Every day, a multitude of startups, fueled by boundless enthusiasm and game-changing ideas, strive to bring their products, apps, or websites to life. They passionately invest weeks or months into development. Sometimes only to find themselves facing an uphill battle once they enter the market. Starting a new business is an exhilarating journey filled with endless possibilities. A key to turning your ambitious startup idea into success is building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). It works for any kind of app development. It is valid for those who are building a cross-platform app, cloud app, VR app, and whatnot. The right approach to developing an MVP ensures a solid foundation for your business. Also, it helps you avoid the common pitfalls that often lead to failure. In this blog, we will discuss some of these common mistakes of MVP app development.
So, why do some startups thrive while a staggering two-thirds of them fail? What separates the successful 10% from the rest? Custom MVP development always starts with an idea. The idea is brilliant, exciting, mind-blowing, innovative and so much more. Naturally, the excitement and desire to rush to implement it occur. And also naturally, you would want the same enthusiasm around you and assemble a team that is just as passionate. That often leaves out those who could offer criticism and another point of view. Even if there are those who seem to offer cold-hearted and calculated criticism; the other decisions get favored. This is how the breeding ground for mistakes is formed. So let’s go over the list and tick off possible mistakes of custom MVP development to avoid.
Table of contents
- 1. Unvalidated Market Need
- 2. Inexperienced and unprofessional team
- 3. Perfectionism: Striking the Right Balance
- 4. Releasing MVP versions that turn customers off
- 5. Skipping the prototyping stage
- 6. Disregarding Analytics and User Feedback
- 7. Insufficient scalability
- Case study: Worthwhile Concept, Ill-suited Partnerships
- Final Words
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. Unvalidated Market Need
One of the fundamental mistakes of MVP app development that many startups make is diving headfirst into development while skipping the research stage. Without validating the market need for the product, a staggering 42% of startups fail. It is essential to follow the startup methodology properly. The first stage is always about researching the market. Before designing your MVP, you should have a high degree of confidence that:
- there is market demand for your product.
- Your product has a specific target user.
- You know the pain points of the target user.
- You know your competition and what can set you apart.
Conducting market research, analyzing competitors, and getting feedback from potential users is there to ensure that there is a genuine need for your app.
2. Inexperienced and unprofessional team
The success of an MVP heavily relies on the skills and expertise of your development team. Studies indicate that startups with professional teams are three times more likely to succeed. By extension, startups with inexperienced or unprofessional teams are three times more likely to fail. Hiring an inexperienced team in specifically MVP development is detrimental to your success. Even if the team has experience in developing apps, professionalism in working with MVPs is of utter importance. Not having the right tech people can lead to:
- poor quality,
- missing the point of MVP – not utilizing the user feedback.
MVP is quite a specific product that is different from traditional app development. The focus is on carefully choosing the essentials of the idea. You shouldn’t just build a bare minimalist app. Your team should be able to prioritize the features that best represent your business idea. Ideally, you would already have something to differentiate your MVP app from the competitor. MVP app should strike the balance of being halfway from the full version while still having key functionality and solving the pain points of your target user.
Plus, a team without experience in MVPs in startups can botch the process of interpreting feedback. The issues can include:
- not knowing what and how to collect essential feedback,
- how to filter the user feedback,
- how to make the right conclusions from it,
- how to iterate the product upon it.
Your development team plays a pivotal role in shaping your MVP. The custom MVP app development team can select the appropriate features and UI/UX parameters. It can correctly set up analytics and feedback collection. More importantly, the right development team can successfully navigate the unique challenges of the MVP stage.
3. Perfectionism: Striking the Right Balance
Perfectionism in MVP building can go two different ways:
- building too many features at once.
- going for a polished look from the get-go.
Both are detrimental to the MVP’s success. In fact, research indicates that about 29% of startups faildue to building a product with too many features, diverting focus from the core value proposition.
It is natural to aim for perfection. But striving for perfection in the early stages of MVP development can be counterproductive. The main goal of an MVP app is to test your business idea through trial and error. The more testing cycles your product can go through, the better.
- Polishing the UI/UX and functionality will take away from this valuable testing time.
- Trying to incorporate every possible feature will lead to a bloated product.
In both cases, your team will have a hard time testing it. Plus, your MVP app can be difficult to use for the target audience. And, overall, such an MVP will lack focus.
Instead, focus on the core features that address the market need and create a simple, user-friendly experience. This approach allows you to gather early user feedback, iterate based on their needs, and continually refine your product.
