MVP in App Development: How to Build and Test an MVP Mobile App
For startups, mistakes are especially costly. With limited team and funding, a startup just can’t afford to release a product that won’t resonate with potential customers.
MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, is a product with limited functionality that allows startups to check how customers react to key features before making significant investments into full-scale release.
In this article, we’ll explain what is mvp in mobile app development and discuss how an mvp mobile app can help you validate market demand, attract investors and minimize risks. We’ll also provide practical tips for mvp development for startups.
Let’s get started.
What is MVP in app development
The primary goal of an MVP is to swiftly bring a functional version of a product to the market. It is a key method for product market fit assessment. MVPs help you validate assumptions and make informed decisions on further development.
The idea behind an MVP is to create a usable product that you can offer to customers and observe their actual behavior. MVPs are not necessarily software applications. Your MVP can be as simple as a landing page. However, it should effectively assess the viability of your idea and help you evaluate how customers will respond to an actual product after release.
The difference between an MVP and beta version
MVP is sometimes confused with the beta version of the product. However, these are completely different stages of product development.
A mobile app MVP is released to test the riskiest assumptions and determine whether the envisioned product aligns with market demands. It includes only those features which are needed for the product validation process and targets a niche audience, mostly internal stakeholders and a handful of early adopters.
A Beta version is released after the key assumptions are validated. This is a polished release that includes all or almost all planned features and targets a larger user base. The goal of a beta release is to eliminate bugs and make final changes before a final release.
Why do startups need MVP testing?
MVP testing is particularly important for startups which have limited funding and small teams. Here are some of the main benefits of MVP in app development for startups.
Visualization and creativity
MVP in mobile app development helps to visualize and materialize your ideas. Even paper-based UI prototypes can be extremely helpful during the collaborative brainstorming sessions. Each team member, fueled by unique design perspectives, can engage in dynamic discussions, which, in the end, fosters continuous refinement of the project.
This is especially critical if you are a startup owner without specialized technical knowledge. A prototype (and, later, MVP) can help you visualize ideas. When an idea is made visible, it provokes insightful questions and helps you reach a better level of clarity even before the start of MVP mobile app testing.
Even the most brilliant ideas can crumble if the market doesn’t need them. If the market isn't receptive to your concept, you may just waste your money.
MVP is one of the key market validation techniques. It is an absolute must especially for those startups that want to implement a disruptive, novel idea. An MVP tests whether users agree that your idea solves their problems. If they think it’s useless, it’s not worth developing further.
MVP is also a potent tool for rigorous business model validation, particularly for startups laden with assumptions and leaps of faith in their initial business plans.
MVPs allow businesses to test their ideas without substantial financial risk. Development of a fully-fledged app is very pricey. The average cost of mobile app MVP is much smaller. And even if your startup already has money for full-scale development, starting with an MVP can be a wise idea. Quite a number of startups collapsed after securing sufficient funding and rushing with development and release.
Besides, MVP software development can also help you test various monetization strategies with minimal risk. This will provide you with early revenue streams and establish a foundation for future growth.
Mobile app development MVP is a powerful tool for talking to people and negotiating deals.
Ducc and Abrahamson (2016) say having a 3D prototype is way better than just a written plan when you're making contracts. Investors really like seeing a prototype because it shows you're serious and not just have some idea. Without an MVP for mobile app, big investors might not take you seriously.
MVPs can also help teams to avoid misunderstandings between the startup team and outside vendors. Using an MVP can be the best way to talk about complicated features to non-technical partners.
Quick learning and adaptation
Unlike the traditional process that starts with building, the MVP process, as highlighted by Melissa Perria, starts with learning. Learning is achieved through a continuous cycle of iterative experimentation.
Minimum viable product strategy rarely consists of a single experiment. Instead, you typically run focused experiments on specific variables, extract valuable insights, and then do more experiments. This makes your product more competitive and adaptable to clients’ needs.
