Have you ever thought about building an app for your startup idea? Even when you completely lack any coding experience? You’re not alone, I have been down this road like many of you. We all have this innate desire of building the next Airbnb or the next Snapchat, but what does it truly take from a technical perspective to actually build one fast? I think most of the quick tips you read online of startups that took days or weeks are sometimes a tad bit over exaggerated to gain virality. The devil is usually in the details, it doesn’t sound great when you’re pitching to the general public that it took longer. Building from scratch actually takes a lot more effort technically. So since it takes time what are your options? Recently, I was asked the question on qoura. “What are the fastest ways to build an MVP”? I pondered about this for a while and thought to myself heck there are few key principles you should keep in mind if you want to get one out fast. Below are the key points based on my firsthand experience.
Before we begin even diving into the fastest ways, let’s take a look at what an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) is for better clarity. We have heard this term tossed around especially in the entrepreneurial community at some point or another. An MVP is a product with just enough features used to rapidly test the core assumptions and features of a product. By using the term ‘product’ we are not limited to tangible items but intangible ones as well. The goal of a MVP is to establish as much validated learning as possible while doing so with a minimal amount of effort. An MVP is not a patch job or a mashup of dissimilar components that are barely working, but it’s an actual usable product. Crafting an MVP that users love is challenging, even for seasoned entrepreneurs and developers. Before you even begin making one, you need to have your objectives and expectations in check. They are two routes you can take either build it yourself or to get someone else via outsourcing.
Without a doubt the fastest way would be not to build it yourself but to delegate the responsibility, that’s if you do not have the technical expertise to do it on your own. If your MVP build process is outsourced then your time would be better invested in focusing on the business aspects of your MVP and strategies of how to get users to actually use your product.
This model of outsourcing the MVP has its merits such as time to market which could potentially be reduced by leveraging on individuals with years of experience. This could potentially save you lots of money down the road, as you may get something that’s built with extension and scalability in mind, but on the other hand it also has its own flaws if execution is done wrongly i.e. procuring the wrong resources to work on the MVP then the MVP may fail to meet its objectives. Like all things, there’s always something to be learnt if failure does occur.
The outsourcing model has burdens and unknowns that could further be reduced if you have a technical cofounder/technical expert to work alongside you with the necessary skill sets that reduce the chances of choosing inadequate technical resources. This individual should possess the technical knowhow as to be able to detect when estimated timelines are dodgy or unrealistic, additionally, his or her expert advice can also assist in paving the road map for overall product features.
If you do not have access to such an individual then learning how to code is a must. Having the fundamentals of coding, even elementary basics open up your mind to a whole new way of thinking, it makes you a better analytical thinker and better able to visualise your ideas. The process of procuring and outsourcing the MVP can be tricky without having a technical understanding of how it might work. The chances of getting ripped off with absorbent labour costs are higher. Knowing how to code gives you enough knowledge to know when things are going bad and it also allows you to take things into your own hands and to just get it done.
Now that we have gotten that out of the way. What are the things that you need to take into consideration if you want to build your MVP fast without sacrificing on quality?
- Surround yourself with people that have the same zeal as you. You are more likely not to succumb to burnout before you finish the product. Having people with the right mental attitude working with you makes a massive difference to whether you will reach your end goal or not.
- Have a definite tangible market that you are aiming for, There’s no point building to solve a problem that nobody cares about.
- Have the idea well thought out at least the initial idea, the rest you can figure it out once you test the market.
- Bootstrap, there is no point investing a lot if the idea might just flop if you are uncertain about it. When building MVP’s usually there’s a lot of uncertainty unless you have been backed up by venture capitalist with deep pockets or if seeding isn’t an issue and idea has already been accepted. Be as frugal as possible, it’s just an MVP it may fail so do not break your back too much while in the process of getting it out the window, but this also does not mean cheap out too much, you may need to invest a little to get something back in return.
- Leverage heavily on ready-made components to speed up dev efforts, seriously keep it DRY (don’t repeat yourself) as we have seen thus far in “Building your first Django app in minutes course” Django does this well link at end of article.
- Leverage on SAAS (hosted software as service billed monthly annually or free), PAAS (hosted tool, application, framework to build run your app as service), IAAS (hosted hardware infrastructures as service billed monthly annually or free) and get the Continuous integration right from day one. This will save you a lot of time, if you can mimic, your production environment from day one then you would save yourself the pain later on and No you do not have to fork out a huge sum of money as there are various free tiers plans to use to get that MVP out.
- Design and development are two different skillsets, using lower cost options like templates can reduce your time and expenses, starting from scratch is not an option if speed is something you wish to achieve without compromising on quality.
- Build something simple enough that it allows you to collect the maximum amount of data for validated learning, with the least effort. Keep your scope small don’t try to do too much, you will never finish. To sum it up do not overbuild, we have this tendency to want to squeeze everything in while trying to reach perfection.
- Spend more time networking thinking of the marketing part of things. I think this is a part that most always omit. If you want to go big think small.
- Place yourself in a receptive environment. Speaking from experience, I live in that part of the world where breaking into different communities and social circles takes a great deal of effort. Environment plays a huge factor as well. This is one of those unknown eluding facts, some may disagree, regions are different, but should not blockers to achieving your dreams.
- Use tools that you have a fairly good understanding of to boost productivity. This will also prevent you from racking up technical debt later on.
“Do one thing daily at least, that gives maximum value to your MVP vision”
The points outlined actually take a look at things from the technical point of view. There are more factors that need to be considered when you start taking things toward seeking investment and seeding from VPs. The last remark is the key takeaway. Everything that you do on a daily basis should bring you one step closer to actualizing your ideas. I hope my thoughts have been insightful and assist you as you continue to learn. To learn more about how to build web apps and create your own MVP, do join me in my self-paced course where I take you from the ground up using material design, python and Django in the quickest way possible way to build MVP, work projects or school apps.