App developers are often caught between two goals while preparing their programs for release: putting out a quality product, and doing it as quickly as possible.

Luckily, there’s no reason you can’t give consumers what they need while beating your competitors to the market. Releasing a minimum viable product (MVP), will give you a presence in the mobile marketplace while leaving you the time and flexibility necessary to tweak your app to make it conform to consumers’ tastes.

An MVP can also allow you to test app store waters to see if your idea is likely to be successful before you dedicate a full slate of resources to development and marketing efforts.

Here’s what you should know before deciding if an MVP is the right way to release your app to the public.

What’s an MVP?

In an nutshell, an MVP is the simplest version of an app that can solve whatever problems the software is intended to address. An MVP can be very basic in design and functionality, but must provide a valuable service to its intended users.

The key to creating a successful MVP lies in the balance between efficiency and usability. It makes no sense to release an app that fails to provide any significant benefits to consumers, so make sure your MVP demonstrates the potential of your app to anyone who downloads it, thereby giving them a reason to keep it on their devices long enough for you to improve its look and feel through updates.

How to Plan Development

Before you set about building your MVP, you should meet with your developer to decide which features and design elements will be included in the initial release, and which can wait for future updates.

In order to accomplish this, examine the mockup of your complete app (if you have one), and eliminate any features that aren’t necessary to the program’s basic functionality. If you’re developing a photo-editing app, for example, you’ll want to include any new and/or improved tools that set your software apart from already-existing programs, while excluding features like social sharing (which can be accomplished by the user via other methods, and can be added to your app in the future).

As is the case with all methods of software development, you’ll want to get a good idea of the cost of creating your MVP before you commence its construction. Remember that it won’t be a finished product when it hits app store shelves, so make sure to leave room in your budget for updates, some of which will likely include significant (i.e., costly) development work.

Development

The development of an MVP is similar to that of a complete app with the notable exceptions of the bells and whistles that can improve appearance and user experience, but add relatively little in the way of results.

You’ll start by creating a mockup of the app, highlighting its base functionality. After getting feedback from your developer, you’ll come to a final decision on what to include in the MVP, and then begin the development process.

It’s o.k. if your plan changes from idea to release, but be sure to avoid feature creep, which can often happen if several people are involved in your app’s development. Always keep your goal of simplicity in mind, and assure everyone involved that any non-necessary additions/improvements can be made at a later date if a desire for your app becomes evident.

Also, while users’ reactions to the MVP will provide valuable feedback, you should still consider implementing a beta testing phase before the initial release. Testing can ensure that your MVP contains at least the minimum amount of appeal you identified during the planning stage.

Release/Marketing

Once you’re confident that the release of your MVP is imminent, you should give serious consideration to launching a landing page. That site can feature information about your app, including its release date, and can also feature links to whatever app store(s) on which it will be available.

A landing page also gives you the opportunity to solicit feedback from early adopters so you can plan out updates to the software. Also, you can post news about the success of the app, as well as interesting bits of information, such as update details.

Along with the landing page, you’ll want to put some serious effort into promoting the app on popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These sites give you opportunities to promote your app free-of-charge, or you can put some money behind a paid advertising campaign to reach more potential users. Both Facebook and Twitter ads can include install buttons and links to your landing page or app store profiles, and all social accounts give users the chance to sound off on the program, giving you a free source of publicity, as well as helpful feedback.

No matter what methods you use to market your app, remember to monitor those platforms constantly, and make good use of any feedback you receive. The key to the long-term success of an MVP-style app development project is to quickly and efficiently improve your software in order to build a loyal base of users who will be likely to recommend the program to friends.

Conclusion

An MVP can be a great way to get your app to the market before someone has a chance to beat you to it, and can go a long way in helping you decide if your program has what it takes to find success.

Along with the benefits, though, the MVP style carries with it some risks, some of which can be fatal if the app’s launch isn’t carried out properly. Remember that releasing a scaled-down version of an app doesn’t mean you should cut corners on the features you choose to include. Take care to make sure your MVP serves a clearly-defined purpose, and that consumers can use the program to accomplish their goals easily.

If you follow these guidelines, your users should be happy to stick around for your updates, and could provide you with a nice return on your investment.