One of the biggest reasons why apps fail is because the market doesn’t need it. If app creators directly get into developing a full-fledged app, they are risking a lot by ignoring the factor of user acceptance. And if the users fail to recognise and appreciate the value of your app, there is little chance for it to succeed.
With a minimum viable product (MVP), the risks associated with failure is significantly reduced. Rather than releasing a fully-developed product on the first try, MVP starts off with just the bare minimum and progresses with user feedback. This makes it easier for app development companies to shape an app that is not only low-risk but also has the potential to acquire a large user base.
What Is an MVP in Mobile App Development?
An MVP app has just the basic, yet essential features capable of getting the attention from potential customers and investors, and at the same time, can satisfy the needs of a company and its initial users.
With MVP app development, app creators get to test their idea, also known as product hypothesis, with minimal investment and resources and see whether it has the needed potential to become a full-fledged app.
MVP makes it easier to launch an app quickly and identify essential features with the help of user feedback. As the MVP app cost is considerably lower than traditionally-developed apps, developers get to learn more about the app’s concept, user acceptance, effectiveness in the industry and suitable revenue models to adopt, all while having the app out in the market.
How Long and How Much Does It Take to Build a Mobile App MVP?
An app’s development cost is calculated by the development time required and the hourly rates associated. The cost and time taken for developing an MVP app are minimal as compared to a traditional mobile app.
Generally, it should take only two to four months to build an MVP. Depending upon its functionality, nature, use of hardware features and platforms chosen, the development cost can range from US$9,000 to US$15,000.
The MVP app development cost is said to be minimal because developing a medium-functionality app like WhatsApp will cost anywhere from US$61,000 to US$69,000.
To know more about the development cost associated with each component of an app, read our detailed guide on app development cost.
Famous Examples of Mobile App MVP
The founders of Uber, Garret Camp and Travis Kalanick, started with a minimum viable product having just the essential feature to connect drivers with riders, along with the facility to make credit card payments. They later presented the app to a small group of people in San Francisco and raised additional funds.
Snapchat began as a single-feature MVP and focused on learning the user behaviour to perfect the app. The first version was an iOS app called Picaboo and allowed users to share photos with a specific viewing time before it expires.
The founders of Foursquare, Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai, started with an MVP having check-ins and gamification as its core functionalities. They continually improved the app with end-user feedback and later added recommendations and City Guides features.
Image Credit: time.com
In its initial version, Instagram allowed users to take photos, edit and post them with geo-tags. With more than one billion monthly active users, Instagram now supports video content, in-app messaging and many more.
To generate customer feedback, the founder of Buffer, Joel Gascoigne, launched a landing page which helped him gain a substantial subscriber base. This helped him understand what the users really wanted and led to the creation of a social media scheduling app, with more than 2 million users.
What Are the Benefits of MVP in Mobile App Development?
1. Lower Risk and Higher ROI
As an MVP app contains just the core features, the development time and cost associated with it is minimal. This makes it almost risk-free for companies, especially startups, and gives them more confidence to test their ideas.
App creators can diversify more funds to marketing and advertising the app, which will increase the chance of the app’s success as better marketing campaigns will help in acquiring users with high LTV.
2. Attract Investors
Almost every investor will appreciate it if you have a working model to demonstrate. Your MVP app can be a low-cost, functioning model capable of gaining an investor’s confidence. It will help them identify whether your concept has the needed potential to gather a mass appeal and the ability to bring an optimal ROI.
3. Early Access to Market Makes Validation Easier
With millions of apps to compete with, making your mark in the industry takes time. One reason why many apps fail is that they release a fully developed app in the very beginning by consuming all of their resources. While this may work at times, it usually doesn’t.
With an MVP app, you get to develop and publish one with the least amount of resources possible and validate whether it’s what the industry wants and needs. It also makes it easier to tweak and introduce more features according to users’ feedback. As the investment involved is minimal, developers can even release multiple versions of the MVP and see which one is widely accepted.
4. Creators Can Test Their Assumptions
While creating an app, developers have to make some guesswork on how the app will provide value to an end-user. Even though comprehensive market research can help expose this, several uncertainties require the product to go live to gain insightful feedback.
