A guide to building an MVP. Our take on how to innovate with minimum viable products and rapid customer feedback.

A guide to building an MVP. Our take on how to innovate with minimum viable products and rapid customer feedback.

In this article, we are going to shed light over what an MVP is, why you should start with an MVP, and we’ll help in finding out how much your first version of the product might actually cost you.

Having been in the world of digital products for more than a decade, we had the opportunity of interacting with an impressive number of entrepreneurs looking to bring innovation to their sector. We’ve seen established businesses looking to digitalize their processes with the help of technology, enthusiast startup founders at the beginning of their career investing all their time and money into building something successful and, last but not least, serial entrepreneurs already accustomed to the startup scene, trying to make their way through the competitive world of technology startups. 

The clients we interacted with differed not only in their entrepreneurial journey, but technology understanding and business scenario. Hence, it became pretty clear that when it comes to helping business owners bring new products to the market, a one size fits all approach fails unquestionably. Processes are good, but we’ve learned it is just as important to know when to put them aside for the sake of immersing into the particular business story and scenario.

In a world of adaptability, flexibility, and particularities, one thing remains true. For a startup to have any chance of launching a successful product, research, and MVP (Minimum viable product) creation is mandatory. Aaaand, we couldn’t stress this enough. 

In this article, we are going to shed light on what an MVP is, why you should start with an MVP, and we’ll help in finding out how much your first version of the product might cost you.

What is an MVP?

A minimum viable product is the first version of a product that contains enough functionality to satisfy the early adopters of your digital product, while collecting valuable feedback from the market.

An MVP comes to help you validate your idea early in the process of product development. In the case of Agile Development, it should help your product team validate and iterate your product based on input. 

Taking a straightforward look at the entire MVP concept, you want to test the market with a first, minimal version of the product, to make sure that before investing a lot of money into more design and functionality, your idea is validated and approved by the market. 

Why build an MVP?

Although we already touched down on one of the most important reasons for building an MVP, which is, validating your product idea, we are going to shed some light on other important aspects of why you should start by building an MVP. 

We’ll start by reminding you that Rome wasn’t built in a day. The legend says that builders were there laying brick-by-brink, every day. Just the same, we advise owners to look at the MVP as being a process and not a product. Building an MVP is a journey that allows you to test, optimize, and grow your web or mobile applications in sync with market demands. Listening to what your customer’s desires and wishes are is probably the most important step of the process. Translating all this valuable input into features and functionalities is where the fun part begins. 

An MVP gives you the framework to essentialize on the features that have the most priority in alignment with the problem your product aims to solve. Let’s say you are planning to build a product that gives dog owners access to online dog trainers. Although you might have tons of ideas on how your product should look like, it is important to identify the core functionalities of it. A live chat might be a correct answer for this specific use case. It is important to remember that an MVP is a first release that is stripped right back to the core of the digital product, and you should keep it like this.

An MVP saves great amounts of money that could go into the prelaunch advertising of your product. Because building in small iterations is all that an MVP is about, releasing a small version of the product, testing, and improving on feedback helps you not fall in the trap of investing money into functionalities users don’t need.

How to build an MVP

Now that we have touched base on the theory behind building MVPs let’s take a look into how to build an MVP. 

  1. Start with identifying the problem you are solving for your customers.

If you’ve been in touch with the product & startup world, this might already sound like a cliche. Still, it is the most important item to tick off your list before getting into building anything. 

Looking at some of the hottest startups, they all started with identifying a real problem, and engineered their solutions around that. 

  1. Research, research, and research!

It is important that you take the time to conduct extensive research on your buyer persona, competition, and the advantages their products bring on the market.

Find answers to some of the most important questions in product development: Why are you building the digital product? What is the problem that your product solves for the market? Who is your targeted market? Who are your competitors? 

  1. Identify the core functionalities of your product.

As you already know, as many interesting ideas you might have, the entire point of building an MVP is releasing a minimal version of the digital product, without adding too much functionality to it. Ask yourself, what is the single-most-important action that I want my users to accomplish? Then, categorize all features into nice-haves, must-haves and don’t care.

  1. Start working on user flows, user stories, and the user experience of your MVP.

With research as a strong foundation, it is now time to think about the user flows within your web or mobile application. You know what the core functionalities of your product are, so it is a good moment to think of the experience of the users within the app.

  1. Prototype!

The user experience of your mobile or web application is extremely important in the way your first users will interact with the digital product—imagine real-life scenarios of users interacting with your application and start designing with their expectations in mind.

