“From the start, the Code Hangar team was uncommonly easy to talk to and wanted to know exactly what I was envisioning. They set a detailed course on how to get there and kept me involved in the process throughout. Ultimately, we were able to exceed our initial goals in a rather short time.”
-MJ Brick, Founder and CEO of Hobbygoblin
The Minimum Viable Product and Why it Matters to Startups
App development is almost as much about speed as it is about quality or cost. While it's vital to create an awesome app that represents your business, products, and services in the best possible way, your startup also needs to get it launched, fast. That means getting a minimum viable product (MVP) designed, tested, and delivered.
Speed to market is one of the biggest competitive advantages you can have — whether it's due to competitors in the marketplace, to coincide with your product roadmap, or another external deadline. That’s why we created our “Eight Week MVP” service offering, designed to get your startup’s app from concept to working product in just two months.
There’s a huge benefit to being first — better promotion, more word-of-mouth, greater uptake, and refocusing resources into other areas. As we’re one of the fastest application development services in the industry, Hobbygoblin decided to work with us to bring their smartphone app to life. Here’s how we went from concept to completion, while ensuring quality and giving Hobbygoblin maximum value.
Read on to see how our Eight Week MVP service could benefit your business.
The Client — Hobbygoblin, a Gaming Startup
Hobbygoblin is a startup business supporting the board game and roleplaying game hobbies, allowing gamers to find each other, connect, and support their local, friendly, independent gaming store. Games like Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, Warhammer, and more are becoming increasingly popular. These games are much loved by the people that play them, and these customers tend to be very loyal to independent gaming stores who host events and sell the games.
Hobbygoblin’s aim is to get more gamers into stores and buying games from them, rather than online. It does this by providing an easy way for gamers to connect with each other, build communities, find events, and support their friendly, local gaming shops. This will help to keep the tabletop and roleplaying game industry thriving, for the benefit of gamers, retailers, and suppliers.
The Challenge — Moving from Concept to Demo-Ready MVP in Just Eight Weeks!
Hobbygoblin had a big ask — get a working, high-quality demo smartphone app ready in time for Origins Game Fair in less than two months! Here at Code Hangar, we knew we were up to the task. Success would depend on working closely with our client, a rock-solid plan, and fast, agile, precise execution.
The Plan — Eight Weeks of Features, Form, and Function
We got to work straightaway. Here’s how the plan shook out:
- Concept and collaboration — working with Hobbygoblin to establish the key functionality and features the app needed to have.
- MVP Product Strategy — understanding exactly what we needed to do at every step.
- UI design and layout — creating an easy to use, appealing, and beautiful user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).
- Lead capture pages — allowing Hobbygoblin to capture vital data from demo app users.
- Front end app architecture and backend database and APIs — interfacing with other parts of the app and supporting platform to provide a fast, responsive, seamless experience.
- Responsive web development — the app needed to look great across any device, operating system, or browser.
This was all achieved through using the Lean / Agile project management methodology. This is a rapid, iterative, collaborative development process that involves the client from start to finish. It allows for rapid prototyping, improvements, testing, and development, as part of an ongoing cycle.
Discovery — What Hobbygoblin Wanted from Their MVP
The first part of any MVP process is to understand exactly what the client needs. Hobbygoblin had a few key requirements:
- Allow any user or gamer of the app to connect with other game players and retailers.
- Filter gamers and stores by location, game type, and game title.
- Enable registered gamers to chat with other gamers and setup games.
- Have a profile system so other gamers can seek you out.
We gathered detailed specifications for each of these areas and built them into our MVP delivery cycle.
Wireframes — Prototyping Requirements and App Screen Flows
We needed to ensure we were understanding Hobbygoblin’s requirements properly, and the best way to do that is to provide examples and context. That meant building a simple wireframe prototype of the app that simulated what each screen would look like, show how users would move from screen to screen, and demonstrated user interactions, inputs, and outputs.
We went through a couple of iterations to perfect the screen flow and user interactions, then built a bare-bones, mobile-first, web-responsive app in the first week. This early version of the app allowed Hobbygoblin to onboard alpha users early, letting them capture leads from both the gamer and local gaming store marketplaces. This let Hobbygoblin start lead capture while the rest of the app was in development.
Design and Development — Bringing the MVP Application to Life
We worked on perfecting the user interface and design of the app while simultaneously creating the back-end platform. Once we understood the user flows and functional needs of each interface, we could create and implement front-end views, a lean, flexible database, and a comprehensive API to allow for easy integration.
The design of the app was completed using industry best practice for UI and UX. That meant being led by Google’s “Material Design” principles, regular user testing and feedback, and ensuring the app itself was easy to use, intuitive, responsive, and fast.
Local Game Stores
Milestone Reviews — Ensuring all MVP Development is Aligned with Hobbygoblin’s Needs
We worked alongside Hobbygoblin throughout by holding weekly milestone reviews. This is a flexible review process that lets us quickly react to changing client needs. This was extremely useful as Hobbygoblin prioritized development of their chat functionality about halfway through the development process. We were quickly able to shift development focus to get the chat part of the application in place.
“The biggest challenge on this project was that we had so little time. We had to think fast. The frequent review sessions with Hobbygoblin helped us keep our teams in sync and in the end we launched a solid demo for Origins.” **-Cassandra Wilcox, Founder and CEO at Code Hangar**
Delivery — Bringing Hobbygoblin’s MVP App to Life
Despite the short timeframe, we never missed our weekly goals and delivered to Hobbygoblin’s requirements week after week — we even managed to squeeze in a few stretch goals! We deployed the app one week before the Origins Game Convention and used the lead time to make sure everything worked for the official launch at the convention.
The launch was a big success and we received lots of useful user feedback. Hobbygoblin is now one of our full service clients and we are continuing to enhance the app and launch new features based on all of the great customer feedback.
We know that getting an app developed can be daunting. That’s why we always focus on understanding our clients and developing awesome MVPs. We believe that through close collaboration with you, we can learn about your business and needs and deliver amazing, beautiful applications that will delight your users and help your business thrive.
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About Author: Cassandra Wilcox