Why We Start with an MVP

August 27, 2019

Two people sitting at a desk with their laptops. One person is pointing to sketches on a notepad.

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is your best chance at finding success with your product, which is why starting with one is the current industry best practice standard. The MVP, when launched, engages users with the basic (minimum) features that make an app or website useful (or viable). However, many companies put their foot on the gas and blow through crucial steps in the process (like testing and iteration) in order to save money and time. They are heading for the finish line without considering that pit stops to adjust things and strategize are crucial if you want to have enough steam to make it there at all. Read on to learn why everyone should trust the MVP process to build a winning app or website.

Defining the word “minimum” can be difficult for some who have a grand vision for their idea. Often people hear this word and think that this means it’s incomplete and can’t bear to launch without what they think is a “finished” product. Rest assured an MVP is a finished project, just one that might evolve a bit after it’s released into the wild so that it can thrive. We want to lay out some ways to be free of this thinking and set out building a real MVP. 

Why an MVP is the Most Valuable First Step

An MVP is the first milestone and most important milestone as it will be the starting point for any future iteration. There is a lot depending on an MVP, which is why it’s important to start off on the right foot.   

Not everything can be done on the first release for a few different reasons.  For one thing, a finalized and finished website or app, with all the features that can be imagined, will be cost prohibitive. Moreover, there is no knowledge of what features will engage users most yet. By including every single feature that is thought to be needed; Money may be spent on features that limit the final product. 

The point of the MVP is to include sufficient features to get the idea across. Then, develop new features for the app based on user feedback and market response.

It’s only after some users get a chance to test your MVP that the team can start fixing bugs, modifying the interface, and developing enhancements next.  The point is to fail fast by seeing what doesn’t work up front. The sooner it’s realized  what doesn’t work, the sooner it can be fixed.

Trust the MVP Process

Diagram showcasing how an MVP is a small portion of a full app, rather than a thin app missing key features

A lot of CIOs and tech founders feel driven to make the MVP stand out by putting all the bells and whistles in the first iteration. This might not be the best line of thinking and it’s important to remember, with most endeavors involving an app or website, what comes after release is just as important as the MVP. 

The biggest mistake can be made is to be short-sighted and to put all existing resources into the first product while turning a blind eye to the budget needed after you launch. The app needs funds for things like maintenance and marketing. For example, after the release it’s expected to spend at least 20% of the initial development costs on maintenance per year and on the marketing front App Store Optimization (ASO) can cost up to $25,000 alone. This is costly but important–  otherwise how will people know about your app and what will happen if it breaks? keeping the long game in mind is essential if the app is going to be successful.

The MVP Process is a Balancing Act

Balancing stones stacked on top of eachother

The balance between minimum and viable is a hard one to find sometimes. When trying to strike that balance it’s important to remember that it’s not the amount of features that the app has that’s essential, it’s the consistency and the true solution it provides to the pain point of the users that’s important. Some teams might try to go super minimum which just isn’t viable. Think of a car that’s super light and gas efficient because you’ve only used the bare minimum materials to construct. Sounds great! It’s got four wheels, an engine, and a steering wheel, it’s a car! But it lacks other features people know are  needed in a car–like seats or airbags–making it undesirable. On the other hand, teams might focus too hard on viable and do more than the minimum. This is a car that meets every expectation a person could conceivably want. However, not only will the average driver never use all these features, the price tag is going to be through the roof–making it an un-viable product. 

What it comes down to is selling the vision for a product that meets users needs and frustrations in a way that is conducive to the apps lifespan. Investors should know things will be added as users indicate their desires and that the MVP is just the first step in the process. The outcome of this vision is the release of a solution you feel certain about.

MVP Launch Best Practices

Okay, so the team has figured out the right amount of minimum your website or app needs to be viable. Awesome, now they’re ready to launch the first iteration. Now there are still a few key things to think about when it comes to marketing. There needs to be a plan for how to roll out the MVP to its target demographic. A lot of companies make the mistake of saying, “Okay, development should be done on this date, so the next day all we have to do is send out emails to let people know it’s ready and boom, it’s launched!” 

Not so fast. This strategy is like selling tickets to the first practice for a play. Instead, the team needs to get the app to a smaller group in it’s target demographic for beta testing. Try hard to make sure that this group of early users are willing to persevere through bugs and glitches and give the honest feedback that the first iteration needs. Do not start the actual “fireworks and balloon-drop” launch until at least the preliminary round of feedback has been considered and applied.

Developing an MVP is the industry standard for getting investment in an app or releasing a new website or app. Now that it’s become common practice, some people lose sight of why it began in the first place. They skip the testing and iteration phases and think they will achieve a final product within the first release. The MVP process is in place to save you time and money in the long run by preventing you from a roll out no one likes or can figure out how to use. Trust the process to create a sustainable platform that will last. Partner with Crafted Labs to find help along the way.