Last but not least, add the branding elements of your company and think of ways in which to enhance your user’s experience with the help of colors, animated transitions, and interactions. Remember that to attract users; an MVP should not only be functional but delighting as well. 

Once you have it all done and ready, we advise you to gather all application screens and build an interactive prototype using InVision – this way, you will get a feeling of what the app feels and looks like. 

  1. Build measure learn – repeat. 

Once you have the entire app design in place, start coding your MVP. We recommend startups to make sure that the application screens that go into development are what they want, eliminating the risk of making major changes while in the development phase of the product development phase. 

Launching the first version of an application is just the beginning of the process. Placing it into the hands of your users will give you the feedback needed to improve the experience, making it even more existing and engaging for your users. 

How much does it cost to build an MVP?

Before jumping to asking this question, make sure that you have done your research so that you know the main problem your product solves, your competitors, and, last but not least, your potential user base. 

Estimating the development effort for building an MVP gets even more accurate if you already know what some of the core functionalities of your application will be, as well as the complexity of the UI. 

At RebelDot, we make sure that before delivering any estimates, we have a very clear idea of what we are going to build and that we have immersed ourselves in the vision, goals, and challenges of the business we are dealing with. We do this because we want to be able to offer good financial predictability for our clients, especially startups that are, in many cases, seeking investment. 

The tricky part of building MVPs and digital products in general, is that the amount of money that they will end up costing you is highly dependent on the hourly rate of the company you are in conversation with.

The scope of work and the innovation level within the application are two very important factors in the overall cost of your web or mobile MVP. Web and mobile apps involving blockchain, machine learning, and any AI or VR components cost more that applications with standard functionality. 

As you might assume, it’s hard, nearly impossible to place a number on a digital product we know nothing about – pretty much like guessing in the dark. If you want to know how much an MVP would cost you, our advice is that you seek the help of a development team. 

You made it this far!

We hope this article helped you in finding some of the most important aspects of why you should build an MVP for your startup, and offered important insights on how to build an MVP. If you have any other questions on how to bring your digital product idea to life, reach out –  we’re here to give a helping hand.

Before you go, we recently launched our own startup, Visidot, and wrote an article about the entire process of building the digital product, from idea to launch and … pivoting? We’re leaving the story of how we built Visidot, the contact tracing and visitors management application, here for you to read it.  


How to manage teams that work from home. Take-aways from a digital product company.

How to manage teams that work from home. Take-aways from a digital product company.

Until COVID-19 is contained, more companies are advising their employees to work from home. To help you effectively lead your product teams, here are a few tips on managing WFH teams.

Before we start, remember that remote working has been around the tech scene for a long while now. Most of the tech & product companies working from offices already have procedures that can easily translate into a home environment. All it takes is an extra mile walk into making sure that your team has a clear sense of collaboration and productivity.

Respect office hours.“For remote workers, the erosion of the boundaries between when you should be working vs when you should be taking time for yourself becomes even more prevalent because your entire relationship with your job is digital.” According to Buffer, most of the people that work remotely have reported struggling with unplugging after office hours end.

Make sure your teams manage to unplug at the end of every working day. It is crucial for their long time efficiency.

Maintain a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Remote or non-remote; this principle is crucial when it comes to managing digital product teams and not only. If we take a realistic look at how a digital product development team looks like, you would have the stakeholders and the product team proactively working towards accomplishing a goal.

Most probably, your team already has well-assigned roles and changing their office with their home won’t affect that. If you happen to kick-start a project with WFH teams, make sure they have a clear sense of ownership and responsibility.

Now, more than ever, make use of project management software. Most of the digital product development companies out there are already familiarised with working with tools like Jira, Trello, Todoits, Asana and Airtable because they do it on a daily bases, regardless if they are in the office or working remotely.

The cool thing is that most tools allow you to comment on tasks, reassign them, set deadlines, and attach documents or content. We’ve seen how a lot of important details can slip when trying to coordinate a project over email. Make sure your team has a habit of continually updating their ticketing system.

At RebelDot, for example, we use Jira for most of our projects, and Trello for a few of them. Both tools are efficient, collaborative and provide a transparent overview of task progress for both stakeholders and product teams.

Get used to video conferencing platforms, always video conference. Honestly, we could not imagine remote working without video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Cisco and Google. In our day to day activity of building digital products and collaborating with teams, product owners and stakeholders all over the globe, video conferencing plays a massive part as it gives our collaborations the human touch they would probably lack otherwise.

If you want the people working at home to have a sense of community and teamwork, make sure that all online meeting is with the camera turned on.

