building mobile app mvp

Please don’t go native when building you mobile app MVP. Just-don’t

You have a brilliant idea for a mobile app. But you don’t yet know which features your target audience is going to like, if any. So, you decide to do the right thing – to build an MVP of your app.

Ok. Now what?

First, a brief reminder from Wikipedia:

minimum viable product (MVP) is a version of a product with just enough features to be usable by early customers who can then provide feedback for future product development.

At this stage we want a product that will allow users to get a good idea of the app in order to provide clear, actionable feedback, and then get changes quickly back to users for a new round of feedback. For this MVP there are three critical considerations:

  • Product Quality
  • Product Affordability
  • Product Manageability

The users need an MVP that delivers solidly on the features of the app, so that worthwhile feedback can be collected. Feedback like – “the app was too slow and buggy” or “the app didn’t behave like a normal app” is just going to muddy the waters and diminish the value.

However, in many cases this MVP is being bootstrapped with limited resources. So, we need the quality, but it has to be affordable. Highly affordable. This is a pretty big challenge for software that needs to be developed in two different languages (for iOS and Android), tested on various devices, and then pass the time-consuming app store review processes.

Finally, the app has to be (in my words) manageable. This means that is has to allow developers to respond quickly to user feedback with rapid updates and deployments –preferably on both iOS and Android platforms;

These factors make mobile app MVP development a daunting task. Quality. Affordability. And speed. Aren’t those the three things we can never have simultaneously?


Help is on the way!

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Fortunately, the rise of high-performance hybrid mobile app frameworks provides a fantastic option for mobile app MVPs.

Briefly, a hybrid mobile app uses web technologies (JavaScript and HTML, for example) to develop mobile apps that work on both iOS and Android platforms. In contrast, a native app is built for a specific platform only, using the language of that platform (iOS and Android, generally).

(To learn more about native vs hybrid app development approaches, check out this article)

With a hybrid mobile app framework (like the Ionic framework) developers can accomplish some amazing things to address the three points above.

1. One Codebase – two platforms – You probably want to provide your MVP to both Android and iOS users. As mentioned, developing your MVP app in two languages is more expensive (twice as much perhaps?) We can use a hybrid approach to build for both iOS and Android platforms simultaneously using one codebase and one development team.

2. Faster Development – With a hybrid approach you will probably get to market sooner than it would take to build natively for even one platform, let alone two. When it comes to updates, changes to your code impact both the iOS and Android versions, allowing you to address user feedback on both platforms in record time, and get on to your next MVP iteration. One great advantage of the Ionic framework is that it automatically produces app styles to fit each platform, minimizing time spent in customization.

3. Deployment Options – The Ionic platform allows for instant updates to your app without requiring your users to re-download from the app store every time you make a change to the app. The updates are automatically loaded into your user devices, ready for the next time the app is launched.

The app stores are great for selling apps. But you aren’t selling your MVP, right? Why not skip the app stores altogether and create a PWD, allowing your users to get your app right from the web (see my article on PWDs).

4. Comparable Quality – It’s hard to disagree that the quality of a native app can’t be beat. If your MVP needs GPU accelerated performance, or access to the latest hardware releases, hybrid is not your best bet. However, in the vast majority of cases your app will be using very standard features, like Bluetooth, GPS, camera, etc. All those will work perfectly with hybrid. And overall performance, look, and feel will be indistinguishable from native in most cases.

5. Your MVP Process on Steroids – The Ionic platform allows for some great testing approaches – multiple versions for for A/B testing; instant updates for faster feedback; user analytics; and more.

6. Take it to the Next Level – Last but not least, when your clients give the green light to the final feature set, you can certainly continue developing your hybrid MVP into the actual ready for prime-time app. The quality of an Ionic app is production-ready and used by Fortune 500 companies worldwide.


Hybrid saves the day – and the MVP

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The situation seemed pretty hopeless – but thanks to the hybrid approach the three critical MVP concerns have been addressed:

  • Product Quality
  • Product Affordability
  • Product Manageability

Given these factors, using the hybrid approach for building out an MVP for Android and iOS is a no brainer.


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