Whether you’re a startup or a member of a large organization, when exploring mobile solutions your imagination will quickly get away from you and the project size will slowly balloon to a point where it’s no longer feasible. This is where you have to focus on scoping out your minimum viable product (MVP).
An MVP (sometimes referred to as minimum valuable product) is the least amount of work you have to do in order to demonstrate value to your users. Whether your users are internal to your organization or consumers, your MVP has to be worth their time to install, get familiar with, and become part of their regular routine. In addition, it has to be within a reasonable budget in order to justify the upfront and ongoing development costs.
Scoping out an MVP is a process of generating ideas and refining the initial scope. Through series of brainstorming sessions you flush out ALL of the potential features of the solution. Write down every crazy idea that comes to mind and keep a long list of items that would make this solution great. Once you have a big list of all the key features and ideas, then start to pare down the feature set and complexity until you are left with a concise version 1.0 that solves a particular need. Don’t worry about this long wish list of features, once you have users they’ll help you prioritize.
It’s critical to pare down the features in version 1.0 so that you can reach a launch date without the project ballooning out of control. By identifying the feature set that will prove whether the app is useful or not, you will reduce the noise and complexity during the development process. It’ll keep timelines short with clear deliverables. It’ll reduce risk by ensuring that scope is clearly understood and reasonably sized that it can be delivered in a shorter time frame.
Not paring down the project scope will leave you with a longer term plan that is exponentially more prone to budget and timeline risks. The more features you try to cram in, the more likely something will go sideways. The motto is essentially, get it in the hands of end-users as-soon-as-possible.
In our experience, we’ve seen more projects fall into the category of feature creep (or feature bloat) and almost none fall into the category of being so pared down it’s not valuable. If an idea has merit and it solves a particular need, the smaller the better (at least to start).
A good example of an MVP: Instagram
- Minimalist feature set
- Perfected the small set of features it launched with
- Didn’t build out a web version until it was needed
- Focused on a single platform until it had a good level of adoption
- Upon proven adoption, scale the supported platforms
How to trim the scope of Your project
Here are 5 tips to trim the scope of your project and create a simple MVP
- Narrow down the target users. Focus on a specific user group that has a specific problem. Solve the problem for one user group at a time.
- Remove features that aren’t CRITICAL for version 1. If it’s even slightly optional, plan it for version 1.1+
- Target a single platform – even if you’re developing a multi/cross platform solution. Nail it on one platform, then migrate.
- Keep the user interface and interactions relatively simplified. By under investing in fancy animations early on it’ll make it easier to quickly change workflows and functionality.
- Pick a go-live date, then work backwards. If your go-live date is 30 days from now, then you can’t build features that will take 2 months. Work backwards from a go-live date (preferably one with business implications).
(img source: yandle on Flickr)