Prototyping, MVP, and Iteration

18.09.2017 |

Episode #8 of the course Bringing your app idea to life by Kara Ntumy


Hi again! If you’ve made it to this point (in terms of actual app development, not the course), then you are much further than many who start out on this journey. By now, if you’ve been developing for a few weeks, you may be seeing your app finally come to life in the form of a prototype (hooray!), and as expected, you are filled with pride, satisfaction, and hopefully, a new motivation to keep going. This is where things get exciting! Today, I will introduce you to the concepts of iterations and MVP, or minimum viable product.


What Is an MVP?

Wikipedia defines an MVP as a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and to provide feedback for future development. I like this definition because it distinguishes an MVP from a prototype, terms many people tend to use interchangeably. Although the first version of your app that you can use is a prototype, it is still not a good idea to put this in front of testers. It’s a better idea to first refine the product in terms of design and features, so early users are given just enough to satisfy them—and in turn, provide you with some feedback.

This is where the iteration comes in: Based on the user feedback (and actionable analytics metrics) you’re gathering, you are learning more about what works for users and improving the app with each iteration you build. This is referred to as the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop, a technique that is core to creating apps in a lean way.


Producing an Outstanding MVP

There are a number of things you might want to keep in mind and work on improving in order to deliver a great MVP, and I’ve split these into three categories: design, functionality, and visibility.

It is absolutely key that your MVP is beautiful (and free) if you want to wow users. Delivering a badly designed app will surely not attract or retain users for a long time, and the same goes for usability. The design (or user experience) of your app must be simple and intuitive throughout, from when a user launches it for the first time (a process called onboarding), to when they make an in-app purchase. Users should be able to easily complete tasks, so it’s imperative that the app is designed for short, quick uses that are a delight to the user.

In the area of functionality, do your best to watch out for feature overload. For example, imagine we were building an MVP for Motimate, and we were aiming to have all the functionality seen in other workout apps in our app from the beginning! This would only result in complicating the app. It’s always best to start with as few features as possible—just enough to test your app’s core concept or functionality—and then build onto these as you start learning from your users. Another thing that greatly improves the quality of your MVP to ensure it is easily shareable—think promo codes, multiple options and rewards for adding friends, and content sharing to social media networks—to increase its chances for virality.

The final aspect, visibility, is about increasing the chances for people to find your app. You should have a well-designed website presenting some app screens, along with its main features—and its download links. Also, it pays to invest in enhancing your in-app Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but this can come after your beta test phase, the subject of tomorrow’s lesson.


Recommended reading

The Four Best Mobile User Onboarding Flows We’ve Seen So Far


Recommended book

UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products That People Want by Jaime Levy


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