How to develop and test a minimal viable product app (MVP app)
So, you have an idea for a mobile app? Now what?
Between ideation and launch, your app will need to undergo testing. In order to do so, you’ll need a minimum viable product (MVP). Developing your MVP is an essential step on the way to launching your app, ensuring the user experience is optimized to grow your audience.
What is an MVP app?
An MVP is a stripped down version of your app, that includes only the most essential features. The goal is to gain as much relevant knowledge about the users and their needs with minimum effort.
Through the process of developing and testing your MVP, you should test your assumptions about your product and your audience. Not only are you testing the core functionality of your app, you’re getting to know your users and how they want to experience your app. The data you collect through testing is invaluable and can be used in many ways along your journey to launch.
There are many benefits from using an MVP to collect user feedback. First, you will be able to validate your idea for the mobile app. Second, you will learn which app features your early adopters love, which ones are missing, and which ones may be extraneous. Third, you will also be able to understand your value proposition better and determine the market fit for your app.
By using a build-measure-learn process, your team can use the data from your MVP to iterate on the product until you land on the final version that is ready for launch. The key is to stay open to what your data tells you and pivot accordingly.
It’s also important to note the many ways you can use an MVP. Not only can you pitch the app to early adopters, but you can show it to investors or even use it for crowd-funding efforts. The MVP is much more than a prototype — it’s a functioning app that lets potential users and investors know what to expect as they get a feel for your final product.
How much does an MVP app cost?
Much like app development, the cost associated with creating an MVP can be highly variable and will depend on a number of factors, such as:
- The scope of your design and the associated development tasks
- The depth of the technology stack needed to accomplish your MVP’s basic functionality
- The type of development team you choose to work with
And perhaps the most important factor of all is your development team’s hourly rate. This can vary wildly depending on whether you’re working with an in-house team, a development shop that provides fully custom apps, or one of the emerging alternatives such as a no-code or turnkey option for simpler, quicker development. Location can also be a big factor. Developers in the U.S. typically cost about $100-$180 per hour, while in Asia, you may find developers who work for $15-$40 per hour.
With all of the factors taken into account, an MVP can costs anywhere between $15,000 to $50,000 to develop.
How do I create an MVP app?
Creating an MVP is a lot like creating your fully-featured final product as many of the steps are the same. Before you can build your MVP, you need to answer some of the questions that will help guide the overall development process.
First steps to creating an MVP:
- Identify your app’s purpose.
- Determine your target market.
- Map out the user journey and the features needed to help your user achieve their goal.
Once you’ve mapped out the user journey, you can then start narrowing down the feature set you need for an MVP. Build a “pain-gain map” that enables your team to identify the pain points your users will encounter, and where your app can add the most value. Once you know what these strong points for your app are, you can focus on building out those features for your MVP.
Building an MVP
There are many ways to build an app. You can choose to go the more expensive, fully-custom route that can take months or years to complete, or opt for one of the many new, more modular methods of app development that lend themselves especially well to MVP development.
Low-code, no-code, and turnkey options cut down on the time and cost associated with developing apps. Even if you plan to develop a fully-custom app for the final product, choosing one of these quicker, less expensive options will not only save you time and money, it will mean you have an MVP sooner rather than later. If getting that app in-hand to show investors and start collecting user feedback is of the utmost importance, then it may make sense to go the low- or no-code route.
If you have an in-house team of developers, low-code may be an appealing option as it allows your team to edit and customize pre-built code without starting from scratch. This speeds the time to market and cuts down on the development costs, while still allowing for customizability.
If you don’t have an in-house team, no-code is still an option. This method uses drag and drop elements to let you configure a basic, but not very customizable, app with no development expertise.
If you need to fully outsource the process, there are increasingly more turnkey options that utilize the pre-built features of low-code to speed the time to market, but that also offer their services to customize the app to your needs.
What are the types of MVP?
If you want to build an MVP app, there are many different types to consider. Some types don’t even require an actual app, but we won’t go into those. Instead, let’s focus on the types of MVPs that come in app form:
- Single-feature MVP : This is the most familiar type of MVP, which is a software product designed to test how users feel about a particular feature or capability. This works best for apps in which the core functionality and features for the launch are fairly well-established. This approach also works well for apps that need to test new features or turn an existing feature into its own stand-alone product.However, single-feature MVPs inherently lead to lower engagement and a smaller potential audience.
- Concierge MVP: Zappos famously launched with a concierge MVP where the founder would post pictures of shoes online. When an order came in he would buy the shoes at the mall and then ship them to customers. A concierge MVP simulates the function of an application, but people — or, sometimes, just one person — fulfills the function of the app, and users are aware of it. This also helps test the viability of your idea and whether or not there is a market fit. You can even raise capital if you can charge for the service provided. This is, obviously, a labor-intensive type of MVP and may only work for very specific types of functionality. It may also require you to find partnerships with other companies to execute all of your operations.
- Wizard of Oz MVP: One step up from the Concierge, the Wizard of Oz is an app that appears to be fully functional but relies on manual processes — and in this case, the users don’t know. The Wizard of Oz MVP is often used to test product ideas that would otherwise rely on sophisticated technology — such as AI or machine learning. Like the other types of MVPs, this form helps test user interactions and buy-in but has some drawbacks. Not only can it be hard to ensure consistent interactions with users, it also requires detailed instructions for every possible user request or action.
- Piecemeal MVP — Groupon launched with this type of MVP by simply connecting consumers with local providers for a wide variety of services and offering discounts. They did all of this using WordPress, FileMaker, and Apple Mail. Piecemeal MVPs essentially use existing products and solutions to complete your product’s core functions. This approach can be beneficial if you’re entering a mature market and time-to-market is paramount. However, finding the right solutions to build your product and ensuring they work together seamlessly can be challenging.
Successfully building and launching an app is a long process, and building an MVP is just one step on that journey. To learn more about taking your app to market, read our blog post “How to launch an app: From market research to monetization.”