Your company might have done all the research and gotten to a point where everybody thinks that an app will do wonders to your business. But are you sure that you can successfully implement it? It is always risky to develop a new app for the customers, but you can try and cut down the risk by developing a minimum viable product (MVP) first. An MVP will not only give you a real look and feel of the solution, but will also give you the opportunity to smoothen the crinkles and improve the offering so that when it hits the market, it has higher chances of success.
In mobile app design parlance, an MVP is defined as an app that provides only a single, most important service which is also called its core capability. This app is launched to enable developers to perform testing on real users, learn from the use cases, and continually improve it till the time it reaches a certain maturity in terms of performance and functionality. When it does reach that stage, it will be considered as a full-fledged application. Here are the four critical steps to build an MVP:
The Problem Solving Approach
Right at the beginning, you need to evaluate your business idea and start asking questions by putting yourself in your customer’s place. Get answers to questions like: Why does the customer need this product? How will it address a pain point for the customer? How will it help increase sales & customer engagement? Will it result in higher customer satisfaction? What are the challenges to using it?
You might want to call them your “future customers” or your target audience, but largely these are the very people who will be using the application. The best way to achieve those answers is to plot a “customer journey” within the app. Find out how and why the user will access the app and how will they navigate once they are logged in. Map the various paths that the user might take, in order to obtain the relevant information or services. If you see certain issues with the navigation and process flow, its better to address them right at this stage rather than later.
The Competitor Analysis Paradigm
When you start de novo, you might get a feeling that your idea is unique and there is no parallel to it in the online universe. However, ignoring the competitors has turned out to be a fatal mistake for many unsuspecting entrepreneurs who were too consumed with their own idea to even look around. Even if you have an idea that is unique, even if you are fishing in uncharted waters, you must still check out the nearest competitors. And that is where the competitor analysis paradigm comes into play. Simply put, it means that you must thoroughly evaluate the competitors to understand their products, services and their customers. It is important to document these things because they can serve as important lessons for your particular mobile app.
Online marketplace is full of tools that can help you in investigating your competitor’s mobile app or website. For example, you can check out their monthly traffic stats as well as the sources of traffic to get an idea of how well they are performing. A look into geographical locations, app ranking, keywords used, and services that are most popular on the competitor app can help you formulate your own product strategy. You can try to improve upon their offerings and generate better value for your users.
The User Journey Charting
User journey is defined as the steps that the user will take to reach the primary goal of your mobile app. If there are multiple goals, then there will be more than one route to reach those. At this point, you must think less about the goal and more about the path that the user is likely to take. The underlying thought here is to define the user journey in such a way that it minimizes the steps taken and keeps the most important features in plain view.
As a mobile app owner, you might get caught up in introducing a flurry of features, however, you mustn’t forget that customers don’t always ask for features that you are about to introduce. Users have differing expectations from the app and the user journey charting should focus on satisfying those. The overall objective is to engage and retain your customers for a longer duration.
The Testing & Learning Curve
Now that your MVP is ready, it is time to test, learn, and improve. Initially, you may want to release it to your friends and family, which is called alpha testing. Here the MVP will take its baby steps and get ready for beta testing, which is more like a professional testing done by your first set of customers. The beta testing usually takes about 2-3 weeks to get sufficient feedback, however, more complex apps such as enterprise applications might take longer to test.
Once you have sufficient data and user experiences from both alpha and beta testing, you can proceed with tweaking the product, introducing newer features, or improving the interface designs. At this stage, you can prioritize and carry out the urgent changes immediately; the rest can be kept for later upgrades.
Making a minimum viable product is a great way to start an app development process, because it costs only a fraction of the actual cost of making a real-world app. Also, an MVP gives invaluable lessons that can be incorporated to make the final product much more user friendly and robust.