Launching your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is one of the most important stages in your app’s journey. It’s the first chance you’ll get to test your features with real users, and it’ll be the foundation from which your product will continue to evolve.

Because of that, it’s vital to get things right now so you don’t have to spend time and money fixing them later. To ensure your app makes the best first impression on potential customers, here are five common mistakes to watch for when building your MVP.

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Building a prototype instead of an MVP

It's easy to get MVPs and prototypes mixed up, but they are very different stages on your app journey. A prototype is a rough-and-ready idea of what your app and user flows will look like. It'll have basic versions of all your core functionality, but the UX will be stripped back, and it's really just an internal tool to prove that the tech works before committing too much funding.

On the other hand, your MVP is a complete product that's ready to go out to app stores and real customers. What makes it minimal is that there will only be a few key features rather than the entire set, but those will all be fully polished.

There's a reason development firms recommend building an MVP rather than a prototype. Polish is crucial to learning how your users engage with your app. Without it, all a prototype can prove is that you can build an app that works—but not a fully-fledged product people love to use.

Trying to squeeze more features into your budget

Vision is one of a startup founder's greatest strengths. It's all too easy to get lost in the details of making an app, but founders keep looking forward and seeing everything the product can be.

That said, when the development team is busy bolting together the MVP, founders often start thinking about what features will make the next iteration. And when those founders get excited about something further down the feature roadmap, they sometimes want to bring it forward.

But a minimum viable product is minimal for a reason. Squeezing too many features into a budget designed for something much smaller will always end in an awful user experience. Guaranteed. Even if you find a spare £10k left over, investing that in polishing three core features is better than trying to tack on a fourth.

Not setting a clear North Star

You can only prove your concept if you have something to measure it by. That's why any MVP needs a good North Star Metric (NSM)—a single KPI that defines success as you progress from idea to app.

Founders often set too many KPIs that spin everyone's focus off in different directions, or they put one metric, but it's too vague. But the North Star Metric is named after the North Star because it gives a single, bright point to focus on that maps out your product development process.

Your North Star might be to have £100k in revenue travelling through your platform by January 1st, or to have a certain number of signups within six months of launch. Whatever it is, investing the time to figure your North Star out will give your product team clarity and drive – and it'll up your chances of success.

Trying to build everything behind the scenes

There's more to reining in an MVP than just offering minimal features. It can also mean using some smoke and mirrors behind the scenes to make your app look and feel to customers like a slick automated experience without plunging all your resources into it just yet.

The trick is to look for any opportunity to replace an automated process with someone operating the strings instead. 

For instance, we were speaking with a company recently who are looking to provide automated GDPR auditing. Eventually, that auditing is going to be powered by artificial intelligence, but while it's in MVP-form, it's actually powered by human intelligence. It's still a valid MVP since the end users get the same experience and value; it's just that the company has to do a lot more work behind the scenes.

Obviously, that much manual input isn't scalable, but they're not at the scaling stage yet. It doesn't actually matter if the manual inefficiencies mean the company makes a loss for the time being. The goal isn't to generate profit just yet, and it's to quickly prove the assumption that people will pay for automated GDPR auditing. Once they've proven the theory, they can make the real deal – and new investors can foot the bill. 

Skipping UX design

The core functionality of your app is obviously important. However, what sets successful startups apart is the user experiences that those features create.

Take a product like Deliveroo, for example. They didn't invent the concept of ordering takeaway food to your house, but they did combine it with the ease of doing it all from a slick UI that allowed users to see exactly where their pizza was and when it would arrive. UX had a massive impact on success. And it'll be the same for you, no matter what you're trying to do tech-wise. 

Pricing experts at ProfitWell say that good design increases a user's willingness to pay by 20%. So if you're skimping on design, you can't expect your MVP to validate your pricing strategy properly.

In short, UX is not some low-priority feature that you can leave out of your MVP and work on later. Nope. It's a crucial element that will determine whether actual customers will pay for your app or not.

It's your minimum loveable product

An MVP shouldn't be determined primarily by your budget or time – your users should determine it. It's less of a minimum viable product and more of a minimum loveable product. 

If you invest time uncovering what your users are looking for – automated auditing, a better idea of when their pizza will arrive, or just a faster version of something they already have – you'll be able to forget the frills and instead focus on what your users will want and need.

Bottom line: an MVP is like a science experiment. You've come up with a hypothesis about what kind your target users want, and you're getting something to market as fast as possible to test those product assumptions. But if you skip UX design, build a prototype, or prioritise features over polish, you'll only get a fraction of the desired results.

If you're looking to launch your app project, contact us to learn how we can help.
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