An MVP, or a Minimum Viable Product, is the initial version of a new product that consists only of the most essential features. Its goal is to work well enough for early adopters while allowing the development team to gather insights and user feedback, locate issues as well as identify the most valuable features. Once the concept has been proven and the product has been adjusted to fit the market reality, development can move forward at much less risk. If you’re not convinced, this article will list why building an MVP is a good idea and how to leverage Ruby on Rails to do so efficiently.
The lean startup methodology is a big factor here. The approach is meant to shorten a product’s development cycle by using iterations and learning along the way. As teams build their products up from their simplest versions and focus on early users’ needs, they can reduce risk, minimise costs (particularly the costs of a big launch and major technical issues) and grow organically without much initial funding.
Testing your concept
One of the reasons for starting with an MVP is that many new businesses, especially innovative tech startups, are working with untested ideas. Whether it’s your business model, monetization scheme, features or market fit, you can’t be certain how it’ll work out after launch. It’s a natural risk, and one way to minimize it is to build an MVP and get user feedback. Early adopters will let you know what features they like, whether they like interacting with your app at all, and what issues you need to fix. This way, you won’t commit a ton of work and resources to a feature that will eventually be scrapped. You’ll find out how users interact with your payments system and what you can do to make the buyer’s journey go even more smoothly.
Getting user feedback is crucial in an iterative approach. It’s useful when working on both existing and future functionalities, and it’ll help your team plan out a coherent app architecture. You’ll be able to verify the technical solutions you choose to implement before you gain too much momentum to turn back should that choice be revealed as unsatisfactory. Thanks to beginning development work with an MVP, you can save time and money by verifying your business idea.
It’s pretty obvious that the sooner you get your product or service out there, the sooner you can start earning money. Probably the best way to do this is to narrow your focus to only the most important features, build a functional MVP and launch it as fast as possible. Again, you’ll be able to test your monetization scheme and business model, and you’ll get the ball rolling in terms of marketing (both through your own effort and word of mouth). Don’t forget that building a successful startup isn’t just about delivering a solid product - you also need to work on your user base and brand. A product that’s “coming soon” can only get you so far. With an MVP, you’ll be able to build real relationships with customers very early on.
This is related to our previous point, but time-to-market matters especially to disruptors offering first of a kind products. Imagine announcing your concept, working on it tirelessly for months, only for someone else to get to the market faster, stealing your user base. With a time-sensitive project, it’s usually better to quickly build and MVP and then improve upon it without a looming deadline.
Many investors require proof of concept before they commit to your project. A good business plan may go a long way, but one of the most effective ways to get funding is to show that your startup works in practice. Even better if your MVP earns money - a business that shows the promise of gains is a much safer bet for investors to make. And if the MVP isn’t generating income yet, just the fact that its user base is growing should be good enough in most cases.
Keeping the team engaged
These days, finding the best talent for your project can be extremely difficult. The IT market is very saturated and it’s long been predicted that there would be many more development jobs than developers. Millennials in particular are likely to change jobs for something that feels more meaningful, even if it’s at the price of a lower salary or fewer benefits. Because of this state of affairs, it’s crucial that you keep your team passionate about your product or service. Building an MVP and engaging an audience early is a great way to do this. It’s proof that your business idea is useful and valuable to real people. That’s fantastic motivation for those on your team who want their work to matter.
Using Ruby on Rails to build MVPs fast
There are many technologies with the potential to help you created an MVP. For web projects in particular, Ruby on Rails, a back-end framework, is among the best available tools, thanks to its rapid development capabilities, good testing practices, extremely fast creation of simple apps and easy synchronization with hosting solutions.
Rapid development in Ruby is possible mainly thanks to gems - the many available libraries providing ready-made solutions. For example, the Devise gem helps implement user authorization. It’s one of the most popular Ruby gems out there, used for the majority of projects that require user registration, login, password recovery, etc. Instead of building such a module from scratch, your team can use Devise to implement the functionality much more quickly.
Rails’ testing practices, meanwhile, will help you release a bug-free app faster. There’s a lot of hidden value in releasing early versions of software that are bug-free. This approach leads to higher user retention levels, as early adopters can test working functionalities and experiences offered by the app. Their feedback will thus be constructive and help you tailor the app to their needs. This makes for a much better measurement of market fit than introducing buggy software and getting feedback influenced by unpleasant experiences. Code that is free of bugs becomes much easier to maintain and modify in the future. You’ll be sure that modifying one element of the app won’t break another. Ultimately, this will help you reduce costs of development and maintenance of your product.
A Ruby gem called RSpec provides a whole testing architecture, so the quality assurance flow can be much faster. It’s a testing framework with certain conventions, and it introduces a Domain Specific Language (DSL) rather than typical Ruby code, which is simple to write and more readable for testers. It’s just one example of Ruby’s fantastic testing support and culture.
Rails also have functionalities that allow for really fast creation of simple apps. For example, you can use special generators that work like this: you input the name of a resource, along with the database columns assigned to this data, and the entire code responsible for creating, editing, moving, and so on, of this type of data can be generated automatically. This speeds up work significantly. It’s not a feature used for app elements which users interact with, but internal elements like admin panels can be created lightning fast without wasting resources.
Finally, it’s very easy to synchronize Rails code with a hosting infrastructure. This means that application deployment is simple, fast and easy to automate. Your MVP can be released fast, and your response to the feedback you receive can also be very quick - which can be crucial in case any major bugs slip through your process, or it turns out that users don’t enjoy some element of the app. For SaaS projects, which are nearly always in development, this means a much easier implementation of continuous delivery.
Hopefully we’ve shown you enough benefits of building and MVP to at least consider the approach. If you do, Ruby on Rails may well be the best option for your project. It’s a mature web back-end technology focused on delivering results fast. Many companies, our clients among them, use it with great success.
If you have questions about the best technology for your MVP, don’t hesitate to contact us. iRonin’s team of full-stack developers has worked on many projects, taking them from MVPs to fully functional apps.