How to reduce the costs of creating a mobile app MVP?

 min read
7 July 2021
Szymon Wójcik
Szymon Wójcik
iOS developer
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  • Intro

Ok, so you’ve decided to get your mobile app MVP developed. Instead of going full version ahead, you would rather try out some prototypes first to validate your business idea. 

It will not be quite as functional as your desired app, it is most likely to consume a large part of your budget if done in the wrong way.

How can you take control of your mobile app MVP and minimize the cost? Let us guide you through this topic.

First things first, though. 

What is mobile app MVP, actually?

In short, MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. Despite literal meaning being the same for every industry and use case, it is worth checking various perspectives and viewpoints. 

In terms of users and their perception of mobile app MVPs, it is a set of functionalities that allows the product to be presented on the market and put through initial testing or user assessment. While only a very small amount of features are available with this solution, it must still be useful and fully functional – it should not have any errors or shortcomings. 

That is how it works for business and development, too, though there are a few extra considerations to keep in mind during those stages. 

When it comes to the business side of MVP, it should include way more than just key functionality. In fact, the business sense of MVP may depend upon analytics tools and verifying results. MVPs don’t just test features for the sake of testing – they need to collect feedback from early adopters for improvement and development where necessary. Without analytics, it would be difficult to answer any questions regarding further mobile app development

Mobile app MVP vs business goals

Based on the above description, two major goals can be identified – and they ought to be in alignment.

Goal #1: to develop a product that permits you to reach the market as rapidly as possible. 

MVP is developed under the assumption of being fast and inexpensive. The key is to write the product in a way that enables further development and any changes to be introduced beyond the target version. This approach needs to be reflected in MVPs since an MVP that is not fully functional and unscalable may hinder the development of a final version. 

Goal #2: to equip the MVP with analytical tools.

Analytics tools must include both qualitative and quantitative methods of collecting data, users’ feedback, or insights for further development of the mobile app MVP.

Mobile app MVP benefits
Mobile app MVP benefits

How to reduce the costs of your mobile app MVP

Like everything else: it depends. 

There’s no magic formula for success – but there are a few patterns you may find useful in this step. 

Start with a plan

There is a tragedy without a strategy, the saying goes, and it is hard to disagree with this. Taking a strategic approach from the very beginning gives a clearer picture of the whole project.

What should be included in such a plan?

  • user journey: in this step, it’s necessary to identify three elements: users, user actions, and story endings (end goals). The path from user identification through the steps that lead to the user’s ultimate goal is the best guide for determining what areas to develop in the MVP and what areas you can make do in the final outcome.
  • user data flow: as above, but shows the dependencies and relationships between users and scenarios. Additionally, it provides an explanation of how actions may either collide or collaborate.

  • functional description: described in detail the features that will be included in the application and how they will affect the final cost and final quality. There may be variations in the number of features and the degree of complexity, therefore they may affect the final shape, price, and quality. First, it is necessary to understand these functionalities well in order to get an accurate estimation of what work will need to be performed and how much it will cost, in addition, in the case of the MVP, there is only a selection of required functionalities in the first version.

  • communication design: It depends on whether the project pertains to IoT or not. In that case, we are talking about an IoT communication protocol. It describes how software and smart devices connect to each other and share data – this may proceed via wifi, Bluetooth, or radio waves – there may be a single device that transmits the software’s data or a group of such devices. However, if the project is not applicable to the Internet of Things, there should be a means of communication as well, namely what the different screen looks like, what is displayed on them, and how the user may contact us. Identify the places that serve these purposes and analyze the way they deliver messages from the user. Also identify the channels of continuous communication: pop-ups, push messages, or notifications, just to name a few.

    In addition, make sure that your MVP mobile app strikes the perfect balance between front-end development and back-end coding. Having smooth and clear communication is essential, whether you are working as separate teams or within a single team since they are working towards a common goal – a fully functional MVP. If anything happens to cause a delay in the works of one party, it may cause a delay in the other party’s operations. To ensure all goes according to plan, some factors may need to be discussed beforehand, for example, the amount of cache to be used or the number of resource requests. Additionally, the feedback rounds should also be discussed in advance.

  • system architecture: selecting the appropriate system architecture depending on the resources, time, or preferences of product implementation and development. This can be, for instance, a layered architecture, MVC, SOA, component-based architecture, or a client-server structure.

  • project roadmap: needs to be assembled before development begins and break down the features to be implemented as well as the timeline and responsibilities.

Rethink reduction in product scope

The goal of having all features in an MVP version may not be attainable, so reducing project scope is well recommended. Finding a balance between usually challenging, high-level requirements and a designated budget may be difficult, so either the budget needs to be increased or the requirements need to be lower. 

There are at least two paths you can take here: 

  • product canvas – a convenient tool that can be used to efficiently design a product from concept to implementation. It is created to identify requirements, collect ideas, and build an overall vision at the beginning of the product development process. This method simplifies the identification of must-have features for MVP and hence reduces its scope. Product canvas may include name, goals, metrics, target groups, big pictures, and product details and may help narrow down both the scope and the budget. 

