8 Steps to Take Before Hiring a Developer to Build an MVP

By Joshua Gross, 31 March, 2022

The Minimum Viable Product model is a model of app development based around a fast and reactive cycle of bare-minimum development, product feedback, and iteration. You can read more about how it works in our deep dive into the subject here.

If you're convinced and you want to get started, great! The question is, how can you do so while minimizing the chances of failure?

The problem with the MVP model is that it's very easy to do it incorrectly. Any disconnect can lead to delays, and delays mean wasted time, wasted money, and wasted investment. So, before you hire a developer, you need to take these eight steps to ensure you're laying a strong foundation. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and chat with us about further details.

1: Understand the Process

The first thing you need to do as part of the MVP process is understand the MVP process. The article linked above with our deep dive is a good place to start. However, beyond even that, you need to internalize the core tenets of MVP development.

  • Minimum doesn't mean non-functional. Minimum means it lacks the bells and whistles and doesn't fall victim to scope creep before release. If your product doesn't work, it's not an MVP at all.
  • Viable is essential. Even if it's bare-bones, you need your potential users to be able to see the value in it even in its current state. If they can't picture themselves using it, now or in the future, it's not viable.
  • Feedback is absolutely essential. You aren't perfect, and you aren't making perfect decisions. If user feedback tells you to go in a direction different from where you were planning, follow the feedback.

MVP development is very easy to get wrong, which is why it has such a bad reputation amongst certain circles. It's not inherently bad; it just gets misused a lot.

Remember, the MVP model is not about taking wheels and inventing a car out of them. It's about taking the problem of transportation and figuring out what arrangement of locomotion makes the most sense for your audience. Cars, trains, bikes; they're all viable solutions, but you need to find the one that stands out as the best option for the most people in your audience. You know, to use a metaphor.

2: Brainstorm Ideas

MVP development typically starts with one of two things. It's either an idea you want to find a place for or a problem you want to solve.

Either way, the first thing you need to do is sit down and start brainstorming ideas. What is the core of your project? What problem do you want to solve? What do you think users will want out of your solution? How can you add value to it? What upsells and additional features are useful?

Brainstorming is meant to fill pages with ideas, not necessarily to pare them down into something effective. If you start with a problem, you can brainstorm many different solutions, often mutually exclusive to one another. If you start with an idea, you can brainstorm different problems it can be used to solve.

Remember, some of this might be useful, but much of it will not. More importantly, all of it is subject to adjustment according to later feedback. No matter how good you think your idea is, if your target audience wants something different, you need to give them something different. Otherwise, you're not making an MVP; you're making a mistake.

Remember, your overall goal with the MVP model is iteration. Your brainstorming document can be useful to look back on for more ideas later on; it's not meant to be perfect from the start.

3: Perform Market Research

Before you even begin to build a wireframe or lay down UX ideas, or even start looking at frameworks, you need to do market research. Your brainstorming has left you with a pretty good idea of the space you want to play in. Now, you need to figure out who else is already playing in that space.

Market research is critical for several reasons.

  • It helps you understand what problems and ideas your target audience has.
  • It helps you identify competitors who are already established in the space, and others who may be developing their own MVPs.
  • It helps you estimate metrics such as expected demand, anticipated costs, potential usage volume and interest, and other numbers that can be helpful to get started.

One mistake many MVP companies make is not being aggressive with their market research. Send out surveys to your potential audience and ask them what they think of your idea. If you're afraid of sharing your idea for fear of someone poaching it, then you're just not planning to move fast enough.

MVP development needs to be, at its core, responsive to feedback. The entire point of the MVP cycle is to frequently gather feedback on everything, from the basic idea to the implementation of features to feature requests and more, rapidly rolling out, adjusting, prototyping, and iterating on everything. The slower it is, the less information you gather, and the less drive you have, the worse it's going to be.

4: Pick a Target Audience

Your research and your idea should be able to combine into an idea of what your target audience will be. In some cases, you might even have multiple possible audiences. When that happens, you can't focus on pleasing all of them at once, so you need to pick the one to start with that is most likely to get you established. Then you can make spin-off versions for other audiences as necessary.