4. Releasing MVP versions that turn customers off
Contrary to the previous mistake of striving for perfection, others jump to a different extreme. When focusing on creating the minimal version, don’t forget that it has to be viable. It is one of the crucial mistakes of MVP app development.
When releasing each version of an MVP, it is important to tick the boxes for usefulness and viability. According to the latest data, it is one of the mistakes of MVP app development leading to failure for 17% of startups. These 17% launched apps that don’t provide value for customers or don’t sell. Surely an MVP app is designed to be a temporary test stage. But you still need to impress users and get their feedback.
Startups can’t afford to release MVPs that will be a miss with the early adopters. They can be quite unforgiving. If a startup fails to provide enough value to its customers, users are quick to abandon the product and move on to a competitor.
A professional MVP tech team always ensures that your MVP provides enough value to users. Even an early-stage MVP must solve your target user’s pain points. If you need to sacrifice some features or polish, then be it. It is even acceptable to break down the base of early adopters into categories. So that you can focus on one at a time. Then you will go on to gradually add more features to target the entire base of early adopters. This will help you build a loyal user base and receive valuable feedback to improve your app.
5. Skipping the prototyping stage
Similar to skipping the validating market need stage, the prototyping stage is also there for a reason. To be specific, for quite a few particular reasons. First of all, you build an interface architecture that becomes a foundation for developing technical requirements. For this, it is enough to develop a low-fidelity wireframe. Secondly, you need your app’s prototype if you are going to source some investors. In this case, you should go for a high-fidelity clickable prototype.
Specific statistics on the consequences of skipping the prototyping stage in MVP development are not readily available. However, the importance of prototyping in product development is widely recognized in the industry. Numerous articles and experts emphasize the benefits of prototyping, such as:
- identifying usability issues early on,
- validating assumptions,
- improving the overall user experience.
The prototyping stage is essential for identifying usability issues, refining the user interface, and validating the app’s concept.
Skipping this stage can lead to fundamental flaws in the app’s design and user experience. Sure, MVP is designed to go through the process of trial and error. But for a specific kind of trial and very particular errors. MVP needs to focus on testing and iterating over the working functionality solving the user pain points. Not the kind of pain that arises from convoluted UIs and silly misses with connectivity and flow coherence.
Prototyping is there to prevent mistakes that can be difficult and time-consuming to rectify. Investing time and effort in prototyping allows you to iron out any design and usability problems early in the development process. This ensures a more compelling user experience.
6. Disregarding Analytics and User Feedback
Disregarding analytics and user feedback is another one of the mistakes of MVP app development. First and foremost, It can lead to a lack of understanding of user behavior and preferences. Then, it goes on to result in a product that does not meet the needs of the target audience.
When analytics and user feedback are disregarded, what is the basis for decisions? Developers will rely on their assumptions. The same would do your sales and marketing team. A business that is built on assumptions rather than data has a weak foundation. Making assumptions can lead to a misalignment between the product and user expectations. This translates into wasted resources, missed opportunities for improvement, and ultimately, product failure.
Analytics and user feedback are two separate big-ticket items for your custom MVP app development.
- It involves setting up analytics for your web or mobile app and regularly conducting user satisfaction surveys.
- It should also include approaching your loyal customers for interviews.
Not utilizing these valuable sources of information can result in missed opportunities for improvement. Inevitably, it will hinder the success of your app.
Ignoring feedback and not doing interviews strip the meaning from having an MVP. Feedback is a cornerstone of your product development roadmap. It is central to making managerial and development decisions. It is equally important to set up an analytics process and make interpretations of the received feedback. A team that specializes in MVP development often has an edge in interpreting analytics and feedback for the following iterations.
Therefore, if you want to avoid low adoption rates, dissatisfaction, and ultimately, failure, you better make informed decisions about your product. To sum up, by incorporating user feedback and monitoring analytics, you can:
- Better understand your target audience,
- Identify user needs,
- Identify pain points,
- Better prioritize features,
- Achieve product-market fit.
7. Insufficient scalability
During the market research stage, your team makes technical decisions about the architecture of your MVP. And although, everyone is mentally prepared for lower-than-expected numbers, very few factor in the possibility of higher-than-expected demand. It doesn’t mean investing in a technical capacity that can cater to millions of users when you expect a few thousand. But if you have an experienced team, they will have a plan in place for how to expand the technical capacity quickly. It may require implementing reusable components, cloud infrastructure with flexible options, and whatnot. The main thing is to think about it beforehand rather than having to deal with it as a problem in a rush.
