From idea to MVP for mobile app

15 Apr 202212 min read

The mobile app market is highly diverse. Yet, if looked closely, apart from the fact that mobile applications offer unique features not available via other channels, usually the most successful ones often specialize in one or a few unique purposes. In other words, they have a unique product value behind them.

MVP for mobile apps helps validate the startup's main idea or product value proposition and create an app that would be useful, widely used, and, hence, well-monetized. The specifics of the mobile app MVP creation hide in the fact that in the case of mobile apps, MVP development is more about analysis, planning, and strategy rather than complicated engineering. Let’s explore this insight more precisely so that when you decide to start developing your business idea, you will be well prepared.

Guess less and get data instead

What is a mobile app MVP? A Minimum Viable Product is a workable app model that can execute its core functionality. MVP technique is rather useful if done with critical thinking and accurate planning. Besides, an app MVP should be built in a timely manner and contain just enough features to satisfy potential customers and collect their feedback to plan the next product versions.

MVP allows businesses to collect data on the target market, validate hypotheses before investing many resources into it, and plan further steps based on the information they receive.

benefits for mobile app MVP

We recommend tech businesses to start with an MVP development in the cases when:

  • A new mobile app demands a different behavior from customers in a given context.
  • You need to validate if the solution you are offering to a particular problem is acceptable.
  • The product value is not that innovative but the UI for the app differs from similar solutions on the market.
  • You want to develop a product iteratively and create a lean startup business model.

To sum up, regardless of the goal you want to achieve with this step, as long as you have the right MVP mindset for you and your team and understand why an MVP is built in the first place, you will be able to take the most value from it for your business.

Before making any tech choices

In the case of MVP for mobile apps, the more carefully you approach the initial phases of MVP development, the faster your tech team will be able to implement your ideas and the more relevant data you will receive. Here are the most impactful decisions to make before starting any tech consultations.

Define app value for end-users

How your new mobile app delivers value to your target audience is the key idea to keep in mind when starting any activities. This is a foundation for all further activities related. If you have the product value well defined first, you will clearly understand what hypotheses you need to validate and, most importantly, what functionality you need for it.

  • Make a list of the core assumptions about the new application, the problems it addresses, and how it solves them.
  • Analyze your competitors for more insights and formulate a more competitive edge over the existing solutions.
  • Define what is already viable on the market and formulate a unique value proposition that will help your app stand out.

Decide on app monetization

You might not include monetization implementation during the MVP development step, yet, it would be good to know for the tech team where you are heading and plan the app architecture accordingly. It is much easier to consider the chosen monetization approach at the initial stages than to integrate it out of the blue when the app logic is already implemented.

The most common monetization models include:

  • Free and paid app versions. Usually, the free version has somewhat limited functionality or some data storage limits, if compared to the paid version.
  • Free app with in-app purchases. The main app features are free, but some premium or extra features require payment.
  • Free app with subscription plans. The app is free to download with some limited access and via the purchasing of subscriptions, the functionality can be extended.
  • Paid app. The only paid variant is available for apps, a common model for productivity apps, for example.

Of course, the chosen approach can be changed after the MVP is launched and you receive feedback, yet this applies to every part of the app, and you and your team should be ready for this.

Outline basic marketing strategy

Thinking that great apps sell themselves is misleading. No matter how unique the value your app provides, there are always many other products fighting for the same users’ attention. Before starting to discuss the MVP implementation it would be helpful to have a roadmap for marketing activities as well.

As a marketing strategy is based on specific objectives, goals, and deadlines, the tech team and project managers will be able to understand all the marketing context for the project and act accordingly. For example, make sure the application is prepared for the potential increase of users when big marketing campaigns start.

At this step, you might also want to plan the tasks for your marketing team. The usual pre-launch marketing can include:

  • Creating a landing page focusing on the app offer and aiming to capture users’ attention.
  • Preparing a press kit for your app (short review guide, screenshots, and video presentation)
  • Materials to prepare for app release on App Store and Google Play (app description, screenshots, onboarding guides).

Define success metrics for mobile app MVP

Defining how you will measure the success of your MVP project will help both your management and your tech teams make informed decisions on future steps. From our experience, teams that have shared the unique KPIs in the earliest stages more clearly understand the goals behind the MVP phase and collaborate more effectively.