No agenda, no meeting. Any meeting without an agenda, minutes and followups distributed might be counterproductive for your team, especially when working from home, where asynchronous communication prevails. Make sure you preselect a facilitator, a timekeeper and someone to document the discussion afterwards.

Know when to move away from email and build communication habits. While in an office, most of the communication happens synchronously (here and now), when it comes to remote working most of the conversation is done asynchronously. This means that there is a delay between the question and the response. Many companies out there consider synchronous communication to be the most effective, but when it comes to remote working, this can quickly become counterproductive. If you find an email thread going back and forth more than three times, move away from email, and hold an impromptu call.

Keep having your regular 1:1 meetings. One-on-one meetings are crucial, even when it comes to working from an office space that is shared with the entire team. When it comes to your WFH employees, making sure they have a strong sense of culture, feedback and support requires walking an extra mile. Make sure you set regular one-on-ones with all team members and that you make time for chit-chat on the side.

Final Words

Working and managing teams that work from home can be a challenge, especially for those who are used to working from an office. Let’s remember that companies like Buffer have been remote-first since 2012, which means that done right, working remotely might have some of its own advantages.

Stay at home, and lead from home. It’s good for you, and it’s good for everyone. Plan your agenda, stick to a routine, stay calm and make use of all the fantastic tools that are out there to keep your teams connected and efficiently working.

New to working from home?

If you are new to working from, we found some interesting resources that might help you out.

DESK Magazine on how to work well from home this week -so you can next week, too.

Basecamp has a really good communication guideline we advise you check out.

Charles Patterson, the senior designer at InVision, wrote a useful guide on  working from home.

Stay Safe!

Trending Apps and technology 2020

Building a mobile app in 2020? Here’s what to look at.

Looking back at the past year from a technology perspective, all we can say is that 2020 should be at least as ground-breaking as 2019. But with a lot of technology trends & buzz words being promoted around, which one will you actually trust to lead the strategic direction of your next mobile app?

If you ask us, you shouldn’t trust any of them. At least not until you are 100% sure that whatever the new concept or technology you are trying to adopt in your new mobile application, it is what your users really need. We know Blockchain, AI, Machine Learning and VR all sound cool and cutting edge, but don’t just use them to attract more eyes to whatever it is that you are building. It won’t last.

For the past decade, at RebelDot, we have built and worked with over 40 startups and companies around the world, and if there is one valuable learning we could share, is that the real success of your digital product is hidden in the PROBLEM you are solving for your users, or, in other words, the idea behind your web/mobile application. It has to be relevant to the market you wish to penetrate. Now, of course, we are not talking about the fantastic user interface you are imagining for your mobile app or that one unique feature you are planning to revolutionise the industry with. It’s more about the weight of the value you wish to place on the market by launching your new web or mobile app.

Do you have what it takes?

Before you start building your next mobile application, here’s what we recommend you ask yourself:

What is the problem I am solving with this web or mobile application?

Whom am I solving this problem for & who are my users?

Checking these two important questions will provide the right framework for starting to build a digital product that has great potential for healthy scaling. Now, of course, it is a good idea to make sure you check to pulse of the technology ecosystem from time to time. You want to make sure that if there is a new technology that might decrease the cost of your application, ease the experience of your users of simply help you get the most out of your new built, you know of it.

Now might be the best time to start building a mobile application. Here's why:

In Q3 of 2019, iOS lead consumer purchases growing 95% over Google Play.

Beginning of 2019, TechCrunch reported that the global app revenue continues to climb, thanks to the growth of the gaming industry and of the subscription economy. (TechCrunch)

In 2019, App Store users spent $14.2 billion, up 22.3% from the $11.6 billion they spent in Q3 2018. Google Play generated $7.7 billion in revenue, up 24% from the $6.2 billion spent in the year-ago quarter. (TechCrunch)

Worldwide gross app revenue

When it comes to app downloads, according to App Annie, Google Play and iOS downloads grew over 10% in Q3 of 2019.

While iOS downloads remained stable in 2019, Google Play grew its downloads by 10% to nearly 23 billion. Google Play leads iOS in downloads by 175%, with non-gaming apps accounted for over 60% of downloads across both stores.

In 2020, Global mobile application revenues are projected to generate a revenue of $188.9 billion via app stores and in-app advertising. (Statista)
Mobile app revenues

Already visualizing your new application being downloaded by thousands of users? Let’s shed some light over the 2020 mobile and web application trends & new technologies that might help you get there.

Blockchain Technology

Being a pragmatic yet revolutionary technology, blockchain goes beyond cryptocurrencies and bitcoin. With its capabilities of creating more transparent and secure environments while saving fair amounts of money, it has reached the performance of impacting a variety of industries and sectors by changing how contracting works.