Additionally, as we’ve mentioned earlier, MVP is the testing stage of your product idea. It is meant to have evolving requirements and other changes. Failing to design a scalable architecture can result in:
- performance issues,
- high downtime,
- increased development costs down the line.
15% of startups fail due to lacking scalability on the technical side. Building a robust and scalable backend infrastructure that can handle increasing user demand and future growth is essential for long-term success. Collaborating with an experienced development team ensures that you implement a scalable infrastructure. The focus is on accommodating high traffic and evolving requirements without compromising performance or incurring unnecessary costs.
Case study: Worthwhile Concept, Ill-suited Partnerships
Before we dive into the case study, we should share a different perspective on MVP mistakes. It comes from a study conducted by Eric Ries, the writer of the book The Lean Startup. Sometimes, it is just good to offer a different perspective.
Let’s go back to the case study now.
In app development, there is another common tendency, which might turn into a mistake. Often, for many business founders, the concept of a software startup lacks the tangible nature of physical products. However, it’s crucial to understand that both physical products and apps share commonalities. So while our blog focuses on mistakes of MVP app development, the principles, ideas, and methodologies employed in both arenas are remarkably similar. The chosen case study will showcase a business startup that followed a lean methodology and an MVP approach. The study comes from a book “Why Startups Fail” published by a Harvard Business School professor. The business founders are his former students. By exploring this case study, we will look at some of the mistakes of MVP development in action. In addition, we’ll draw parallels between the physical product and the app development. It’ll help to focus on the tangible dimension of app development.
Founders are the driving force behind startup success. However, it would be unwise to assume that they are singularly responsible for attaining success. It is true regardless of whether it is a physical product or a web or mobile app. It is important to recognize that MVPs can attract a broad set of stakeholders, including employees, strategic partners, key team members, and investors. You can think of them as an ecosystem around your product idea. And this system requires careful consideration. The main reason is that not every group of stakeholders can bring success.
You should value different groups of stakeholders for their ability to contribute:
- fresh perspectives (product ideas or interpreting user feedback),
- specialized expertise (building professional functionalities),
- valuable resources (finances or connections).
Depending on the effectiveness of communication with stakeholders, your business can benefit in several ways. It can lead to better decisions, desirable outcomes, and overall coordination of business objectives and department alignment. The wrong choice of stakeholders can fail your business.
The startup: Quincy Apparel
Quincy Apparel, a promising startup, began a journey to address an unmet need in the market. They identified that young professional women struggled to find affordable and stylish work apparel that fit them well. The founders devised a unique solution. They developed a unique sizing scheme. It allowed customers to specify four separate garment measurements, similar to the tailoring approach used for men’s suits.
Embracing the lean start-up methodology and MVP approach, the founders went on to validate customer demand. It started with conducting six trunk shows where women could try on sample outfits and place orders. The response was encouraging, with 25% of the 200 attendees making purchases. It ticks the box for avoiding Mistake #1 Unvalidated Market need. So, they were in the clear here.
The early days of Quincy Apparel were promising. Strong initial orders. A remarkable 39% of customers from the first seasonal collection were making repeat purchases! However, as demand grew, the need for substantial investment in inventory became apparent. Unfortunately, production problems emerged, leading to ill-fitting garments and higher-than-expected returns.
Dealing with return processing and rectifying production issues put significant pressure on the company’s margins, depleting their cash reserves rapidly. Despite Quincy’s attempt to raise additional capital, their efforts were in vain. In a desperate move to simplify operations and achieve efficiencies, the team trimmed down the product line. Mistake #3 is about that: you are supposed to grow features gradually, not cut them down in desperation. However, the lack of adequate funding hindered their ability to prove the viability of their pivot. Eventually, Quincy Apparel was forced to shut down less than a year after its highly anticipated launch.
From the look of it, you can probably already spot some of the common mistakes discussed above:
Why Quincy Apparel, which seemed to have all the ingredients for success, ultimately failed?
Let’s take a closer look at the twists and turns that led to their untimely downfall.
From the start, Quincy’s founders had a brilliant idea. Their value proposition resonated with target customers. Also, they had a solid plan for profitability. Yet, they experienced some production issues along the way. Remembering that MVP is a trial-and-error process, it seems fine. As long as errors get addressed.
The team had credible projections that customers in their priority segments would have CLV (customer lifetime value) of over $1,000 each. It far exceeded the 100$ CAC (customer acquisition cost) for a new customer. We discussed these metrics in our article “How to Evolve your Mobile MVP App Development”.
Quincy’s marketing costs were kept low by the power of word-of-mouth fueled by social networks and enthusiastic media coverage. Keeping marketing costs low at this stage is essential for validating the business idea.
The founders of Quincy happened to be college friends, committed to preserving their relationship. In an effort to maintain equality, they decided to have an equal say in all decisions. Unfortunately, this approach often hindered their response time when quick action was needed. Additionally, neither founder had experience in clothing design and manufacturing.
In the world of app development, outsourcing development agencies often insist on having one decision-maker. It is often as mandatory as signing an agreement with your developers. This is where physical product development is a bit lagging behind. Also, it is worth mentioning here, that app development operates at higher speeds than physical products. This is why it is so vital to speed up decision-making.
The apparel industry is a complex and specialized domain, involving various tasks ranging from fabric sourcing to quality control. Quincy’s founders lacked expertise in this area. To compensate for it, the founders hired a few industry veterans. They hoped these hires would fill multiple roles as generalists. It is often seen in most early-stage startups. However, these employees were accustomed to the high level of specialization in mature apparel companies. They were reluctant to take on tasks outside their areas of expertise.
Mistake #2 is exactly about that: even if you know great verified developers, you still need to make sure their specialization or lack of it matches your business requirements. Otherwise, it’ll be a hiring mistake.
Outsourcing manufacturing to third-party factories was a common practice in the industry. However, Quincy lacked an industry reputation and required unique garment sizing. It led to the factories being slow in meeting production commitments. This resulted in frustrating shipping delays, causing additional setbacks for the company. Though we haven’t discussed it here, it is the same as opting for traditional MVP development VS custom MVP development. Read more about it in our article “What the Heck Is Custom MVP App Development?”.
While Quincy had gained some traction after two seasons, it wasn’t enough to attract new investors in light of depleted cash reserves. And when it comes to MVPs, you can expect to get initial traction and revenues. But it is not the goal of an MVP, so it is best not to bet on it at the planning stage. If you foresee that MVP will need 3 testing cycles, or X months of testing – prepare for it. Avoiding mistakes #1 and #5, market research and prototyping respectively, should ensure your startup’s ability to secure the required funding.
For Quincy, the venture capital firms that had initially provided funding were too small to commit additional funds. Moreover, the guidance provided by these venture capitalists left the founders disappointed. They pressured Quincy to grow rapidly, emulating the pace of technology startups with which they were more familiar. This forced Quincy to build up inventory, depleting their cash reserves before they could resolve their ongoing production problems. Again going back to Mistake#2 – when you take people on board, make sure their specialization and experience are the right match.
In conclusion, Quincy’s downfall can be attributed to a combination of factors:
- team members lacking the necessary flexibility and industry expertise
- manufacturing partners who struggled to meet production commitments
- investors who failed to provide adequate guidance
- not sourcing the required funding
- Not having enough speed of decision-making to iterate over errors
It serves as a stark reminder of the critical importance of aligning with the right people for a venture’s success. When you are ready to Develop a Custom MVP app, make sure to source a tech team with the right expertise.
Similar to the Quincy Startup, app development also has its specific ecosystem of stakeholders. And even though an MVP is a basic version, it still is a substantial project. The development process of an MVP involves various contributors who bring their expertise and support to the table.
|Stakeholders||Their Role||Key Considerations|
|Founders/Entrepreneurs||Shape the vision Set the strategy Lay out the business goals Guide the teams||need to be able to make swift decisions or appoint a trusted person for this purpose|
|UI/UX Designers||Create user-friendly interface Ensure the visual appeal of the product Develop a smooth user experience Define UX metrics for measuring UX performance Be able to interpret UX analytics for MVP improvements||An MVP cannot be an ugly convoluted version and it shouldn’t be a polished fleshy version. MVP designers should know how to strike the right balance.|
|Developers/Engineers||Developing the app’s functionality Following technical requirements Prioritize features for MVP releases from the technical perspective||They help to determine the best architecture for scaling for a success scenario.|
|Product/Project Managers||Oversee the development process Establish efficient communication between stakeholders Make sure the MVP is on track and keeps to the set business objectives||MVP app development is often a fast dynamic process. The product/project manager is one of the key elements to smooth communication and aid the decision-making process.|
|Testers/QA Team||Test MVP’s functionality, performance, and usability Test the app’s responsiveness Report any bugs or other issues Provide feedback for improvement||They monitor the releases and iterations making sure the app holds up to the standard. They help to avoid Mistake #4 “Turning customers off with a product that lacks viability”.|
|Users/Customers||Provide feedback Analytics is based on their usage patterns||Collecting user feedback early on is a vital aspect of the MVP approach. It contributes to avoiding Mistake #6 Not making informed decisions.|
It’s worth mentioning that the involvement of stakeholders can vary depending on the specific project and its requirements. In Quincy’s scenario, the online app was secondary to the physical product. For software startups, there is often no manufacturing of a physical product. But you still will be creating a product with a certain degree of expertise be it a marketplace or fitness app. By bringing on board carefully selected stakeholders, your business has a higher chance of success.