User experience improvements
Some startups immediately begin to design a final product. This is a mistake that can limit exploration of various solutions and might lead you to miss out on creative alternatives.
Jeff Gothelf, an author of the book "Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience," emphasizes the importance of iterative product development and design.
Lean startup methodology proves that user experience benefits from a more gradual and open approach, not from fixation on a finished product. With MVP, you can conduct early-stage product testing. This is immensely helpful for designers, since it allows them to include insights from user feedback analysis into new iterations early on.
Customer base acquisition
MVP mobile app services provide companies with a faster route to market. Being the first in the market can get you a competitive edge. MVP can let you gain a foothold over competitors and establish brand presence before comparable products emerge.
Plus, quick market entry can provide you with early adopters. They will become your first customer base and start generating value, whether in terms of revenue, subscribers, or other key metrics.
How to build a scalable mobile app MVP
There are many ways to build an MVP effectively. However, most experts always mention the following stages to a mobile app MVP development.
Define product requirements
Before you start MVP development, you need to understand the purpose of your product and its functionality. One good way to structure this information is to create a Product Requirements Document. Usually, it will contain the following elements:
- Objective/Goal: Clearly articulate the value proposition of the project. Define the purpose and the intended outcomes to guide the development process.
- Key stakeholders. Define the key stakeholders in the project. They will also review your PRD document.
- User personas. User personas are types of potential app users. For example, a manager and worker can be user personas of a manufacturing management app.
- User stories. User stories explain how a user persona will interact with an app to achieve their goals. For instance, a “manager” user persona can assign a manufacturing task to the “worker” user persona.
- Features: A list of features describes the goals and use cases of each key feature.
- Design, iterations, and release notes. In many cases, businesses start the design process after the PRD document is completed. However, it is useful to include general design guidelines and expected results.
- Constraints and risks. Constraints include the limitations of a product, the cases it will not be able to cover. It is also helpful to include several assumptions about what could go wrong.
- Product roadmap. Write down approximate timelines for the completion of each development stage.
You don’t need to test all your features in an MVP. One popular method for evaluating which features will be included in your pre-launch product testing is the MoSCoW matrix. According to this approach, features can be separated into 4 categories.
- Must-have features. Must-have features are indispensable for the success of your product. They are non-negotiable elements that form the backbone of your project. For instance, in a CMMS application, maintenance management features are obligatory. If the project would fail without a particular feature, or the release loses its purpose without it, you're squarely in the realm of "must-have."
- Should-Have Features: While not as critical, these features are still integral to the product. If you omit them, it doesn’t make your project nonfunctional. However, their inclusion adds substantial value. Examples may include additional functionalities that enhance the overall user experience.
- Could-Have Features. Compared to "should-have" features, their absence has a more modest impact on the overall outcome. In resource-constrained scenarios, "could-have" features are usually the first to face deprioritization if a project's scale exceeds initial expectations.
- Will Not Have (This Time). When you place features here, you communicate a deliberate decision not to prioritize these features in the current timeframe. It's a crucial tool that helps to focus on essentials and manage your expectations.
As you can infer, MVP testing is first and foremost focused on must-have features.
Choose MVP testing metrics
There are two main ways to evaluate the success of your MVP mobile app. One is to gather customer feedback, another – look at the metrics. Here are some of the most popular MVP testing metrics:
- Number of Downloads: The number of downloads reveals the level of interest in your product. It evaluates the overall demand for your solution.
- Percentage of Active Users. A high percentage of active users indicates sustained interest and regular use. A higher percentage is indicative of a more successful MVP.
- Percentage of Paying Users. Monetization is an important aspect of success. A high percentage of paying users suggests the effectiveness of your MVP.
- ARPU (Average Revenue Per User): Monthly tracking of ARPU, calculated as purchases divided by total active users, offers insights into the financial viability of your MVP. It reflects the average revenue generated per user.