Picking your target audience will help determine a lot about how you build your MVP. You'll be able to answer questions like:

  • What does this audience do that ties into their need for this product?
  • What kind of marketing is most likely to reach this audience?
  • What channels will you be able to use to get good feedback?
  • What level of knowledge does the audience have? How much hand-holding or tutorializing will they need to learn the product?
  • Are there significant demographic categories you'll be reaching? How can you reach them more effectively?

Understanding the core of your audience helps you build an initial MVP that reaches them specifically, and then their feedback can help you more fully adapt it to their needs. Then, once you're established, you can build outwards and add on features, reach new audiences, and more.

5: Decide on a Framework

Once you've laid as much of the groundwork as you can, you can start making more tangible decisions as to what frameworks you want to be using. You have a lot of potential options.

Some considerations might include:

  • Whether or not to use a low-code development platform. These platforms can be low-investment and don't need high-end developers to get a product up and running. However, they are often limited in what you can do with them, and once you run into that wall, transitioning out of the environment can be difficult.
  • What kinds of frameworks you want to use on the front end. We compared React, Vue, and Angular, but these are just some of the many options available within the overall JavaScript umbrella, and that's not even the only option for a web app today.
  • What kind of compatibility you want. Are you making a web app or an app that will have a desktop version and mobile iterations? How broad is your audience and your use case?

The truth is, framework is an important decision to make when you're planning to hire developers, because you want to make sure the developers you hire have experience. However, there are so many similarities between frameworks that it almost doesn't matter. Often, simply picking the most popular framework that can enable what you want to be done is all you need.

6: Build Feedback Channels

Above, we mentioned that part of researching your market is locating your target audience and the channels they use. How can you reach them? Now is the time to put it to the test.

Do you need to set up and use a Twitter account? Facebook? Reddit? Accounts on obscure web forums?

You can also do things like set up a newsletter mailing list, which you can then use to send out updates, surveys, and other communications.

Surveys are going to be one of the most important tools in your arsenal, so make sure you learn how to write questions to get real, tangible feedback. Often, MVP developers try to ask for too much information, make long 20-minute surveys for people to answer, and then wonder why no one engages with them.

The less of a burden it is to answer a couple of questions for you, the more people are going to do it. Learning how to write those questions – and learning what, specifically, to ask – is a key part of the MVP cycle.

7: Put Together a High-Performing Team

Hiring a developer is a key part of the agile MVP development cycle, but they aren't the only person you need to hire. You need to put together a high-performing team to cover all the bases.

Who should be on this team?

  • A project manager, to keep track of everything and manage deadlines and deliverables.
  • A content creator, to manage your newsletter, blog, social media, and other marketing.
  • A data analyst, to develop and analyze those surveys we've mentioned above.
  • A UI/UX developer who can help manage the design and experience side of things.
  • A graphic designer, to work with both the content creator and the UX designer for elements of the app.

These are just some of the roles you'll want to put together in your team. Different teams will have different builds, so make sure you know what you need. You might be able to handle the project management yourself, or you might not need a dedicated content creator, or maybe you can just hire a company like ours to handle most of your development for you. The options are limitless and flexible.

8: Pick What You Need in a Developer

Now that you understand what you need to make your app, you need to start looking for a good developer.

Consider starting with a talented senior developer with experience using the frameworks you've chosen. They'll be more expensive than a junior developer, but they'll need less hand-holding and will be faster to produce results, which is what you need in the critical early phases of your project.

Your developer should have:

  • Experience with the tools and frameworks you're using.
  • Some interest in the overall subject you're targeting.
  • Good time management skills; you absolutely need your developer to turn in work at or before deadlines.
  • Communication and collaboration skills. Your team may be small, but that means everyone plays a dedicated part, and no one can be ignored if you want to succeed.

Look for developers with a track record of producing results. Look for people who are good at communicating and good at working with a team. Nothing else matters, at least in the early days.

Often, one of the best ways to find a good developer is with a skills test. Challenge your prospective developers to make something, assess their skills, and pick the one that most fits what you need.

Of course, there's always the other option: outsource it all. You have an idea, and you have a budget. Why go through the work of doing everything manually, putting together a team, and hoping you can get the ball rolling?

Instead, why not reach out to us? We're experienced, talented, and communicative. All you need to do is drop us a line, and we can talk about your idea and how we can help you implement it. We're standing by and ready to help you with your development needs at a moment's notice, and we look forward to assisting you however we possibly can!