Defining the first minimum viable product for an app is a significant milestone as it really sets out what you’re going to be doing for the next few weeks or months. I’m at the point now, where I have a selection of rough wireframes and user stories, and its time to choose what is going to make it into the first MVP. I know from my wireframing exercise that I have a couple of options for a few of the screens, and some features that probably aren’t going to make it into the first MVP.
Defining the First MVP
I think defining the content of your first MVP is one of the trickiest decisions you make when developing a product. Its quite easy to sidetrack yourself by:
- Thinking that you need to deliver a complete product.
- Focusing on it from a technical point of view.
- Thinking that delivering any kind of product is too much.
- Generally worrying too much.
The real key to getting your MVP right is to define your experiment or hypothesis – once you have an hypothesis it should be really easy to decide what needs to be in, and what doesn’t. For this project its pretty difficult to do this because its all about learning and having fun. But I do want the app to be useful, and provide some benefit – even if its just for me.
The Riskiest Parts
So given that I looked at my first lean canvas and started to think about what the riskiest parts of my model were, and came up with these:
- Channels: Am I going to be able to reach my audience?
- Problem: Is it really enough of a problem? i.e. is there demand
- Solution: Would a comic collector actually use an app for this?
As is the case for most apps, the first 2 risks relate to demand and ability to reach that demand. To qualify this I did a little research.
I really don’t want to spend a lot of time on market research for this project as making money from the project isn’t one of my main goals. So I did a couple of things…
Firstly I used google adwords to find if people are looking for comic book collection apps at all.
Initially the results were really uninspiring – pretty much every term such as ‘comic book app’, ‘comic collection app’ and ‘comic book collection app’ had less than 1000 monthly searches. This indicates the demand really isn’t that high. Looking a little deeper though there were some higher terms such as ‘comic books online’ and ‘comic collector live’ which are either more general or relate to a competitor product.
All in all the demand side doesn’t point to a massive opportunity, but there is some demand and you should never base your entire decision on adwords alone, especially not for apps.
Secondly I did a little searching on the google play store to see what competing products there were, and how they were doing. The first good thing that hit me is that that there are some competing products, but not too many! All in all there must be about maybe 4 or 5 other apps for cataloging your comic collection:
- Comic Book Collector by Sweet Lime Studio (paid 1,000 – 5,000; free 10,000 – 50,000 installs)
- Comic Book Inventory by Aaron OBrien (1,000 – 5,000)
- My Comic Book Collection by Tuyware (500 – 1,000)
- Comic Collector Live by MidTen Media (paid 1,000-5,000; free 500 – 1,000)
- CLZ Comics by Collectorz (1,000 – 5,000)
The numbers are again not huge, but they are enough to warrant further investigation. Some of these apps are fantastic and feature rich, but it does look like there’s space there for a simple, clean app that syncs to an online database.
Ideally I would do customer interviews but as commercial success isn’t my primary goal I’m going to skip it.
Defining the Experiment
So after some research I havce ascertained the following:
- Am I going to be able to reach my audience: From the Google Play store this doesn’t seem to be the highest priority, as there is definitely space in the top 5-10 with some simple keyword targeting.
- Is it really enough of a problem? i.e. is there demand: Given that there are several apps with installs over 10,000 there does appear to be demand, and the problem is real.
- Would a comic collector actually use an app for this: I think for the same reasons as number 2 we can see that the answer is probably yes!
As part of my research I have identified a 4th risk that should probably be addressed. I’m not going to be able to deliver the feature set that the other apps have, but if I focus on what differentiates my app then it increases my chance of success without wasting too much time. The feature that really seems to differentiate me is the ‘cloud sync’ feature, and possibly accessing the collection online via a website. Furthermore this feature would probably be the thing that allowed me to monetise the app.
So my first MVP really needs to test if a ‘cloud sync’ feature is what comic collectors want. The problem with this is that this could easily be the most complicated part of the app! So to test this I’m going to develop the bare bones app and add button to add the online sync feature at a cost – clicking through this link will give a ‘coming soon’ type message, but will more importantly provide me with some idea about how many people are interested in this feature.
Making the Cut
So running through the wireframes I’ve decided to drop certain features from the first MVP:
- The tabbed home screen.
- The filtering feature.
- The collection lookup feature.
So the app will literally allow adding comic series and issues, and that’s about it!
I will also need to work out where the upgrade prompt is going to be, but that’s something I’ll think about once the first phase of development is complete.