Minimum Viable Product for mobile apps: an impractical approach?
If you’re an entrepreneur in the process of building a new mobile app, you’ve probably done your research on the best approach for it. In your research, you’re almost certain to have come across the Minimum Viable Product approach popularized by Eric Ries. The MVP approach is all about developing a no-frills product with very basic functionality. The product is released in this form and improved upon at a later stage based on feedback from customers. This way, the tweaks made are guaranteed to satisfy the target audience and the spending on perfection doesn’t get blown beyond belief.
Sounds great in theory, but how feasible is it? Like all other advice, you should take the MVP approach with a pinch of salt.
Balancing “minimum” and “viable” is a major issue in this approach. Defining what the core functionalities should be in the app becomes critical. It isn’t about creating rubbish in the hopes that your audience will give you a second chance. You need to be able to fulfill a requirement or a need of the customer even for an MVP. How do you do that? Basing it on gut feelings is a terrible chance to take. It has to practically be based on research findings. Also, how many cycles of changes are you going to make till you deem it “complete”?
With the kind of competition there is today, customers don’t have the time or attention-span to be kind to organizations and their mobile applications. You need to do enough to capture your audience’s interest the first time around, because quite frankly second chances don’t seem to be coming around very often. First impressions then become critical and in such cases, can an MVP mobile application really impress?
According to Seth Godin, there are two problems with MVP approach – first, marketing depends on successful adoption and recommendation as a community. When some members in the community use the application and recommend it to the rest of the community, the perceived value is automatically enhanced. The effects of such testimonials are hard to replicate with any other form of marketing. However, with MVP mobile applications this doesn’t work out since the app is only minimally viable.
Secondly, the audience interest will wane between launch and multiple reiterations of the product. Given that audiences move rapidly from one product to its competitors, chances are that by the time you have perfected your mobile app, your audience would have moved on to the next big thing.
The other grave problem arising out of such an approach is that developers often end up compromising on the UX in the name of minimalism. Doing this knocks the viability aspect right off. Poor UX is a definite catalyst to the death of any mobile app. When quality gets compromised in the name of minimum viable products, the whole exercise becomes one in futility.
While we have been discussing the adverse effects of an MVP approach mostly from the point of view of the target group, one must also consider the effects on the team that works on the mobile app. In most organizations, each revision of the mobile app is considered a project. These iterative projects add to the existing workload of development teams, eventually leading to frustration over a period of time.
Does that mean the concept is without merit or shouldn’t be used at all? The answer to that could be in the mindsets of people. One way to sort this out is possibly to build a minimum delightful product. This approach combines requisite (but critical) functionality, good design and a conscious level of quality, making it less likely that organizations will build mobile apps that don’t make any sense to their audiences. At the same time, there isn’t excess effort or resources lost in the bargain.
By Subhashish Panigrahi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons