Start basic, then build.
When creating a software product or mobile app, it is important to avoid a common risk – which is building more than you need to. It’s tempting to include all of the bells and whistles that you can think of, but this is never the right approach. When first developing a technology product, it’s advisable to start with a minimal viable product, or MVP. This is is a bare bones version of the key functionalities you envision.
What is an MVP? An MVP is a basic, working version of your product, which can be built fairly quickly and at less expense. You can push your MVP out to customers to validate your idea, and gather critical feedback from actual users. Think of it like the foundation of a new house: you need to first build a sturdy foundation before putting the rest of the house up. Building an MVP is similar. Start with the key elements of the software that you want, and build on top of that. Once you’ve been able to get validation from actual users, you can then tweak and continue to build more.
This is a simple overview of an MVP – for more specifics check out this article.
There are two primary reasons to first build an MVP: validating your product idea and mitigating financial risk.
Validating your product idea
It’s exciting when you come up with a great idea for a software or mobile app. This is a good sign! However, the most important thing when building a product is making something that your prospective users want or need. It’s great that you are passionate about your idea, and have a clear vision for many features. That said, many entrepreneurs make the mistake of building every feature they can think of right away. Oftentimes they do this without first checking with actual potential users – who may not actually want them. The result is often that the software build becomes very expensive and takes a long time. On top of that, once done, you may find that your intended users don’t actually want or need many of the features.
This is one of the most common traps that first-time entrepreneurs fall into. I sure did – which is why I’m sharing my mistake with you! It’s advisable to first get something basic to potential users to make sure they like the direction you are going. You can then get feedback from them, and even new ideas that you may not have thought of.
This is a great reason to build an MVP. You can get something ready fairly quickly that looks good and works. Next you can bring it to users to get their validation of the idea, as well as feedback. Once you’ve built an MVP and gotten user feedback, you may find that users’ opinions or priorities are a bit different than you may have assumed – this is a good thing. The result is that you can take this feedback and continue to build features based on what you have some confidence that users will actually want and relate to. The result is a better trajectory for your product.
You may find that most, if not all of your assumptions were right – but you may also find that they weren’t. The great thing about building an MVP is that you can, at low risk, validate assumptions and learn more, which in turn gives you a great road map to future development.
Mitigating financial risk
Building software or mobile apps can quickly become expensive. It’s easy to lose control of a project budget, particularly if you’ve never managed a software project before.
Going back to the analogy of building a house, once you’ve laid the foundation, it’s hard to change it. For example, if you built a floor plan with five rooms, something that may seem small, like adding one more room, could actually require tearing down the entire foundation and starting again. Software development works in a similar way. Seemingly small changes can actually require a tremendous amount of effort to rebuild the overall structure. For example, if your software design calls for having user profiles, but you don’t initially plan to be able to delete those profiles, adding this feature after you’ve started building can actually be quite a lot of work.
The blueprint of your software project is what we call the requirements. The requirements are a detailed overview of all features and functions, and how they interact with one another. If you want to dive more into technical details of requirements, check out this post. It’s important to understand the requirements, think it through, and stick with it as much as possible. If things start changing, you can find that time and cost goes up very quickly.
Building an MVP helps you start with limited risk, and then build. The result is that your initial expenditure won’t break the bank. If you enter a project without an MVP, you’ll be amazed by how fast budgets and timelines go out the window.
How YourCTO can help
It’s important to do your homework and vet developers as much as possible. You can find some other good articles that go into more detail here, here, and here. The sad truth is that some companies will take advantage of first-time or non-technical entrepreneurs. One tip – if a potential developer doesn’t recommend cutting some things, keep an eye out. They may be trying to encourage you to build more than you need. After all, the more work, the more billable hours.
YourCTO never does this. We want to help you understand the process of building an MVP. We always offer advice in terms of what we think the best way to approach a project is. This is why we provide the YourCTO Guarantee. We’ll never try to expand the scope of your project for our benefit, and we’ll never surprise you with hidden fees or bills for additional work. We want to be your technology partner. That means we care about your idea, and want to help you realize it in the most affordable, and dependable way.
Contact us today if you’d like to discuss how we can help build your MVP.