In conclusion, developing an MVP for your app requires careful planning, research, and execution. By avoiding these common mistakes of MVP app development, you can increase the chances of your MVP’s success. Mistakes include:
- not validating a market need,
- having an inexperienced team,
- striving for unnecessary perfection,
- releasing an MVP with no usefulness,
- skipping prototyping,
- ignoring analytics and user feedback, and
- lacking technical scalability.
Remember to focus on user needs and iterate based on feedback. Make sure to lay a solid foundation for scalability to create a winning MVP that sets you up for long-term success. Check an article about MVP Success Parameters to target on.
Moreover, it is essential to acknowledge that custom MVP app development involves various stakeholders. They include founders, employees, strategic partners, and investors. While founders play a significant role, they are not the sole determinants of success. The story of Quincy Apparel serves as a reminder that even a promising idea and market demand aren’t enough. That is if you don’t have the right people by your side. Surely, Quincy’s downfall can be attributed to a combination of factors. The founders had a solid idea. However, the success was hindered by ill-fitting team members. Adding to that unreliable manufacturing partners and unhelpful investors, you get a recipe for failure. It highlights the necessity of choosing people with the right expertise for your business.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
An MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in app development is an initial version of a product that includes only the core features necessary to address a specific problem or need. It’s designed to be the simplest version that provides value to users and helps validate the product concept.
Building an MVP is crucial for startups because it allows them to test their business idea in the market with minimal investment. It helps in validating assumptions, identifying user needs, and gathering feedback that can guide further development.
There are several common mistakes to avoid in custom MVP app development, including:
– Unvalidated Market Need: Skipping market research and not ensuring there’s a genuine demand for your app.
– Inexperienced Team: Hiring a team without the required expertise in MVP development.
– Perfectionism: Trying to include too many features or aiming for a polished look right from the start.
– Releasing Non-Viable MVPs: Launching versions that don’t provide enough value to users.
– Skipping Prototyping: Neglecting to create prototypes for testing and validation.
– Disregarding Feedback: Ignoring user feedback and analytics during development.
– Insufficient Scalability: Failing to plan for scalability, leading to performance issues in the future.
Validating the market need involves conducting thorough market research, analyzing competitors, and gathering feedback from potential users. Ensure you know your target audience, their pain points, and what sets your app apart from the competition.
When selecting a development team for your MVP, prioritize experience and expertise in MVP development. Look for a team that understands the unique challenges of building an MVP, can prioritize essential features, and interpret user feedback effectively.
No, including all features in the first version of the MVP is a mistake. Focus on the core features that address the market need and solve user pain points. Avoid building a bloated product, and instead, aim for a simple and user-friendly experience.
User feedback and analytics are critical during MVP development. They help you understand user behavior, preferences, and pain points. Incorporating user feedback and monitoring analytics allows you to make informed decisions, prioritize features, and achieve better product-market fit.
Skipping the prototyping stage is a mistake in MVP development. Prototyping helps identify usability issues early on, validate assumptions, and improve the overall user experience. It’s essential for refining your app’s concept and design before development.
Plan for scalability by making appropriate technical decisions during the architecture design phase. Consider using reusable components and flexible cloud infrastructure to accommodate future growth. Scalability is vital to handle increasing user demand without compromising performance.
The case study of Quincy Apparel highlights the importance of aligning with the right stakeholders, having the necessary industry expertise, and making informed decisions based on user feedback and market validation. It also emphasizes the significance of proper team dynamics and the potential consequences of ill-suited partnerships.
While some mistakes can be addressed and iterated upon after launching an MVP, it’s best to avoid making critical mistakes from the start. Incorporating user feedback and analytics allows you to make improvements, but preventing mistakes through careful planning and research is more efficient.