Wednesday, April 4, 2012

MVP - but not what you think

MVP can stand for many things - Most Valueable Player, Most Valuable Professional, etc. but running a mobile device user group, I get people coming to me with idea after idea of app products. Some of them are great, but some of them are not really positioned to do well. So here I will refer to MVP as Minimal Viable Product.  I will define this as the minimum that a product needs to have to be useful for someone.  Notice that I did not say that it is useful to everyone.

In the development community, many apps get something called feature creep. This means that features keep getting into the application before it gets released. One company I worked for had a medical device and we were almost ready to start selling it. The managers went to a trade show and then came back with a dozen of so new features that needed to be in the first release or "Nobody will buy our product". Needless to say that project was not a run-away success.

The concept of MVP here is that you don't know the direction that a project will take after the users get their hands on it. And in the mobile app community the needs and wants of users changes quickly. I will use one of my apps as an example. My app is called Poker Hand Rankings. It is a little app that just puts the different poker hands in order and explains them. This makes it easy for a beginning poker player. I could have picked to make an app where people could play poker online against each other or against multiple computer players. I choose to put out a simpler app and get it out faster. I am using the old "Release early. Release often" idea for this app. Of course I have not done that many updates so I am not really releasing often.

But now, people are asking if the app can have the ability for them to practice playing poker as well. So what I am doing is putting in a section where you can play video poker. This is still easier than an system where you play online with others, so I am keeping it more MVP.

Another thing that limiting your apps does is to let you add new features pretty quickly. Many mobile stores have a section for updates and put your app back at the top of the list for a short time. This also makes it seem that you are working really hard on improving the app as often as possible - even if it is just you doing everything.

So I usually recommend to people to put out a mobile app out quicker.  Limit the features and get it out the door.  Then listen to your customers as you enhance it.  Get started instead of waiting for your idea to get done.  Get started with a MVP.

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