotten spoiled with the slick UX of modern web and mobile apps. That’s why your MVP must be delightful the first time they launch your app, not just viable, regardless of whether you’re going after an MVP website or mobile solution.
Would you use any of these viable apps today?
On the other hand, an MDP still has the minimum part. Therefore, your app development budget gets the uttermost attention, which means we look for ways to build just enough to delight while spending as little as possible.
The key takeaway: an MVP can mean different things to different audiences. Ensure your development partner aligns with your vision on all three aspects: minimum, viable (or delightful), and of course, product.
As I mentioned, modern MVPs look different from what they used to be in the past. Let’s look at two examples to give you an idea of what you should expect from your MVP of an app.
Uber — a good-old-days MVP
Initially, Uber was an iPhone-only app that allowed users to order a black cab at a discounted price and pay for the service with credit cards. It looked like this:
There was no Uber X, no ride booking, no sharing location in real-time, no other advanced features. Still, the app delivered on its promise to get a cheap ride from the user’s phone, and the business it helped to build is worth $78 billion today.
Helpkin — a modern MVP
Here’s one of the successful MVPs (or, rather, MDPs) that we’ve recently worked on. Helpkin is an app for trading time with friends for babysitting. Check out the looks:
That is what you need these days to gain early adopters’ support. You can’t rely purely on core functionality to achieve recognition and have to balance an app’s performance with its UX/UI. Helpkin, for example, sold to an even bigger parenting startup called Wana.
The key takeaway: even if your app aims to create a new niche, you can’t focus solely on the MVP’s features. In reality, it takes keeping in balance all app aspects, such as design, security, and ease of use, among others.
Why You Should Develop an MVP
We kind of already covered why MVPs are great, but let’s summarize the reasons for building an MVP of your app here for convenience. So you make an MVP app:
- to enter the market faster
- to reduce the development costs
- to grab customers’ and investors’ attention
- to perfect your business model
In fact, there are practically no other options besides starting with an MVP. Remember, there’s no perfect, full-featured version of your app. If you build the MVP right the first time, your product will continue developing over time.
Look at Tinder and their most recent app updates for an example of a thriving app that started with a minimum viable product in 2012. They update the app at least twice a month, adding not only bug fixes but also introducing new features, such as video chats:
The key takeaway: start with an MVP to get a working solution faster and at a lower cost.
Make a Minimum Viable Product in 5 Steps
How to create a minimum viable product? Ok, it’s time to share the actual activities you should expect when starting an MVP. I’ll begin with explaining our secret sauce because it’s also the first step, and it’s designed to save time and money on MVP development.
Step 1: Prototype
Every successful app we’ve built started as a rapid prototype. Because all the features and user flows you plan should be translated into tangible app screens. After all is said and done, the screens are what makes up your application MVP.
So when building an MVP, we pick one or two essential features and create the design that is supposed to trigger the respective user experience. From wireframes to high-fidelity mockups, each screen finds its shape and form.
Finally, we interconnect all screens to mimic a real-world application where it responds to mouse clicks by switching screens. That gives us a virtual version of the MVP that we need for the next step.
Step 2: User test
The only reason we craft a clickable, interactive prototype at the first step is to verify your app concept with real users. That’s precisely what we do during step number two: enroll users that match your demographic criteria for the target audience, using services like usertesting.com.
Related: The Complete Guide to User Testing
When testing, pay attention to subjective feedback from users and watch their reactions in recorded sessions as they work through your prototype. The insights you’ll uncover in the process will help with adjusting the prototype.
The key here is you are not spending your seed money on actual development yet. No code is written. That’s how you pivot fast before spending all your money on an MVP.
Step 3: Code MVP
A click-through prototype that has gone through user testing is ready for app developers. They can start fleshing out the MVP by writing code and integrating it with third-party solutions via APIs.
Experienced app development agencies often have their engineers double-check the prototype for technical feasibility. Unfortunately, not every app design can be easily converted into code.
At the coding step, it’s critical to pick the most relevant tech stack. Ideally, you should choose something easy to scale and integrate with other systems down the road.
Step 4: Test MVP
No, it’s not overkill by any means to test your MVP thoroughly. As mentioned above, you’re releasing a product that is supposed to delight users, even though it comes with limited functionality. Therefore, it’s critical to the project’s success to verify an MVP’s quality.
At the minimum, you should account for functional and stress testing. Functional testing uncovers bugs in features, and the latter ensures the solution keeps working flawlessly regardless of the number of users.
You can launch an MVP only after thoroughly testing it.
Step 5: Deploy MVP
This step is pretty obvious: you need to make the MVP publicly available by moving it to a production environment and uploading mobile applications to the App Store or Google Play.
Most app owners think of the deployment step as final. However, with your app out in the wild, things are just starting to get really exciting.
If your development team has done everything right, the MVP will have Google Analytics or other means of measuring user engagement. The user behavior data coupled with actual user feedback will help you prioritize features for the subsequent updates based on validated learning about customers.
The key takeaway: build the MVP as a scalable, extendable solution so that you don’t need to start from scratch after the market has embraced it.
Tips to Launch Successful Minimum Viable Product
- Think through how you are going to gather user feedback
Available options include Google Analytics, mobile analytics, built-in support platforms like UserVoice, and user review monitoring services like AppFollow. These vary depending on the type of app you’re building from healthcare app development to fintech app development.
- Treat your MVP like a finished product all the way to the App Store/Google Play
Every little detail in the app description should be perfected to make customers want to download your app.
- Avoid using brand-new technologies
You need to choose your tech stack carefully to avoid re-developing your solution from scratch later on because it can’t scale or doesn’t work with other platforms.
- Consider releasing your MVP for a small target market group of customers
This approach will help you increase the probability of creating greater traction upon the public release.
- Include a sound monetization strategy
Some app owners believe that since it’s an MVP, you can’t charge for it. Quite the opposite, the commercial success of your MVP will be one of the key parameters to judge its success, making an app monetization strategy of key importance.
- Hire a dev team that practices a lean startup methodology
Teams using Scrum, Kanban, or other flavors of Agile deliver faster and catch most of the issues even before testing begins.
If you want more advice on minimum viable product development or want us to assess what you already have to find the best way forward, schedule a free consultation. We’ll be happy to help you plan a minimum viable product and talk you into going with a minimum delightful product.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to develop a minimum viable app?
The development time is one to three months, depending on what product you envision.
Can a landing page or a video serve as a minimum viable product?
If your customers can use them as a product, yes. Otherwise, you’ll need something more tangible.
Should I build an MVP or an MDP?
If you are looking to delight your customers, go with MDP. After all, it’s almost the same as a traditional MVP, only better by the UX and user testing.
How to decrease the cost of the MDP development process?
Create and verify an interactive prototype before programming the application. Market validation starts with prototyping.
How to build a minimum viable product using app builders?
You can use application building services like BuildFire or Appy Pie, but be ready to ditch the results once the solution generates a substantial user base. You need natively built products to scale appropriately.