  • task prioritization – identifying the features that are essential each to the MVP and removing the features that are not essential will enable the budget to stay as firm as possible while staying within predefined constraints. Prioritizing only certain features and forecasting others can be implemented later allows a bigger picture to emerge.

It is impossible to reduce the cost of an MVP project while maintaining the characteristics and features of the mobile application. It is suggested that you decide whether you absolutely require all the screens included in the MVP version. If some of them are not necessary, you can easily skip them in the MVP version, thus allowing more resources to be used for other business activities.

A similar situation occurs with graphics and animations. At the MVP stage, it would be wise to limit their use as much as possible – even a seemingly simple animation can consume a lot of resources and be costly. In many cases, using animations in this stage would not make business sense. The MVP mobile application should maximize the use of the system’s capabilities, and additional features can be added in later versions.

The use of native, ready-made components influences the shape of an MVP, its speed of development, and its cost.

It is worthwhile using elements such as UISwitch, even though the creation of custom elements may seem straightforward, it is known that predicting their behavior in hundreds of different scenarios influences the cost and length of MVP development for a mobile application. Moreover, rather than coding the solution from scratch (for example, chat in a mobile app), it is worth using the elements that are already available and configured.

Help others help you

In some cases, there is not much knowledge or approach to MVP from the clients’ side. They just want to get things done, regardless of the method. CrustLab helps clients understand the whole picture, establish measurable goals, validate the concept, and plan outcomes via dedicated workshops. This is an excellent solution especially for those clients who would appreciate guidance in navigating through MVP. 

Analytics of MVP

Many incorrectly believe that MVP is only a “demo version” to check some features and determine if it works. It is, of course, but for this to be determined, both hard and soft data must be available. Without analytics, they won’t. Data should support most business decisions, and one of those is the decision as to whether to develop MVP into a fully functional product. 

In terms of mobile app MVP, there are quite a few tools to consider. They all vary in functionalities and features, yet they all have in common the ability to support effective analytics. Some of them are quite general and cover analytics as a whole, while others may be well-suited to specific analytics of mobile applications. 

  1. GTM – GTM allows for managing the marketing tags after the MVP has been shipped, significantly reducing the need to rebuild the MVP. This is the main reason that many MVPs rely on GTM for their analytics, which is likely the GTM’s selling point.

  2. Smartlook – Smartlook is capable of advanced analytics including recording user sessions (to view any point in the customer journey) and generating heat maps for each point in the journey in order to identify trends and spot patterns in user behavior. With events, funnels, and filters, a specific moment or action can be specified.

  3. Firebase – the primary advantage of this product is that analyses, crash reporting, hosting, and A/B tests are all available in the same product. It also includes the Google Analytics mobile app. In the beginning, this product may pose a viable option, but it becomes very expensive once your traffic increases. 

  4. Google Analytics 4 – Google Analytics 4 offers a much more unified platform for app analytics by directly leveraging the Firebase Analytics schema and reporting interface. After linking your Firebase project to a GA4 property, you have access to a range of reporting templates for analytical data that unavailable through the Firebase itself. 

  5. Apple App Analytics – it is a basic, but adequate mobile app analytics tool. It offers usage data, sales data, and app store data, where applicable. Going without saying, it only works with iOS apps

Of course, there are many other tools, systems, and applications that you can use on various stages of mobile app analytics. For the MVP, it is best to go for a complex yet quick implementation solution that will enable you to receive the world’s first insights from those who matter the most – your potential users. 

Although quantitative data is the most important one you can capture during the stage of verifying and analyzing the performance of your mobile app MVP, qualitative data is also important. How can you collect data without gathering hard data? 

  • Feedback via live chat,

  • suggestions over a contact form,

  • in-app messages for instant feedback (e.g. NPS surveys),

  • interviews with early adopters,

  • social campaigns encouraging feedback,

  • e-mail messages with review incentives,

  • online reviews and testimonials,

  • pop-ups and push notifications with surveys.

Those are only a few examples, to name a few! In short, anything that helps give us an insight into the factors which may lead to a better quality mobile app MVP should be put to use. 

The more, the merrier. 

Over to you 

There is no doubt that the cost of developing an MVP is usually less expensive than that of the final product. There is no need for that to be always the case, though, if tasks are not prioritized and MVP is the opposite of what is called for. MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product which is the minimum set of features that can satisfy the needs of a limited group of potential consumers. No more, and no less. MVP needs to answer whether it is worthwhile for the company to develop the prototype into a mobile app and whether there are strong customer demands and needs to be addressed via the final product.

The experiment may be biased if the system is overdone, is not functional, or has many features. The result may be that, although the app is close to completion, it is not wanted or has a lot of bugs to resolve. The more features there are to implement or fix in the MVP, the longer and more costly the project will be.

To reduce the costs of putting together a mobile app MVP, it is important to reduce requirements, research needs, set goals, organize resources, and balance expectations – and verify what questions to address at the start. 

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