7 top tips for building a successful app MVP

13 min read
March 8, 2024

Airbnb, Dropbox, and Facebook – what do they all have in common?

They all started as minimum viable products (MVPs).

Building an MVP is the best way to confirm there’s market demand for your app and to get it to market quickly.

But, you need to get it right.

Here, we’ll discuss 7 top tips for building an app MVP that will help you do just that.

Let’s dive in!

What is an MVP?

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a bare-bones version of your app that includes only its core features.

It’s the ultimate idea validation tool that will show you if there’s genuine market demand for your app.

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But, building an MVP isn’t just about making a functional app – it’s about creating a usable and appealing app that will resonate with users.

MVP development approach

And there’s a number of different types of MVPs you can build, like:

  • Fake door MVP – not an MVP in the traditional sense, fake door MVP are usually landing pages built to gauge market interest before building an MVP or prototype
  • Pre-order MVP – pre-order MVPs is when you take pre-orders and crowdfund before actually developing your product
  • Single-feature MVP – this type of MVP, as the name suggests, covers only the main feature of your product and it’s one of the most common MVP types
  • Concierge MVP – a concierge MVP looks like a normal app, but the back-end is run manually by humans

The type of MVP you build will depend on the type of app you’re building, your budget, and your unique requirements.

Building an MVP is the best way to make sure the app you’re building can succeed in your target market without spending too much on development.

And that’s why it’s so popular.

Top tips for building an app MVP

Now, let’s discuss some top tips you should follow when building your app MVP.

Validate your idea first

A successful app MVP needs to meet your users’ needs.

And the best way to do that is validating your idea first, before you start building your MVP.

While your MVP is an idea validation tool itself, you should still independently validate your idea before committing to its development.

And there’s a good reason for that – according to a CB Insights report, having no market need is one of the top reasons why startups fail:

Why startups fail

So, getting to market with a validated idea is absolutely essential.

And the best way to do that is by doing product discovery.

Product discovery is the process of researching your market and validating your product idea before developing it.

And discovery goes hand in hand with building an app MVP.

It includes activities like:

When you do discovery, you get a deep understanding of your users’ needs and pain points.

And more importantly, you will know how your product can meet those needs.

That will help you build an MVP that can succeed in the market.

Why it’s important

  • Reduces the risk of failure – validating your idea first reduces the risk of your MVP failing once it hits the market and ensures it has a strong foundation
  • Helps prioritize features – idea validation and product discovery will help you understand which features your users actually want to use
  • Saves time and resources – if you validate your idea before building an MVP, you’ll save time and resources if your idea isn’t viable

Analyze your competition

If you want to build a successful app MVP, you need to know what your competitors are doing.

And that’s where competitive analysis comes in.

Analyzing your competition will help you better position your app on the market and understand how to differentiate your app.

That will also show you if you have achieved product-market fit, which is essential for your app’s success.

And while we’re on the subject, here’s what Resonate’s founder, Davor Culjak, has to say about product-market fit:

So, how do you do competitive analysis?

The first step is identifying your competitors.

Of course, you likely already have an idea who you’re up against in your target market.

But, you need to do an in-depth analysis – and that means categorizing your competitors as either primary, secondary, or tertiary competitors.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary competitors

By doing this, you’ll get a comprehensive overview of your target market and competitors. 

Once you’ve done that, you should analyze the 4 Ps for each competitor:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion

While it’s an old-school concept (dating back to 1960), it’s still one of the best techniques to use if you want to understand your competitors.

But, you shouldn’t stop there – make sure you do other analyses like SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and Porter’s 5 forces, to name a few.

They will help you identify unmet user needs and gaps in the market your app MVP can fulfill.

And that’s essential if you want it to be successful.