Here are some important metrics to watch closely during the development of MVP for the mobile app:

  • Conversions (for example, from a landing page visit to the app download, from installing to active using)
  • Customer acquisition over a period of time
  • Active users (number of people actively using the application)
  • Churn rate (the percentage of users who uninstalled the application during a given period of time)
  • App performance metrics (average load speed, crash reports, and more)

Main steps in mobile app MVP development

Depending on the app idea, market specifics, business context, required functionality, and other essential parameters, the flow can be somewhat customized for each specific case. Some apps are more simple and require less planning, others demand complex analysis, both business and technical. Hence, some of the phases can be extended or shortened respectively.

On the high level, here’s how we approach the MVP development for a mobile app at Wise Engineering. mobile app MVP roadmap

Product discovery

In the case of mobile app MVP development, the better the planning is done, the faster the tech team will cope with the implementation, and the more valuable data the MVP step will produce. That is why we always pay attention to this step and suggest you do the same.

Essential questions that require answers during product discovery:

  • Who is your target customer?
  • What problem does your app address?
  • Who are your competitors and what is their value proposition?
  • How do you plan to monetize it?
  • What distribution channels will be there?
  • What are the deadlines (time-to-market planned)?

At this step, we start to map out what the app should do and how it should function. Raw wireframing will help to understand the entire user journey and uncover possible complexities that will be taken into account during the tech consulting step.

UX & Design

One of the main tasks at this step is to assemble correctly the minimum marketable user flow for your future application. The minimum marketable user flow contains just enough features that allow users to take the app for a spin but do not include any extra functionality. We’ll talk about how to assemble the feature set for an MVP further.

At this stage it is important to pay attention to the intuitive UI as with mobile applications, users are not used to reading any documentation and guides. Simple onboarding is all you can expect from them, yet people still tend to skip it very often. Thus, only an intuitive UI will ensure they proceed further after the installation.

Mobile app design is another aspect. You might not want to invest a lot of resources in developing brand visual identity at this step, which is common practice with MVPs. Some basic brand identity like a simple logo, color scheme, and unified fonts would be more than enough. Consistency is the main rule here. After the MVP phase is over you’d be able to work on product design more attentively. Here’s how our team helped to improve the brand look for a podcast recommendations platform after the MVP launch.

We also advise design teams to create clickable app prototypes, in Figma or InVision, for example. This helps to spot inconsistencies before the software is already under development.

Tech consulting

Once you have the design and prototypes ready, you can start discussing the technology more precisely. Of course, some tech choices can be done somewhat earlier, but the UI/UX components influence those decisions definitively.

This step starts with a document creation containing a list of technical requirements and proceeds with consultations with a variety of specialists. Including system architect, tech lead, project manager, and other engineers whose opinions would benefit the project. The team depends on the project complexity and does not always require a lot of time.

At this step, it should be decided what approach native mobile app development or cross-platform you will apply. When making a native vs cross-platform approach, we advise considering:

  • Application complexity
  • Available budget
  • Development time
  • UI/UX components

After the development approach is selected, the tech stack composition becomes rather obvious. Swift for iOS app development, Kotlin for Android app development, if you go the native way, and React Native or Flutter if cross-platform development is planned. Plus, the list of necessary integrations and 3-rd party services will be assembled.

Back-end development

This step is optional and depends on the functionality selected for the MVP development. Some MVPs with simple feature sets can be launched without back-end development. Yet, for the mobile apps that process user data, store them, and need to ensure their security it is inevitable. The back-end of a mobile application functions as a server for users to sort the information they add to the app.

The basic feature of the mobile application back-end include:

  • Authentication
  • Database
  • Scripting
  • Architecture
  • Automatic synchronization
  • Push and email notifications
  • API console
  • Analytics
  • User management

Mobile development

At this step, the mobile development team starts design implementation based on the API and back-end configurations. Our mobile development team says this is the easiest part of the entire mobile app MVP development process if all the previous steps are done efficiently.

To cope with the step successfully, the tech team needs to understand how to develop high-performance and reusable UI components that are in line with the App Human interface and Material guidelines. The 3rd-party integrations are also being built and configured at this step.

QA & release

An accurate testing process ensures the delivered functionality meets the high standards of mobile app development. At Wise Engineering, for example, we pay thorough attention to creating testable, maintainable code that allows us to easily incorporate new functionality and set up rigorous testing processes.

We also assist our clients and handle the entire approval process for both App Store and Play Market applying best practices we’ve learned developing mobile applications for our customers for 8 years.

Note, that after the official release of the mobile application, the iteration process starts over. After the feedback is collected and analyzed, your MVP development team will start working on the improvements.

Common mistakes to avoid

While the roadmap for each specific case of mobile app MVP development differs, the traps startups get into are rather common. Let’s look more closely at the aspects businesses tend to underestimate at the MVP development step.

