We’ve been working with early-stage startups on MVP development since 2011. It would be pretentious and wrong to say that, after ten years, we now know everything about launching successful apps. But, we’ve certainly seen patterns emerging between the startups who will have a smooth launch and the ones that will have a stressful one.
Today I wanted to compile a few top tips we’ve gathered over the years to help take startup founders from idea, to launch and beyond, as smoothly as possible.
Before the build
Arguably, the most critical work you will do on your first app happens before the build. Like most things involved in building a business, there’s a balancing act involved. The devil is in the detail, but so is the success of your app. If you get lost in the minutiae, you risk seriously stifling your startup journey.
Before building any business, your tasks are to:
- Gain a clear understanding of the problem you’re aiming to solve.
- Have a clear understanding of the people you’re selling your solution to.
- Have a clear understanding of how you will reach your first 100 customers.
So, how do you get that clarity without spending years on market research?
The first step is to forget about your app and your solution altogether. From now on, only concentrate on your future users. Concentrate on their needs, their problem, how are they currently solving it, how severely it disrupts their day-to-day life, who they are, and how you will reach them etc.
A good exercise to start with is conducting interviews with 5-10 people. Ideally, these will be people you don’t know. Get them to speak about the problem that you’re interested in solving. Refrain (at first) from talking about your future app or your solution and how great it will be – concentrate on digging deep into how they’re currently encountering and solving the issue.
Well-planned sessions with a handful of people can provide you with enough data to get a clear idea of the product needed and how you will reach the same type of people later on.
Check out our free downloadable guide: From Idea to MVP.
During the build
The build phase is the critical point in walking the tightrope of startup MVP development, and throwing the balance here can be disastrous. When you see those first iterations of your app, it gets exciting! Wireframes and designs are one thing, but here you can start actually interacting with your product on a screen.
The resulting temptation is to add, add, add – more, more, more. Add that one extra feature here, or that additional option/function there in the hopes of attracting a few more people.
But most of the time, we will recommend that you hold off for just a little while. Building something simple, and growing it in line with your customers’ demands puts you in a much stronger position than rushing into adding extra features that you’ve second-guessed your users will want.
During the build, you have three main goals again:
- Concentrate on the core problem you are solving.
- Avoid reacting too soon by adding features, changing designs etc.
- Focus on building something small, lean and accessible that you can use as a solid base for growth.
In the developers’ world, there is a saying: “premature optimisation is the root of all evil.” While we say this about codebases, it applies equally to your mindset when building a new product.
Of course, this isn’t a free pass to release an app into the world that is full of bugs or half-finished – you want it to be user-friendly. You will have to find that balance between getting things done and doing too much.
Launch day & beyond
So you’ve done your research, built your product and you’re ready to release it into the world. The excitement has ramped up even further here but, I’m sorry to tell you, most launch days are incredibly anti-climatic.
You’ve been dreaming of that day since you started thinking about your new app or business. You’ve spoken to people and learned from them; you got the app designed and built. Now, your finger is hovering over that button – once pressed your app will be available for everyone to use for the first time.
If you’ve started your marketing early enough, you will have a launch list of people to announce it to or some form of an audience to update. If you haven’t, then now your sales work to start.
Either way, you will need to work continually to ensure you understand your customers. If someone is signing up to your product, they can provide you with valuable insights. Contact them, thank them and ask them if they’d be up for having a chat.
It will be tempting to contact only the ones that are converting, the ones that have paid to use your product, but, it’s just as important to gather feedback from those who haven’t. Perhaps even more so! Are there users that signed up for your free trial but didn’t continue to a paid plan?
There are the real gems of knowledge you can find here that will guide your future strategy and set you up successful growth.
Last few words
Multiple factors contribute to the success of startup MVP development. It’s about finding that balance while walking the tightrope, while you’re also juggling fire and swallowing swords at the same time! There are lots of chances for things to go wrong – and the fact of the matter is some things probably will.
However, starting with a solid understanding of your end-user and keeping things small, lean, and under control will mitigate those risks as much as possible. It gives you the ability to react and rectify quickly if something is not going in the right direction, without one issue having a snowball effect on the whole project.
Found this useful? Check out our free guide: From Idea to MVP.