Why is this important?
I'm going to explain this in a little case study of my own Android development history. It wasn't until I heard the concept of the minimum viable product that I really started to buckle down on my app and get something in the market.
Take time to learn
It took me a very long time to get my first app published. Probably the better part of five years. This was not because my first app was so complex and had so many features. It was not because it required a lot of research from professionals and users. It was nothing I wished it would have been. Instead it was because I wouldn't take "less than" as acceptable. I wanted my app to have every feature, all of the bells and whistles. I kept thinking of ideas to add. But then my app would get too big. There would be too much code in too many places and seeing as how I was so early in my programming career, my skills would improve so quickly it became easier to start over than to correct old code.
This is okay. All good things take time to accomplish. I wanted my first app to be the one that everybody talked about, the one that would sell for millions. Again, not realistic. What's realistic is taking the time to learn the steps to get me to this app. And I honestly see it in my future, maybe not quite at that scale, and I sure won't be the only one behind it, but I know it is possible.
Don't get intimidated; keep coding
So I would start making a new app, a different app. Something that wasn't even close to the original because that idea obviously didn't work. I'd get a little further in to the development process than the previous one. I'd spend hours upon hours focusing on tiny details instead of the big picture and I'd inevitably wind up in the same predicament. It just didn't seem realistic to be able to bring an app to market. Everything had to be perfect and I'm just one guy! And every day I'd hear about another wildly successful app, another team that made it. They brought an amazing idea to market. How did they do it? I guarantee the majority of people that find success in Android development, or any software development for that matter, don't strike gold on their first try. They had to start somewhere.
MVP to the rescue!
Then near the beginning of my first published app, Don't Forget It, I heard something on an entrepreneurial podcast I listen to, Entrepreneur On Fire. I don't remember who said it but I heard the concept of a Minimum Viable Product for the first time. This is commonly abbreviated MVP. An MVP is essentially the most basic version of the product you want to bring to market. It was the minimum amount of features, bells and whistles, look, usability, etc. required to have something you can be proud to say you made and that you can put in front of potential customers. It doesn't have to be great but it has to work.
This changed my world. I couldn't believe people would do that. I just assumed that would be a horrible idea. Why would I think anyone would like anything but the best from me?
Well, a few reasons.
- I have no customers. I thought if I build it, they will come. Not the case.
- I have no idea what the app publishing process really entailed. Or the marketing process. Or the testing process. And I don't take advice well. I need to do it myself.
- I need to prove to myself, as a morale boost if nothing else, that I am capable of publishing an app. Nobody else whose done it before me has anything I don't. They can't do anything I can't.
For someone new to publishing apps, there is a lot to be gained by going through the process. The whole process. I knew Don't Forget It wouldn't be my last app. In fact, when I started it, I never really intended on publishing it. I just needed the tool for myself. But once it started to become a real thing, I immediately thought I should throw in all of those bells and whistles. But that's not realistic. What I needed was just something to put on the store. I needed some content in the world. I needed a win and that's exactly what this was. If there's a lesson I've learned from this, it's this: until you have something to show for your work, something that might attract the attention of someone else, you're not much farther ahead than when you started.