Lack of focus

Features overload is the key reason MVP fails. And what exactly is meant by an MVP failure? Few people bought a subscription, the project was not profitable, and there were few conversions? Are these goals even applicable to an MVP development phase? Not quite.

Idea validation with minimum resources spent and at the shortest time possible is the main goal behind any MVP. Thus, it requires focusing on the app's core functionality that helps users to test the application and define if it helps to solve their problems and leave feedback on how the product can be further improved.

To make the decision on what to include in the MVP version, we advise creating a prioritization matrix that helps to filter out all the functionality you have in the lists in terms of the value they bring and the technical effort they require. Thus, features that bring the most value and are not that complicated to implement are the first to include in the MVP feature list. The functionality that brings value and is somewhat more technically complicated should be discussed. Do you have the time and resources for its implementation? The features on the lower part of the matrix can be postponed and planned for implementation for the next app version.

feature set for mobile app MVP

Not thinking long-term

When planning an MVP with our clients we include a number of questions that help us understand how stakeholders see further product development on a high level. This helps us make tech decisions that would benefit the project in the future.

For example, understanding the possible planned next steps after the MVP launch helps to make decisions in favor of native or cross-platform mobile app development. If long-term perspective is not taken into consideration, there can be mistakes in tech choices, and changing either a tech stack or app engineering logic always takes time and resources to fix.

Clearly, there will be pivots after the MVP launch, but they are more connected to adapting the functionality to serve the users better, introducing new features, and customizing the existing ones. These changes can be implemented fast if your tech team thinks a bit in advance within your business context. Check out how we approach tech stack architecture for MVP development at Wise Engineering.

Forgetting the analytics

In the previous blocks, we’ve discussed the main goal for creating an MVP – validating a business idea within limited timeframes and resources. Thus, to make the most of the minimum viable product, gathering the analytic data is vital.

With each of our clients, we always discuss if the data they receive from, for example, Apple and Google markets’ analytics is efficient or whether we need to configure other services that would help understand how users interact with the application better. For example, this may include app heatmaps and behavior funnels to monitor in-app behavior.

Along with qualitative data, it is important to collect qualitative information. For this, make sure the MVP app version includes in-app feedback widgets, subtle click-to-choose options integrated into the app interface. They help users share valuable feedback after they, for example, completed a series of actions.

Inefficient stakeholders’ involvement

If one believes that they can give their tech team a task and come back in two months checking the results, they are mistaken. From our experience, the more involved the CEO or founders are in the development process, the faster the product in the desired state is brought to the market.

We do not say you need to be there to clarify every slightest nuance. Of course, all the routine tasks would be taken care of by the project manager, but every now and then engineers should be able to discuss significant aspects, suggest optimizations, and clarify requirements. This can be done during weekly demos, for example.

At our company, we are very proud of the collaborative approach we’ve developed with our clients. Setting up an effective communication loop between all the counterparts is critical for us. Read more about how we adapted the new communication model in software development outsourcing.

Development team for mobile app MVP

Your dedicated team for the project might consist of a variety of specialists, all depending on what mobile application you are about to create. Typically the team includes:

  • Project manager to plan and coordinate the team's work.
  • Designer to create app prototypes and develop a brand visual identity.
  • If you opt for a native development approach: web engineer for API and back-end development (if it is required for the selected feature set) and iOS and Android developers.
  • If you select creating cross-platform, the work on one application will be shared between the front-end and back-end engineers.
  • Depending on the application, the DevOps engineer to set up the engineering environment for continuous integration and delivery.
  • QA engineer for mobile application testing.

Yet, this does not mean that you should hire a team of fifteen people to launch an MVP. In most of the cases at Wise Engineering, teams of 3 to 4 manage to deliver great results for our clients. For example, here’s how in a small team we created a cross-platform mobile app for contractors in the USA.

To calculate the mobile app development cost, multiple project aspects are taken into account. The chosen development approach (native or cross-platform), feature set complexity and design components are the key factors that influence the price. Thus, a simple app that serves one key function will cost less and, if planned correctly, will drive value with a rather small investment. More complex development, clearly, will require more resources. During the product discovery phase, we help our clients define functionality and approaches that would bring the most value and omit those engineering efforts that drive less tangible benefit.

Our team is open to new projects in the native mobile development or cross-platform development domains and would gladly provide you with tech and business consultations. Contact us to book a call with our business development team and start moving towards your goals with an experienced tech partner.

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