7 mistakes to avoid while building an MVP for your mobile app

11 min read
August 17, 2022

Are you attempting to build a minimum viable product (MVP) for your app?

You probably already know that it isn’t as easy as one would think it would be.

It’s likely you’ve even made some mistakes along the way yourself.

Well, you should realize that it’s all part of the process. Building an MVP is hard—it requires making difficult decisions and dealing with time and budget constraints.

But you can make the process smoother if you know these seven common MVP development mistakes and do your best to avoid them.

Lack of market research

Not doing enough market research is perhaps the gravest MVP mistake developers can make, and yet it’s surprisingly common.

Remember, your app exists to solve a problem in a particular market. How can you determine that if you didn’t ask your target audience?

And assumptions aren’t always reliable. In fact, they’re wrong most of the time.

The video streaming app Quibi illustrates this nicely.

Quibi had a lot going for it—$2 billion in funding, a management team headed by former Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, and the support of Hollywood stars.

But despite the huge advantages, the app failed spectacularly just six months after its launch.

Quibi app failed just six months after its launch

Source: CNBC

And the biggest reason it failed is that its core idea (Netflix but for short videos) wasn’t compelling enough.

Its $4.99/month price tag also competed against established players like Tiktok and YouTube—all of which were free.

The thing is, the founders of Quibi acted on instinct alone, which proved to be wrong.

More thorough market research could’ve helped them develop a more refined app idea fitting the current market.

The same applies to MVPs. You need to know first with whom you’re testing your MVP. That will help avoid wasting time and money developing an app that users don’t actually want or need.

Take the time to understand your target audience through surveys, one-on-one interviews, and focus group discussions. Your goal is to uncover their demographic and psychographic factors.

Demographics vs psychographics 1

Source: CB Insights

A rich dataset allows you to determine the user’s needs, wants, pain points, and frustrations. These insights will help you develop an app that will align with them as much as possible.

It’s worthwhile to compile all of these data points into a user persona. This is a representation of your ideal user that you can easily refer to.

For example, if you’re developing an app for parents, your user persona might look like this:

A parent user persona template available to customize in Visme

Source: Visme

Of course, user research is just the beginning. You also need to look into your competitors, market size, and the emerging trends in your niche.

The bottom line is to never skimp on market research. It’ll pay dividends later.

Lack of prototyping

Many developers make the mistake of thinking that an MVP is the same as a prototype.

In reality, they’re two different things. In fact, building a prototype should come before the MVP.

Here’s what your workflow should look like:

The Three Steps to Product Market Fit PoC vs Prototype vs MVP 1

Source: Net Solutions

See, while both prototypes and MVPs are used as proofs of concept, their intended audiences differ.

A prototype is mostly an internal validation tool. It’s an interactive mockup of your app that helps people visualize how it will eventually look and feel.

The primary goal of a prototype is to gather usability and functionality feedback from stakeholders, such as the development team and clients.

In some cases, you can also gather feedback from target users through a usability test.

At most, however, a prototype only simulates an app’s functionality. Therefore, it’s not as well-developed as an MVP.

In contrast, an MVP is an external validation tool. It might be a limited version of your app, but it’s complete enough for a public launch.

That means any functionality should be the actual thing working and not just a simulation.

Skipping prototyping, even in the MVP stage, can be detrimental because you miss out on these benefits:

Benefits to design mobile app prototype

Source: Aglowid Solutions

For one, prototyping will help you spot usability problems early on.

It ensures that your users focus only on deeper insights that have a bigger impact on your app instead of superficial issues that are easy to fix. It will also help you save money.

Prototyping might seem like a time-consuming step. But it’s vital to achieve a polished MVP at a lower cost.

Inefficient monetization strategy

One overlooked but critical mistake is failing to consider monetization in the MVP stage. On the contrary, it’s the perfect time to do it.

See, while an MVP costs less than a full app, there’s still money involved. And it can be quite substantial:

Front end part of MVPs estimated in hours

Source: Stormotion

Thus, it would be wise to consider how to recover these expenses if the MVP succeeds. And you do that through monetization.

However, the problem with monetization is that it can easily alienate your users, especially if you start with a free app.

For example, take Twitter Super Follows. It’s a paid subscription service that enables high-profile Twitter accounts to charge their followers a monthly fee.

The idea is that paying for unique or premium content can help compensate creators.

Lifewire screenshot

Source: Lifewire

As expected, it received backlash from Twitter users.

While the idea isn’t new (Patreon has a similar model), the main reason for the negative reaction is that Twitter is charging for a feature that people have been using for free for years.

You can avoid these problems by implementing monetization in your MVP. It allows you to test various payment models with minimal risk since fewer people are using your app.

You can even get their feedback on it.

App monetization strategies

Source: The Manifest

If you feel uncomfortable charging users that early, you can at least ease them into the idea that they’ll be paying later on.

Doing this gradually is a great way to transition them into paid users while maintaining a good relationship.

The bottom line is that app monetization is one of the trickiest aspects of creating an app to get right. Thus, it’s best to iron it out as early as possible.

Unproductive development team

The quality of your MVP is only as good as the people behind it. Thus, getting the best development team for the job is wise.

A critical mistake many businesses make is to hire the cheapest developers they can find.

The line of thought here is that an MVP is only a limited version of your app, so even a mediocre team can do it.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When you treat your MVP as the foundation of your app, it suddenly makes sense to get only qualified developers to create it.