For full-blown apps, undergoing a major revamp based on user feedback is almost impossible due to the substantial initial investment made on them. But for MVP, tweaking is part of its development process and is a notable characteristic that differentiates it from other apps.
5. Reduced Time-To-Market
Along with being budget-friendly, having a minimal development time duration aids developers in publishing an app before the full version is developed. This will also help in initiating marketing efforts earlier, improving the chances of success.
6. Beneficial For Acquiring Early Adopters
For every app, having the support of early adopters is vital to gain the momentum needed to make it a successful one. By tweaking the minimum viable features of an app, targeting early adopters is easier. This will also help you gain well-defined feedback to improve the app further.
Different Approaches to Building a Mobile App MVP
The concept of MVP development is often misinterpreted. For example, if you are trying to manufacture a car as a final product, many may think having the tyres in place will be the MVP. But it isn’t. This is because it simply won’t satisfy the needs of the consumer to commute.
Instead, a skateboard can be considered as an MVP as it makes transportation possible, unlike just the tyres. As creating an MVP is an iterative process that identifies and focuses on the pain points of the users, there are different approaches in the way it’s done.
1. No Product MVP
The no-product MVP, also known as no-code MVP, is a method in which businesses validate the idea of an app and receive feedback for it, without having to code. Companies instead make use of marketing campaigns to test whether the idea works or not.
The entire concept is explained in the form of diagrams and utilises landing pages, surveys, explainer videos, blogs and such. A no-product MVP is an excellent method to gather funds and interests, even before the app is actually developed.
2. Product Mock-Up MVP
In a product mock-up MVP, the mock-up of some of the crucial features that define the app is built. A majority of these features, if they are complicated to develop, are replaced by easy-to-develop or manually controllable solutions. There are two different approaches you can follow to develop a product mock-up MVP.
This MVP allows you to see if users are interested in your idea. To understand the concept of Concierge MVP, let’s take the example of a coupon generation app that has the intention of sending personalised coupons to users, based on their spending habits, interests and weekly purchases.
At this stage of development, the MVP is a mock-up showing how the final product will be. It does not have functioning algorithms as operators manually perform the work. Humans will ask the users about their purchase habits, then search for store coupons that align with their interests and have these coupons delivered.
B. Wizard of Oz
This strategy replicates the core functionality of an app with the help of human operators. A great example of this is the online retail company Zappos. Its website was initially filled with beautiful pictures of their products (shoes) and just that. When orders came in, the founder went to the local store, bought the shoes and sent them to the customers.
An app following the Wizard of Oz MVP approach will seem like one powered by AI or automation algorithms to users, but it is all managed by humans, offering close-to-real user experience.
3. Single Feature MVP
With the single feature MVP approach, a specific, defining feature of the app will be developed so that its future users can understand its value proposition. This can help app developers in two ways.
One, they get to build momentum for their app earlier on. And two, they can tweak their product based on feedback from initial users.
4. Minimum Lovable Product (MLP)
While a minimum viable product focuses on developing an app with just the essential features to get initial feedback, a minimum lovable product aims to make the first-time user experience memorable.
How to Build a Mobile App MVP?
The process of a mobile app MVP development can be divided into six critical steps as follows.
1. Understand What the Market Wants
Even though researching and understanding the needs of the market is essential before any app development, when it comes to a minimum viable product, it is even more critical. This is because you will need to focus on specific features which the potential users will appreciate.
Similarly, a thorough competitor analysis is crucial for your app’s success. You can perform review mining to identify the features which the users want, but are lacking in the competitor’s app. This will give them more reasons to try out your app, giving the app its initial traction.
2. Brainstorm the Idea for the App MVP
Even mobile games have a problem to solve – they kill boredom. Similarly, your app must solve a real-world problem, and the more specific it is, the better. An app that doesn’t have a problem to solve is probably set to fail and will lack a unique selling point (USP).
For a minimum viable product, the importance of having a USP can’t be stressed enough. It gives creators solid points to pitch to investors and helps app marketers craft campaigns on why the app is a must-try.