Why it’s important

  • Identifies market gaps – competitive analysis will help you find gaps in the market and unmet user needs your MVP can fulfill
  • Helps you position your app – by analyzing your competitors, you’ll get an idea on how to correctly position your app MVP on the market
  • Helps you create a pricing strategy – competitive analysis will help you create a pricing strategy that fits your target market and user expectations

Prioritize key features

As we mentioned before, building an MVP is all about developing an app with only its core features done well.

According to Pendo, 80% of features in an average software product are rarely or never used.

So, correctly choosing your features is key to your MVP’s success.

But, how exactly can you do that?

First, you need to come up with a list of features you want your app to have.

Then, ask yourself questions like:

  • Does this feature meet our users’ needs?
  • Is it technically feasible?
  • Do our competitors have this feature?
  • Is it aligned with our broader business goals?

If you’re doing product discovery, insights from your user research will help you answer these questions.

Your next step is prioritizing the key features you’ve identified – there are a number of feature prioritization methods you can use, like:

  • Kano
  • Value vs. effort
  • RICE (Reach/Impact/Confidence/Effort)
  • MoSCoW (Must have/Should have/Could have/Won’t have)

For example, here’s a breakdown of the MoSCoW method:

MoSCoW method

Using them is the best way to objectively evaluate potential features you want to include and will ensure you pick the ones that meet your users’ needs.

And that’s what building an MVP is all about.

Why it’s important

  • Shortens development time – building an MVP with only a few key features shortens development time, so you can get it to market faster
  • Reduces costs – building only a few core features is much cheaper than building a feature-rich app from the start
  • Improves app quality – by focusing on a few key features, you can spend more time on refining them which will improve your app’s overall quality and UX

Use Agile methodologies

Using Agile methodologies is key when you’re building an app MVP.

If you use them, you’ll be able to adjust to changing requirements and be flexible during development.

And that’s essential when you’re building an MVP.

But, what does an Agile team look like? And which methodologies should you use?

Agile teams are cross-functional by design and your team should include:

  • Software engineers
  • Designers
  • Product managers
  • QA engineers

And there are a number of Agile methodologies to choose from, like:

  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Crystal
  • Extreme programming (XP)

Your choice will come down to your team’s preferences and your MVP’s requirements.

The most popular Agile methodology is Scrum, with 81% of Agile teams using Scrum or a Scrum hybrid.

And there’s a good reason for that.

Scrum

Scrum divides the development cycle into smaller (2-4 week) iterations called sprints.

And each sprint acts like a mini development cycle, from planning to testing and deployment.

This approach helps your team work quickly and efficiently when building your MVP.

And that’s why it’s the right choice.

Why it’s important

  • Speeds up development – Agile methodologies like Scrum focus on short, focused sprints which shortens the development cycle and speeds up development
  • Improves productivity and collaboration – Agile methodologies are collaborative and transparent by design, which will improve your team’s productivity and help them work better together
  • Gets your app to market faster – since Agile speeds up development, you will get your app to market faster which is essential when you’re building an MVP in a competitive market

Create a feedback loop and iterate

Collecting and iterating on user feedback is crucial for your MVP’s long-term success.

The stats prove it, too – 77% of users view brands that collect and accept feedback more favorably.

And creating a feedback loop is the best way to make the most of your users’ feedback.

The sooner you get to the feedback loop, the sooner you can give users what they actually want.

Marko Strizic, DECODE co-founder and CEO

So, what does a feedback loop look like? And how do you set it up?

A typical feedback loop will look like this:

Customer feedback loop

The point of a feedback loop is to continuously collect, analyze, and iterate on the feedback you get on your MVP.

You should first set up and gather feedback from multiple feedback channels, like:

  • In-app surveys
  • Feedback forms
  • Questionnaires
  • User interviews
  • Focus groups

Once you’ve gathered enough feedback, you need to analyze it and decide how you’re going to iterate on your MVP.

Finally, you should follow up with your users after every iteration and repeat the cycle.

It’s the best way to ensure your app’s long-term success.