However, it can also be detrimental to go the opposite route and overhire. Getting a full-service team might make MVP development unnecessarily expensive and lengthy.

A good solution is to hire a dedicated team like DECODE.

A dedicated software team is an outsourced group that functions just like an in house development team except that they are a third party service provider screenshot 1

Source: Altamira

A dedicated team is a remote group of app developers and designers that functions like an in-house team.

The only difference is that they’re essentially a third-party service provider, which means you don’t need to pay hiring costs like benefits and insurance.

The biggest advantage of a dedicated team is that they’re formed specifically for a project. That means you’ll always get the relevant skills and expertise for your MVP development.

For instance, when you work with DECODE, we pull from a pool of 70+ experts and form a team based on your requirements.

This cross-functionality is crucial for developing apps in niches that require subject matter experts, like health and fintech.

Functional and cross functional team

Source: Cleveroad

Dedicated teams are also scalable. For instance, your DECODE team can be minimal when developing your MVP, then scale up once you get to full production.

Thus, you don’t need to pay for staff that you don’t need.

But regardless of whether you choose a dedicated or in-house team, you should always do your research.

Make sure they have the characteristics you need to succeed—professionalism, open communication, and an alignment of values.

Security negligence

Developers trying to rush an MVP often neglect security. Unfortunately, doing this will put your users at risk.

An MVP shouldn’t only be functional, but also usable and reliable:

benefits of minimum viable products

Source: Net Solutions

Privacy and security should always be your top priority because neglecting them will kill your MVP and possibly your company.

Data breaches are serious incidents that could land you in serious legal and financial trouble.

For example, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can fine a company up to €10 million for violating data privacy regulations.

And you don’t even need to be an EU company—having EU users is enough to make you subject to GDPR.

Cybersecurity might be challenging and time-consuming, but it’s essential for any MVP. At the minimum, you should relieve users of these common concerns:

top cybersecurity concerns

Source: Norton

Fortunately, there are many technologies available that can beef up your MVP’s security and privacy.

The use of multiple authentication protocols like passwords, biometrics, and multi-factor authentication (MFA) is common.

Strong encryption like PGP and AES are key for MVPs dealing with sensitive data like credit cards and personal information.

And if your MVP entails online payments, you’ll need PSD2 compliance (which DECODE is experienced at).

Feature overload

Cramming an MVP with too many features is a cardinal mistake.

If you do this, it will take more time and resources to build your MVP. It will also lose focus, and you could get inaccurate user feedback.

The key is to focus only on the core features in your MVP. These are the minimum features that will help the MVP serve its purpose—nothing more, nothing less.

No doubt, this can be challenging. You’ll probably have a long list of features when you’re brainstorming, and all of them would seem like core features.

To find out which ones are truly essential, you can use the MoSCoW matrix:

MoSCoW matrix 1

Source: DECODE

The MoSCoW matrix (which stands for must-have, should-have, could-have, and will-not-have) helps you prioritize features based on their impact, effort, and risk.

In general, features that have a high impact (meaning they provide much value to users) and low effort and risk are must-haves—they must be included in your MVP.

Features with a high impact but take too much effort or risk are should-haves. They can be implemented in the final app version instead.

The same is true for could-haves, low-value features that are easy or risk-free to develop.

Everything else falls under will-not-haves. They shouldn’t be included in your app.

However, you shouldn’t trim too many features to the point that the MVP becomes unusable. An MVP needs a balance between minimum features and providing value.

The illustration below, while funny, perfectly encapsulates this point nicely:

An MVP needs a balance between minimum features and providing value

Source: Third Rock Techkno

In other words, you could give your customers a simplified car, but it should still be able to move and drive like any normal vehicle.

You should treat your MVP the same way.

Excessive feedback implementation

Feedback is necessary for creating a quality app. In fact, gathering it is the whole point of making MVPs.

However, it’s a mistake to take every piece of feedback you get into consideration.

For one, not all feedback is beneficial—some of it will do more harm than good.

Unfortunately, following both useful and detrimental feedback would pull your development in different directions.

Even if every piece of feedback you get is constructive, it’s often impossible to implement all of it. It will take too much time and effort, delaying your app launch.

Understandably, this can be hard to do. It’s human nature to want to please everyone. But this bias can make it difficult to uncover the issues that you need to focus on.

To avoid this problem, you can use the roadmap prioritization process:

product roadmap planning roadmap prioritization

Source: Canny

This is a framework for segregating feedback based on cost and value. It allows you to identify the changes that will make the most impact without any emotions or biases involved.

The bottom line is that feedback is important. But just like with your core features, you need to discern which issues are worth dealing with at the moment.

Consider your next steps

We hope that being aware of the seven MVP mistakes can help you anticipate and find a workaround for them.

It should make your development much smoother and could lead to a better outcome.

But mistakes only tell you what to avoid. You also need to know the must-dos.

That’s why we invite you to read our MVP best practices article next. We hope it’ll provide you with all the skills and knowledge needed to build a successful MVP.

Written by

Mario Zderic

Co-founder and CTO

Mario makes every project run smoothly. A firm believer that people are DECODE’s most vital resource, he naturally grew into the role of People Operations Manager. Now, his encyclopaedic knowledge of every DECODEr’s role, and his expertise in all things tech, powers him to manage his huge range of responsibilities as COO. Part developer, and seemingly part therapist, Mario is always calm under pressure, which helps to maintain the office’s stress-free vibe. In fact, sitting and thinking is his main hobby. What’s more Zen than that?

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