At Grio, our 15 years of experience have shown us that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to building an app. However, after creating hundreds of apps for companies of all sizes, we believe that you can set yourself up for success by starting with a Minimum Value Product (MVP). In the sixth post of our eleven-post blog series, we are continuing to share our essential steps for building a killer MVP.
In last week’s post, How to Build a Killer MVP App, Step 4: Planning Phase- Creating a Plan to Successfully Navigate Your Project Milestones, we discussed strategies and best practices for creating an MVP design plan and explored the various components of MVP plans, including user stories, architecture, and conceptual designs.
In this week’s blog post, we cover the fifth step for building a killer MVP: the Design Phase. We discuss strategies for creating a seamless user experience and polished look for your MVP using user flows, wireframes, style guides, mockups, user testing, and interactive prototypes.
An MVP, or minimal viable product, is a bare-bones version of your app. MVPs allow you to save time and money on development while testing the viability of your product, engaging investors and stakeholders, and going to market sooner. You can read all about the benefits of MVPs in our first post, How to Build a Killer MVP: Introduction.
In our previous posts, we have also covered the first two steps to building a killer MVP:
- Step 1: Agile Development Methods and Divergent/Convergent Thinking: Using Agile development methods and divergent and convergent thinking can help your team find and prioritize the best ideas for your MVP.
- Step 2: User Discovery- Letting User Needs Inspire Epics: Building epics based on users and their needs will help you create a viable, successful MVP.
- Step 3: Market Discovery Phase- Using Market Analysis to Gain Leverage Over the Competition: Conducting market analysis to identify the primary market and discover what sets your app apart from the competition.
- Step 4: Planning Phase- Creating a Plan to Successfully Navigate Your Project Milestones: Creating comprehensive MVP development plans by utilizing user stories, architecture, and conceptual designs.
Below, we introduce Step 5: Design Phase- Taking Your Product from Paper to Prototype
The Design Phase
Assuming positive outcomes from the Discovery Phase, you should have enough information to get started on the UI/UX and visual design of the application. Here you will define key user interactions and user experiences in detail. These designs will guide the application development process.
The purpose of an app’s design is twofold: delivering seamless user experiences and a polished look. A polished UI design will help with early adoption, while intuitive user experiences will keep users engaged.
The reality is that no matter how well you address your user’s needs, if your product is difficult to use or understand, it may impede consideration and adoption by the market. Therefore, not only does your product need to address your target users’ problems, it needs to do so with elegance and simplicity. Hence the goal of UI/UX design is to create excellent user experiences by making your app interactive, intuitive, user-friendly, and visually appealing.
The Design Phase includes several steps, all of which build on each other and help to bring your product to life. They include:
Once you’ve completed the preparatory stages of creating an MVP, it’s time to outline the user flow, or the steps your customers will take in your app when they need to accomplish a task. If we imagine your product as a city, then the user flow represents the roads that lead users to the desired destination. To outline the user flow, you need to build a user flow diagram. This diagram will help you to:
- Identify potential problems with your app and how you might improve them
- See the whole picture of the user flow: what attracts customers to your app, what they do while using it, and what they do after leaving
- Compare your customers’ needs with your app’s features
- Guide users through your app and encourage them to take specific actions
- Figure out where you can most effectively put your lead magnet or call to action (CTA)
Designers often start app design with sketches on paper. Wireframes, or low-fidelity mockups, are the digital form of these sketches. They are conceptual layouts that give visual structure to your app’s functional requirements. Creating wireframes is a quick and cost-effective approach to app design where the focus is on aesthetics and user experience, rather than color schemes and styles.
When creating wireframes, it’s important to integrate device-specific UI design. Regardless of what device your users are on, your want to ensure that they’ll have equally elegant and intuitive experiences.
Contributing to your app’s design strategy, and in line with your overarching brand guidelines, your app’s style guide documents its design standards, including color scheme, typefaces, and graphics.
Establishing a style guide early on will improve the productivity of your developers and help ensure consistency across your app’s look and feel.
Mockups, or high-fidelity designs, are the final renderings of your app’s visual design, and are created by applying your style guide to your wireframes. Figma, Invision, and Adobe XD are popular tools for creating high-fidelity mockups that will help make collaboration across your design and engineering teams seamless.
Keep in mind that as your app’s design begins to finalize, further modifications to its information architecture, workflow, and aesthetics will likely occur.
The goal of user testing is to hone in on a product design that truly helps users’ lives. By quickly figuring out what is working and weeding out what is not, you can empower users and save time and money.
There are a variety of tools and techniques for testing, including paper and online prototyping, eye tracking, first-click testing, interviewing, and more. You’ll need to identify the testing techniques best suited for your project. To complete your user tests, you will need to come up with a list of hypotheses, generate a test plan, and then determine how to roll it out.
After user testing, you must synthesize all the information gathered and use that to create a prototype that can be used to validate your hypotheses with potential users.
While mockups display your app’s functionality using static designs, creating an interactive prototype is invaluable. An interactive prototype simulates the user experience and demonstrates how the app will work as the finished product. Key benefits of an interactive prototype include:
- Utilizing it for the early-stage testing of your app’s design and functionality to validate your design concepts (or not) before investing in the resources for a developer to build it
- Working out design kinks early on to avoid too much reworking of features once they go to the development team
- Identifying modifications to the app’s proposed functionality, thereby saving time and money over the course of development
- Bridging the gap between conception and realization for the development team, while helping your future customers, stakeholders, or potential investors understand and appreciate your new product
Building a Killer MVP: Next Steps
The Design and Development phases tend to go hand in hand. Learn about the Development Phase in our next blog post, How to Build a Killer MVP, Step 6: Development Phase- Embracing Less Engineering and More Testing.
Let’s discuss how we can transform your brilliant idea into a killer app.
Book a free MVP consultation with one of our industry experts today.
Learn more about Grio’s end-to-end app design and delivery plan, the MVP Blueprint.
If you missed other posts in this series, check out:
- How to Build a Killer MVP: Introduction
- How to Build a Killer MVP App, Step 1: Agile Development Methods and Divergent/Convergent Thinking
- How to Build a Killer MVP App, Step 2: User Discovery – Letting User Needs Inspire Epics
- How to Build a Killer MVP App, Step 3: Market Discovery – Using Market Analysis to Gain Leverage Over the Competition
- How to Build a Killer MVP App, Step 4: Planning Phase- Creating a Plan to Successfully Navigate Your Project Milestones
- How to Build a Killer MVP App, Step 5: Design Phase- Taking Your Product from Paper to Prototype
- How to Build a Killer MVP App, Step 6: Development Phase- Embracing Less Engineering and More Testing
- How to Build a Killer MVP App, Step 7: “Breaking” Your App So Your Users Don’t
- How to Build a Killer MVP App, Step 8: Release Phase- Making Sure You Practice Before Your Public Performance
- How to Build a Killer MVP App, Step 9: Measure Phase- Determining Your MVP’s Success Using Key Performance Metrics
- How to Build a Killer MVP App, Step 10: Maintain and Enhance Phase- Valuing the Cycle of Continuous Improvement Throughout Your App’s Lifetime