How to Build a Killer MVP, Step 2: User Discovery- Letting User Needs Inspire Epics


How to Build a Killer MVP, Step 2: User Discovery- Letting User Needs Inspire Epics

Over the last 15 years, Grio has collaborated with companies of all sizes to create hundreds of exceptional software solutions. Though there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to building an app, we’ve discovered that starting your journey with your Minimum Value Product (MVP) is a great way to set yourself up for long-term success. In this blog series, we are taking our hard-won wisdom and sharing Grio’s ten essential steps for building a killer MVP.

In last week’s post, Grio’s How to Build a Killer MVP, Step 1: Agile Development Methods and Divergent/Convergent Thinking, we explored how using Agile development methods, as well as divergent and convergent thinking, can help your team find and prioritize the best ideas for your MVP. 

In this week’s blog post, we cover the second step for building a killer MVP: User Discovery. We discuss how building epics by successfully identifying your users and their needs will help you create a viable, successful MVP. 

Series Recap

An MVP, or minimal viable product, is essentially the 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 an MVP and why it’s essential to the success of your app in our first post, Grio’s How to Build a Killer MVP: Introduction.

In Grio’s How to Build a Killer MVP, Step 1, we showed the importance of beginning every MVP development with Agile development methodology, as well as divergent and convergent thinking. Below, we introduce the phases of MVP development and the importance of the User Discovery Phase.

Overlapping Phases

Building an MVP can be broken down into several phases: Discovery, Design, Development, Stabilization, and Release. Each phase emphasizes the key focus for product development at that time. However, these phases are not mutually exclusive, and they often run concurrently over the course of the project. For example, product design will likely continue beyond the Design Phase, well into Development. Product managers, designers, and developers all have roles to play through the entire MVP build.

Below is a chart of how these phases might overlap in a project:

Chart illustrating the overlapping phases of building an MVP - Discovery, Planning, Design, Development, Stabilization, and Launch
The overlapping phases of building an MVP app, from Discovery to Launch

Goals of the Discovery Phase

The Discovery Phase occurs before both Development and Design. During User Discovery, you gather information about your users, as well as their goals and technology preferences.

Identify Your Users

One of the first steps in creating an MVP is to identify who it is for. Most apps or systems will engage several types of users (sometimes referred to as “user roles”).

For example, if you build a social media app for vloggers, you will likely have a number of user roles, including users who post, read, or moderate content. You may also have users for customer support and system administration.

These user roles can, and often do, overlap, so user identification can be difficult. However, identifying the various user roles is important because it allows you to identify their needs and, by extension, successfully define their desired features for your MVP.

Identify User Needs

Before you spend a lot of time, effort, and money developing software, User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) design methodologies, such as user research and testing, can help qualify whether your MVP is going to be useful or successful.

To create a killer MVP, you’ll need to clearly understand the user’s goals and motivations. While goals are a “what,” you want to make sure that you understand the “why” behind the goals as well. Having a true understanding of your users and their goals is essential if you want to meet their needs in a meaningful way.

Going back to our vlogger social media app example, say a user wants to edit a video that they are going to post. Perhaps there is a part of the video that they don’t want to share, or they want to add background music to make the video more interesting. Understanding these aspects of the users’ goals will guide you in the design and development of the features that serve your user’s needs.

Create Epics

The first step in organizing your user-need-driven features is to create epics.

Creating Epics to better organize an MVP's user-need-driven features
Organize your MVP’s user-need-driven features into Epics

In Agile development, an Epic is a large body of work that is too big to be completed in a single sprint or iteration. It is a high-level user story that captures a significant piece of functionality or a business requirement. An Epic can be broken down into smaller user stories or features, which can then be further divided into tasks and worked on in sprints.

Epics are typically used to help prioritize and manage the work that needs to be done in an Agile project. They are often used to organize and communicate about projects with many moving parts. Epics provide a shared understanding of the overall project goals and requirements.

For example, in our vlogger social media app example, an epic could be, “As a vlogger, I can edit my videos.” This epic will later be fleshed out into a number of smaller, more detailed and actionable user stories, which can further be broken down into tasks.

User Research Basics

User research focuses on user behaviors, needs, and motivations through the use of observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies. The types of user research you can or should perform will depend on the type of site, system, or app you are developing, your timeline, and your environment.

Two of the most common and valuable user research methods are:

  • The Creation of User Personas: User personas are archetypical users whose goals and characteristics represent the needs of a larger group of users, often derived from available data and user interviews. Though the personal details of the personas may be fiction, the information used to create the user type is not. Personas help to better understand users and their goals and increase empathy for the end user.
  • The Use of UX Surveys and Interviews: UX surveys and in-person interviews are effective ways to gather both quantitative and qualitative data about your users’ interactions and experiences within your app or software. Recruiting test subjects can sometimes be a challenge depending on the product, and it can be difficult to design questions that enable you to acquire truthful, unbiased results. However, a combination of quantitative and qualitative questions can be exceptionally useful in identifying how to shape your product to be the best it can be for your users.

Building a Killer MVP: Next Steps

Once you’ve created epics during your User Discovery Phase, it’s time to check out our next post, Grio’s How to Build a Killer MVP, Step 3: Market Discovery- Using Market Analysis to Gain Leverage Over the Competition.

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: 

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