In mobile app development, a minimum viable product (MVP) identifies, validates (or invalidates) the highest-risk assumptions about a mobile product. Starting a development project with an MVP is the best way for companies to ensure long-term success and ROI.
A mobile app MVP is a minimal and usable form of a complete product to release and test in the market. An MVP provides immediate value, allowing companies to gather factual user feedback, learn what customers value, and reduce risks and costs. Building an MVP also helps companies prioritize a product roadmap to expand the product iteratively. Ultimately, the MVP development process makes adapting to unexpected changes easier for businesses and provides continuous value to customers as user needs evolve.
This post will break down how to identify the primary goal of a mobile app MVP and how to select the features that best support that goal.
Companies must have a strategy to address what the MVP needs to accomplish, why, and for whom. Before listing features, businesses need to determine the product vision, the problem it solves, its target users, and the value it brings to the market. Using the design thinking process to build a strategy will help align product goals with the business’s strategic vision, ultimately defining the core functionality of the MVP.
One invaluable benefit from design thinking is rapid prototyping. Mobile app prototypes take abstract ideas and turn them into tangible products so product teams can uncover new solutions or determine if the existing solution is successful. Developing a prototype is an iterative approach to user research. Product teams continually evaluate and reposition the product concept, returning to the beginning of the process several times until the concept meets business objectives and user needs. The entire prototyping process identifies unseen opportunities to confirm the best direction to take with the MVP.
With an established product vision, it is easier to determine what product goals will guide the initiatives for iterative development. Establishing product goals is the step that helps transform product strategy into actionable deliverables. Keep product goals high-level, but linked to a key performance indicator (KPI). Here are a few goal examples:
While companies may have a long list of features to include in an MVP, it’s critical to limit the number of features and focus on only what’s necessary to take the app to market. As a means of identifying the features that support an MVP’s core functionality, it’s important to start by answering these questions: what is the number one problem users are experiencing, and how will the functionality of the product solve that problem?
A common best practice for determining the necessary features for a mobile app MVP is employing a MoSCoW matrix.
MoSCoW is a prioritization method that stands for must, should, could, and won’t. This method determines what features to complete first, which features will come later, and which features to cut entirely. Identifying the essential requirements for a mobile product up front dramatically reduces scope creep. Often as a project progresses, more features come into the light, and if product teams can’t scale back the features in the should-have or could-have sections of the MoSCoW matrix, scope creep can blow up the MVP. The MoSCoW method keeps the scope of the project on track. If too many features are unnecessarily deemed a priority, the timeline, the budget, and the ability to achieve business goals suffer.
Another helpful method for determining an MVP’s core features is to use a prioritization matrix.
Using a prioritization matrix, like the example above, can help companies decide what features are necessary for the MVP.
During the planning and prioritizing of features for an MVP, there are several things that leaders should keep in mind.
Wants and needs are two very different things. Asking this question promotes the thoughtful consideration of each feature and how it fits into the MoSCoW matrix. Implementing too many user-requested features too soon can harm the user experience and take away from the overall purpose of the product.
If the product has no substantial user-base, some of the wishlist features won’t be useful yet. Include these features in a product roadmap for future iterations of the app.
Receiving user feedback is essential for the progression of mobile app MVP. Insight from user feedback helps the product team make research-based decisions about each stage of development and what features to prioritize in future iterations of the app.
A product roadmap is central for guiding the strategic direction of a mobile app. A roadmap is not set in stone; instead, it changes over time, especially in agile development. The product roadmap should be built to accommodate continuous product changes.
After launching an MVP, companies need to start gathering user feedback, which is used to determine future iterations of the product roadmap based on pre-decided KPIs.
User feedback is a gold mine of information for identifying the areas where a product is doing well and where it needs to improve. This information will influence whether a product will stay on its current track, or change direction completely. Examining user feedback and tracking user behavior offers an in-depth insight into what users want and what they need from a product.
Metric-driven roadmaps are the foundation for a successful mobile app. It’s crucial to determine success metrics, and what defines success for the business early on in the development process. Defining primary KPIs in advance creates a firm understanding of what areas to focus on to improve future releases of the product.
The chosen KPIs should largely depend on the stage of the product, the industry, and the type of product. With an MVP, companies want to limit the number of KPIs that really matter and only focus on the metrics that will drive business.
Depending on the type of product, companies may decide to focus on some of the following success metrics:
These are actionable metrics that connect back to the strategic direction and initiatives of the product roadmap. At this point, collect the data from the MVP and revise goals accordingly. By understanding how actual users interact with their product, product teams can determine what features and areas of their product need the most attention in the next release.
The goal of launching an MVP is to bring a unique value proposition to the market; however, companies can discover a lot about the market they are entering by examining the competition.
Rather than picking apart the competition’s feature set, look for information on less visible channels. For example, explore different blogs and support pages where users are discussing the competition’s product. Use these channels to learn what users like about their product, what they don’t like, and what they want to see next.
Once organizations have determined what direction makes the most sense for the product, organize the next set of deliverables into themes that describe the value to customers and stakeholders. At a high-level, themes are groups of similar features, epics, and initiatives that represent a task they aim to help the user accomplish. For example, the theme might be “reduce user time to check out,” and under this theme, bucket the initiatives that support it like new features, feature enhancements, or bug fixes. A significant benefit to themes is that they keep the product roadmap at a high-level and allow for features to be switched out in a theme without affecting the entire strategy.
A product roadmap is essential for communicating your MVP’s strategic purpose and guiding each stage of development after you launch your product. The process is inherently iterative, and communication is a significant part of every step. Developing a comprehensive roadmap will help you and your team digest meaningful data you receive from your MVP and make the best decisions moving forward.