3. Consider the User Flow and Design Process
The user flow defines how a potential user will interact and benefit from the app. The key is to make the user interface (UI) user-friendly, along with critical features that are capable of grabbing the attention of potential users.
If you are developing a mobile game, more emphasis must be placed on its design process as it shapes the user experience and ultimately their opinion about the app. Also, just like how MVP starts off as the basic version, you need to follow a mobile-first approach and start with the smallest screen to deliver the right experience to the right device.
Even if a feature might seem to be straightforward, make sure you break it down into steps and analyse how it helps users solve a problem. This will help you enhance the user experience and also understand whether each feature complements the app as a whole. Outlining user flows will also help reveal areas that need improvement.
4. Define and List the Features of the Mobile App MVP
Once you outline the user flow, you will be able to identify and list the features that are really essential and the ones that aren’t. While listing the features of the app, make sure you draw a fine line between what the users want and what they need. Leaning too much to either side will have the least desirable outcome.
Once you have listed the features, prioritise them based on their usability and desirability. Make sure you include features that can complement the end goal of the app, and at the same time, satisfy the users and make them long for more.
5. Develop the MVP
Once you have narrowed down the key features and analysed what the users need, it’s time to develop your minimum viable product app. Start with choosing the technology stack. Make sure it complements your end goals.
For example, if you are planning to build an MVP having the potential to evolve into an app with billions of daily users, make sure you choose an infrastructure that can be upgraded to manage such traffic. As discussed earlier, the time and cost must be minimal as that is what defines an MVP.
6. Gather Feedback and Tweak the Product
During and after the minimum viable product app development, you need to test it to make sure that it has the quality to acquire users and the ability to retain them. Once the app is launched, its performance must also be continually monitored to identify issues that weren’t evident during development.
Testing must also include user acceptance tests that gain the feedback of the end-user and will help in finding what the MVP app misses. Once these changes are implemented the desirability of your app will increase, and the chances of it becoming a failure in the market will reduce.
By continually improving with several cycles of testing and tweaking, you will eventually be able to deliver an app that potential users will want to try. Your app will also have the capacity to attract a larger user base and generate revenue via an app monetization strategy.
Pitfalls to Avoid During Mobile App MVP Development
1. Having Too Many Essential Features
Even though the idea behind developing an MVP is having only the core features, many developers will be tempted to add more features due to the excess resources available. But doing so will only spoil the experience and make the app broader, unable to target a specific group of users.
The number of features you need to include can be calculated as,
True minimum = The number of minimum features you think is essential / 8
2. Adding Every Feature Requested by the User
Even though an MVP app development company will rely on user feedback to tweak and shape their product, they don’t have to include every feature suggested. Doing so may force the app to drift away from its purpose.
3. Not Defining Your Success Criteria
If you don’t set the success criteria for your minimum viable product, you will never know whether it was worthwhile. To not let that happen, analyse the data you gathered from competitor analysis and find some average figures to compare. You can consider the following as well.
- How many users did you get over a month?
- Out of the feedback provided by users, how many were insightful enough to make substantial improvements?
- What is the average time spent by users on the app?
- Which features did they spend the most and least time with?
4. Having Copied Features
The primary focus of a mobile app MVP is to offer unique, appreciated features to users that align with the end goal of the developer. By copying features from other apps, users will have no interest to try and assess your efforts.
5. Ignoring Marketing
Developers who solely focus on the concept and functionality of the app are doomed to fail. Without an effective marketing strategy, an app won’t gather the popularity needed to transform it into a reliable source of revenue.
6. Concentrating on Multiple Platforms
For apps developed the conventional way, focusing on multiple platforms may be desirable. But for MVP apps, it isn’t. It only forces the developers to spread their costs, which in turn can make the app a costly one with minimal features. Instead, try doing proper market research and figure out whether iOS or Android users represent your target market.
While creating a minimum viable product, what matters the most is developing a basic app having just the essential features, yet upholds its unique selling point. The key is to create an app that users want with the least resources possible.
Once the app is released, it may receive negative feedback more than positive ones, but that doesn’t mean your app is a failed attempt. Since it’s an MVP, you should have enough resources and time to analyse and implement user feedback, helping the app get closer to perfection with each iteration.