I began my career at the literal Lean Startup, a company called IMVU that Eric Ries writes about in his book The Lean Startup. The main philosophy of lean is to learn fast by taking a minimalist approach to product design and development (build only what you have to in order to test an idea) and use customer feedback to drive and define the requirements for future iterations. Typically, I’m pretty disciplined with this approach, but building mobile apps makes this challenging primarily because it’s hard to learn fast with the mechanics of the App Store.
For example, taking out all the time to design, develop, and iterate on an app, you have a review process that each build of an app must undergo for it to be published in the App Store. In other words, even if you do ship your test app, you still have to wait awhile before you can publish your next iteration, it’s far from continuous deployment. You could build an app and then soft launch it, but you weaken your future chances of the app as visibility by ranking is so incredibly important for distribution.
You’re also building an application for an iOS app. Your user base demands a different level of quality than Android, where getting complete test coverage for all devices and all operating systems is an impossible set of permutations.
One way to test early and iterate on an app is to do a private beta release with a service like TestFlight (now owned by Apple) or Hockey App. I’ve only used TestFlight and before Apple acquired it, there was a 100 device limit just like ad hoc provisioning. Once you’ve used up a space, it’s used up for that year, even if you remove it! It appears that Hockey App has found a way around this, but I haven’t yet used them.
In the end, we decided that the best way to learn would be to launch the app in the App Store after user testing the app with our friends and family.
Part of what we defined as our minimum viable product, or MVP was the stylized app experience, particularly that a content rich experience would be important to our customers. Even with the 80 plus backgrounds and stickers that we included in the application, we’ve already gotten feedback that our customers would like more.
We’ve also invalidated one of our hypotheses which was that the message accompanying the photo was about as important as the photo. Most of the uses we’ve seen so far of the app have been selfies so in our next iteration, we’re planning on making the photo space in the app a lot larger and adding more accessory stickers like hats and sunglasses so people can decorate their selfies.
Check out our MVP here and tell us what you think.