Some of the areas in which blockchain is seen to bring the most value are secure sharing of medical data, music royalties tracking, cross-border payments, real-time IoT operating systems, personal identity security, anti-money laundering tracking system, voting mechanisms, original content creation, crypto exchange and real estate processing platforms.

Blockchain + IoT = ❤

We already know that blockchain is a standalone disruptive concept for every tech aficionado out there. But have you thought of combining it with IoT? It might bring some considerable improvements to the way transactions are made, including some decreasing of risks.

There is a smarter way to do smart contracts: Ricardian Contracts.

What is a smart contract? According to Investopediaa smart contract is a self-executing contract with the terms of the agreement between buyer and seller being directly written into lines of code. The code and the agreements contained therein exist across a distributed, decentralized blockchain network. The code controls the execution, and transactions are trackable and irreversible. (Investopedia)

In simple words, they allow trusted transactions between anonymous parties without the presence of any central authority.

Smart contracts are great and all that, with one minor issue — they are not legally binding, so it is pretty hard to build a legal case against an existing fraud. And here is where Ricardian Contracts step into the scene.

While Ricardian Contracts have first been introduced in 1995, they somehow managed to penetrate today’s blockchain scene, by having this unique trait of being digital documents that can be both understood by humans and machines. This means you and your lawyers should be able to read it and perfectly understand it.

According to 101 Blockchains, a Ricardian contract is a human-readable legal agreement that once agreed upon and signed by both parties, gets converted into a machine-readable contract to define the intentions of both parties. (101 Blockchains)

A fundamental difference between Smart and Ricardian contracts is that while one (Smart) executes an agreement without being legally valid, the other one (Ricardian) records agreements between parties, having a legally binding character that is valid in court.

Artificial Intelligence is here to stay.

While AI has been the technology hit of the 2010s, it looks like it is here to stay.

AI in entertainment and media. Have you seen Robert De Niro in the Irishman?

If you kept an eye on the result of AI in creating music or any kind of art that is out there, you will probably agree with us when we say that AI has a long way to replace humans from creating any form of art that is actually enjoyable.

If like us, you spend some of your time binge-watching on Netflix, you might have seen Rober De Niro’s extreme de-ageing in The Irishman. Like it or not, de-ageing or ageing of human faces is now possible with the assistance of AI, and it’s safe to say it’s a tiny bit of all the transformation AI is bringing to the entertainment scene.

Robert Deniro - AI
On the left, Robert De Niro’s original performance in The Irishman. On the right, his de-aged face as it appears in the film. Source: Wired & Netflix.

In 2020, we are already familiar with personalized recommendations powered by AI. Getting back to Netflix, they personalise the content stream you see on the go, and this is not even a secret anymore. Processors are now engineered in such way they are capable of generating real-time analytics, offering the content an technology that we consume on a daily bases an important and personal twist.

React Native and Flutter continue replacing Kotlin and Swift for Native Android & iOS development.

In one of our past articles, we covered a few important aspects of how React Native has already disrupted the mobile development scene.

Being supported by Google, Flutter, a fairly new name on the mobile development scene is seen to acquire more authority and trust from developers in eastern Europe and around the world. It promises the building of mobile apps in record time., Tencent, New York Time’s Ken Ken puzzle, Square and Google Assistant are just of few of the apps that are already using Flutter.


Internet of Things.

Today, internet-powered things are everywhere. It’s because we grew to love things powered by the power of the internet & connectivity and this is clearly reflected in the way investments are growing year by year as technology giants are developing more IoT apps.

Hint: If you are looking to get your hands dirty with some IoT this year, take a look at the impressive market size of smart home devices. Here is something we found while browsing around. It is from Strategy Analytics.

Ownership of Smart home devices in US homes

Final words.

Today, more apps are being released in the App Store and Google Play store than ever. While this could be both good and bad for your next mobile application, it is getting more clear that in order to craft a digital product that stands out on the market, you will need more than cutting edge technology or clinging to the hottest technology trend that is out there. Standalone, these two can’t do enough in order to ensure the success of your business on the market. Take a look at a software development process and before starting to tech around, make sure you spend a great deal of time in researching the scope of your digital application.

🚀Did reading this article made you start building your mobile app with RebelDotWe’d love a tech riddle! Reach out and let’s talk about building your awesome digital product, together. Make sure you, and we will get back to you in no time.

🤔Reading this made you want to be part of the RebelDot team? We’ve got great news! We are in search of creative engineers that can help us ship digital products. Check our openings, here.