Whether you’re creating an app for five users or five million, starting your app as a Minimum Value Product (MVP) is a great way to maximize your chances of success. At Grio, we’ve created hundreds of MVPs for companies around the world, so we have wisdom to share. In this blog series, we have gathered all of our best practices and organized them into Grio’s ten essential steps for building a killer MVP.
In last week’s post, How to Build a Killer MVP, Step 5: Design Phase- Taking Your Product from Paper to Prototype, we examined how to create a seamless user experience and polished look for your MVP using user flows, wireframes, style guides, mockups, user testing, and interactive prototypes.
In this week’s blog post, we cover the sixth step for building a killer MVP: the Development Phase. The Development Phase is one of the most crucial in the MVP design process. Following the best practices below can help you avoid the most common pitfalls as you create your killer MVP.
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 five 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: Using user stories, architecture, and conceptual designs to create a robust MVP development plan.
- Step 5: Design Phase- Taking Your Product from Paper to Prototype: Maximizing your UI/UX to create a seamless user experience and polished look for your MVP.
Below, we introduce Step 6: Development Phase- Embracing Less Engineering and More Testing.
Best Practices for the Development Phase
The Design and Development Phases are closely aligned. Though Design usually begins slightly before Development, that’s not always the case. During the Development Phase, the actual software product is being built. It is not unusual for there to be several iterations of Design and Development before a product is released. Hence, these phases are closely interconnected.
The Development Phase is arguably the most crucial phase of your MVP project, and also the most fraught with potential errors. If you are not careful, this phase can get off schedule quickly. Below are some key recommendations to guide you as you develop your product and keep the project on track.
One thing that can kill an MVP is trying to anticipate and over-engineer for possible future needs. The MVP is the minimum product. There is no telling what direction the code base will need to go in until data on user behavior is collected and analyzed. By using less code in your MVP, you are ensuring that you have an app that is not overly complex and can be easily changed to best fit the needs of your users.
Foster a Cross-Functional Team
In a cross-functional team, developers take on multiple roles within the Development Phase. When building an MVP, having a cross-functional development team is a valuable asset.
For instance, most apps have web, cloud, and mobile components. If development team members can work on two or more of these platforms, it makes the team much more efficient and flexible and ensures that the final product is more cohesive.
Create a Solid Data Model
Having a solid data model for your app is of critical importance. The data model is how you structure and identify the information used by your app and its supporting systems.
For example, almost all apps have the concept of a user. This could be supported in the data model by a User entity, along with related entities for things such as a UserProfile, UserSettings, etc. You’ll also have domain-specific entities for your app that are critical for the app’s functionality.
Names and relationships are extremely important in a good data model. This will set the foundation for your project’s code and can make or break your development efforts.
Utilize a Source Control Management System
Source control is an essential component of the software development process. Source Control Management (SCM) systems allow you to track your code changes, see a revision history for your code, and revert to previous versions of a project when needed.
With SCM systems, you can collaborate on code with your team, isolate your work until it is ready, and quickly troubleshoot issues by identifying who made changes and what the changes were. SCM systems help streamline the development process and provide a centralized source for all your code.
Git is a very popular open-source SCM that is used by the majority of app developers today. Git allows you to create a copy of your repository, known as a branch. Using this branch, you can then work on your code independently from the stable version of your codebase. Once you are ready with your changes, you can store them as a set of differences, known as a commit. You can pull in commits from other contributors to your repository, push your commits to others, and merge your commits back into the main version of the repository.
Maximize Test Coverage
Your application’s test coverage is an analysis of how much of your code is being used during testing. By identifying areas of code not covered in your current test plan, you can create additional tests to maximize your coverage. This is important, as testing helps you ensure that your code is doing what is expected.
To maximize your test coverage, it is best to use both unit and integration tests to make sure your code is doing what is expected. Unit testing is a software process in which each individual part of the system is tested in isolation. Integration testing is an automated test that runs against software modules as a group, making sure they all work together correctly.
Maximizing test coverage may seem like unnecessary overhead at first, but in the long run, it will actually save time by identifying bugs in the system before they get to quality assurance (QA), or worse yet, in front of customers.
In our next blog, Step 7- Stabilization Phase, we go over your test plan in greater detail, and help you determine which tests are right for your use case.
Embrace the Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery Philosophy
Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) is a very useful tool when building an app. It can speed up the development process by automating the building, testing, and deployment of your application.
Continuous integration is a coding philosophy and set of practices that encourage development teams to frequently implement small code changes and check them into a version control repository. Most modern applications require you to develop code using a variety of platforms and tools, so teams need a consistent mechanism for integrating and validating changes. Continuous integration establishes an automated way to build, package, and test your applications. Having a consistent integration process encourages you to commit code changes more frequently, which leads to better collaboration and code quality.
Continuous delivery picks up where continuous integration ends. It automates application delivery to selected environments, including production, development, and testing environments. Continuous delivery is an automated way to push code changes to these environments.
Integrate an Analytics Engine
Integrating an analytics engine into your app during this phase is critical. An analytics engine, such as Google Analytics or Mixpanel, captures data about your users and their actions as they move through your application.
When integrating your analytics engine, creating events for all possible user interactions allows you to analyze the general flow of users and understand how they are using your app. This information will help you further iterate on your app’s design and ensure you are making the best product possible.
Building a Killer MVP: Next Steps
Once your MVP development is well underway, learn how Step 7 will further strengthen your MVP in our next blog post, How to Build a Killer MVP, Step 7: Stabilization Phase- “Breaking” Your App so Your Users Don’t.
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