Why it’s important

  • Ensures a product-market fit – having a feedback loop will ensure your product fits your market, even if user needs and expectations change
  • Improves user satisfaction and retention – acting on user feedback will help you retain more of them and increase their satisfaction with your app
  • Minimizes the risk of failure – if you continuously collect and act on user feedback, you will minimize the risk of your app failing

Plan for future scaling

Building an MVP is just the first stage in your app’s life-cycle.

It’s where you set the foundation for your app’s future growth and long-term success.

And planning for future scaling is key to making that happen.

Take WhatsApp, for example.

In 2016, WhatsApp reached more than a billion users – they managed to reach that scale with only 50 engineers.

And they were able to do that because they planned for scalability from the start.

So, how should you plan for future scaling when building an MVP?

You need to focus on it from the start and build an app with modular architecture.

Modular architecture

This way, you’ll be able to independently update and scale different parts of your app.

Also, you should use cloud computing services, like:

They support quick growth and will allow you to easily scale your app without sacrificing performance.

And that’s exactly what you should be looking for.

Why it’s important

  • Smooth user experience – Planning for future scaling will ensure your app delivers a smooth, responsive experience to your users even at peak traffic
  • Supports quick growth – if your MVP is scalable from the start, your app will be able to support quick growth in user numbers and data traffic
  • Helps you avoid major overhauls in the future – having a scalable architecture from the get-go will help avoid the need for costly overhauls as your app grows

Rigorously test your app MVP before launch

$2.41 trillion – that’s how much poor software quality costs U.S. companies every year.

Rigorously testing your app MVP before launch will help you avoid becoming part of that statistic.

You’ll also ensure your users get a fully functional and usable app, which will help you build trust and improve your retention rate.

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So, how do you make sure you’re doing testing right?

For starters, you need an in-depth testing strategy.

This will help your QA team plan tests and work more efficiently. 

Also, you should start testing as early as possible.

Fixing bugs early in your MVP’s development cycle is up to a 100x cheaper:

Cost of bugs

Also, make sure you use various types of testing methods, like:

  • Unit testing
  • Integration testing
  • Performance testing
  • Load testing
  • Stress testing

If you do, you’ll make absolutely sure that your MVP is ready for launch and that it will go off smoothly.

And that’s exactly what you should be aiming for.

Why it’s important

  • Helps identify and fix bugs – rigorous testing will find and fix any bugs your MVP might have before launch, so it can go off smoothly
  • Reduces costs in the long run – finding and fixing bugs early is much cheaper and easier than fixing them after you’ve already launched your app
  • Ensures users have a good experience – launching a thoroughly tested MVP will make sure your users have a good experience when using your app

Top tips for building an app MVP: FAQs

What is an MVP?

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a bare-bones version of your app that includes only its core features and it’s the best way to prove there’s genuine market demand for your app.

What are the best tips for building an app MVP?

They are:

  • Validate your idea first
  • Analyze your competition
  • Prioritize key features
  • Use Agile methodologies
  • Create a feedback loop and iterate
  • Plan for future scaling
  • Rigorously test your MVP before launch

How should I prioritize the features I want my MVP to have?

You should use feature prioritization methods like:

  • Kano
  • Value vs. effort
  • RICE (Reach/Impact/Confidence/Effort)
  • MoSCoW (Must have/Should have/Could have/Won’t have)

Need help building your app MVP?

Do you want to build an MVP for your app idea but don’t know where to start?

You’re in the right place.

We can help make your idea a reality – we’ll build your MVP from scratch and get it to market quickly.

If you want to learn more, check out our MVP development process and feel free to get in touch for more information.

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Written by

Ante Baus

CDO

Ante is a true expert. Another graduate from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, he’s been a DECODEr from the very beginning. Ante is an experienced software engineer with an admirably wide knowledge of tech. But his superpower lies in iOS development, having gained valuable experience on projects in the fintech and telco industries. Ante is a man of many hobbies, but his top three are fishing, hunting, and again, fishing. He is also the state champ in curling, and represents Croatia on the national team. Impressive, right?

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