The 4 essential steps to building a Minimum Viable Product

by Maarten Jansen
One of the first steps in creating an app is developing an MVP: the first usable version of your product, which tests its key functionalities with initial users. It can save you lots of time and money spent on features that don’t meet your users’ needs and lets you find your market fit as quickly as possible. So how do we go about developing an MVP? Here are the basics:

#1: Define the problem & your audience

To know where the core value of your product lies, you must start by defining the problem your app will solve for people. What is the issue? Back this framing of the problem up with statistics and facts. Who is experiencing the problem? This is your target audience, who will also be your end users. Do your homework on who these people are and their goals, challenges and aspirations. Ask yourself how your app will solve their problem, and how you will measure the end result to determine whether your app succeeded in doing so.

Defining the essential problem you want to solve is not only the foundation of your MVP, but should also be the guiding framework for everything you do as a company. Your problem statement should be simple and should be applied to every design, pitch and marketing strategy. There are several tools out there that are helpful for clarifying the essential when developing an MVP: Product Canvas templates are great for strategic product planning, giving you an overview of your vision, goals and metrics. User Personas help you get in the mindset of your potential end users and to design a product that will solve their problem most effectively. Of course, don’t forget to do your market research to see what the competition is up to, and identify what is unique about your approach.

#2: Zero in on core features

Your MVP should address the core problem identified above, and nothing more. The idea is to test whether your app can solve this problem for your target audience, without optimizing it or adding extra features. Remember, the idea is not to put too many resources into app design or user experience, even if this means the product doesn’t look the way you imagined right now. You are better off investing in these once you confirm that your app solves your audience’s problem.

There are several methods out there to define core features. For example, Event Storming, which is a workshop format used to share the understanding of app processes among the team and distil them into essential functionalities, obstacles and improvements. This helps create the business model the app is founded on as well as its basic structure. Using a prioritization chart can help you decide which features are most essential. We look at what are the “must haves” and “nice to haves” and focus on the must-haves at this stage.

#3 Bring your idea to life

Once you prioritize your app’s core features, the budget will start coming into focus: remember, the idea is to invest just enough to test assumptions and gather feedback. Using ready-made solutions for elements like authentication can help cut costs and save time at this stage.

The next step is a user journey map showing how users will move through the application step by step. This serves as the basis of wireframes and prototypes, while letting you play and experiment with different user pathways. The prototyping stage is when you start bringing your idea to life, providing the basis of your product’s structure, interface, and look and look-and-feel. It is the moment to solve design and usability issues before you invest too much in the development stage.

#4: Release your product into the wild

While your product should be solid, the goal isn’t perfection at this point. As soon as the MVP is ready to go, put it out there to gather customer feedback to incorporate into the next iteration.

Good old market research comes back into play here, where you survey users who fall into your target personas via email, through the app or directly. Questions will focus on whether the app helps users solve their problem, how they used it and what they do and don’t like about it. Analytics tools like Google Analytics are also key to collecting data and insights about how your app is used. This will help you understand your target audience better so that you can design your final product to optimize user experience.

Once you have enough feedback, you can develop your next iterations backed by your knowledge of where your app provides value and what features are most worth investing in. Be prepared to have your original assumptions challenged and to revise your vision and your product to give your users the most value. They will thank you for it by making the official version of your product a hit!

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