- Churn Rate: Churn rate is a percentage of users who discontinue using your product. It is a critical metric to identify trends and potential issues.
It’s important to define what will indicate the success of your MVP before starting the development process.
Start the design and prototyping
When you have identified the goals, features, and KPI metrics of your MVP, it’s time to start the work. The first step is to design a clear and intuitive draft for your app. This design draft sets the stage for what comes next: rapid prototyping.
It's important to note that a prototype is not the final MVP website or mobile app. Instead, it's a preliminary model used by developers and the team. The prototype is made with graphical editors or specialized prototyping tools. It provides a visual representation of the app's structure and functionality.
Prototype development makes a solid foundation for the MVP that users will engage with.
Build your MVP
When you’re finished with the prototyping stage, it’s time to build a functional MVP. Whether it's a solo developer or a dedicated development team, you need skilled people to bring your MVP to life. If you don’t have an in-house development team, outsourcing the work is highly advisable.
Once developed, your MVP will undergo thorough testing by QA engineers. QA engineers test the MVP to identify bugs or issues that may impact the user experience.
Following the QA process, developers eliminate bugs and implement the required enhancements. With these improvements in place, your MVP is prepared to make its debut in the market.
Analyze and iterate
If your MVP mobile app doesn’t meet your goals, don’t get discouraged! In the vast majority of cases, startups need to go through several iterations of MVP to validate assumptions, gain clarity, and prepare for full-scale development.
Plus, refining your work at this stage is much cheaper than after launch, so dive into your project and work to the best of your ability. It will certainly pay off later.
Mistakes to avoid during MVP software development
Admittedly, MVP can be a somewhat confusing and vague notion, and this makes many startups stray off the trail and build MVPs that don’t work. Here are some of the main mistakes to avoid.
Always building an MVP
MVP is useful, but not always. In certain cases, you might do perfectly well without it. For example, if you’re building an internal application for your own company, you probably know pretty well what functionality you need and why. You don’t need to validate market assumptions if there is no market.
Another case when you might skip the MVP phase is when you’re building a solution that is very similar to already existing ones. If the market is saturated, it might be difficult to find early adopters who would want to switch to your product. However, you can still understand what your future users will want through the analysis of customer reviews, for instance.
Compromising on quality
While MVP is not a final product, it’s not a prototype. It will be used by your customers. So the core functionality of your app should work exactly as intended.
You won’t get relevant feedback if your app constantly lags and crashes. So take your time and perform QA analysis before handing the MVP to your early adopters.
Trying to make a perfect app
The opposite extreme of ignoring the lags and bugs is to strive for perfection. Many startup founders think they must quickly deliver a perfect product. Millions are spent on polishing the UX and working through every single detail. The problems come when customers say all those things are unnecessary.
One great example, though not from the realm of software development, is Juicero. Juicero was a Silicon Valley startup that claimed to “revolutionize” juice-making with a cold-press Wi-Fi connected juicer bearing a hefty $400 price tag. The juicer could only squeeze the fruits from branded packages that customers were expected to purchase from a startup. Juicero failed spectacularly when journalists figured out that you could use your hands to squeeze juice from the package just as quickly and efficiently.
The thing is: Juicero wasn’t deceptive. The juicer was a very complicated piece of engineering made from expensive, high-quality materials. But the market didn’t need it at all. And Juicero had invested in the product so much that the company never recovered and closed down in less than a year.
The Juicero lesson is: test your ideas before investing millions into development.
Let’s keep in touch
MVP mobile app is one of the most effective customer validation methods. It is widely used to test assumptions and ideas in the real market.
Before you build an MVP, you have to define product requirements, prioritize features, and choose KPI testing metrics. And for the building phase, you need software developers.
At Apiko, we have a wide experience in mobile development and consulting, including mobile MVP app development services. Whether you want to build a mobile banking application, production scheduling software, or any other type of solution, we are ready to lend you a hand.