Building a minimum viable product (MVP) has become synonymous with launching a new product. It’s the smart way to tackle the problem of not knowing exactly what to build when you first start out.
The magic of building an MVP is embracing the possibility of fast failure as a route to successful iteration.
Often, this involves leveraging any tech stack that gets the job done, employing a 'quick and dirty' approach to sprint across the initial finish line.
However, after getting the MVP to market, new challenges surface that can make the fast-paced marathon feel like a painstaking obstacle course.
If you’re reading along and nodding your head, know you’re not alone in wrestling with these issues. Almost every business that does its MVP “properly” and moves quickly has to take a breath and reassess what needs to be reworked at some point down the track.
This is nice to know but it doesn’t make much difference if you’re struggling to keep the technical wheels from falling off your product as it grows.
In this article, I will cover a handful of the problems your post-MVP might be struggling with and what you can do to fix them.
Common quick-build problems
Problem: Bringing new devs onto the project to help it grow is difficult
Your MVP was probably developed quickly and under a tight deadline. This approach usually leaves little room for comprehensive documentation.
When new developers join the project, they might feel as though they're navigating through a maze without a map, trying to make sense of your MVP's intricate features and functions.
Then, there's the issue of the codebase. The goal with an MVP is to validate your product idea as quickly as possible, which can lead to a focus on functionality over tidiness in your codebase. This can feel like an unsorted puzzle to new devs, who must first decode this before they can contribute effectively.
Depending on how quickly your MVP got up and running, coding standards might have taken a back seat. This often happens when semi-technical ideas folk take the wheel. This can be likened to reading a report with inconsistent formatting – it's possible, but it certainly slows the process down.
New developers will take longer to become productive if your MVP has ticked any of these boxes. So even though you’re bringing more resources in to help, development can be slower than ever.
Problem: Every change breaks something, making our users restless
The next issue that you may encounter with your rapidly developed MVP is a sort of domino effect that occurs when you make changes to the product. It's almost as if the code is walking on eggshells - one small tweak here, and something breaks there. This can feel like playing a never-ending game of whack-a-mole, where fixing one issue inadvertently creates another.
In the haste to launch the MVP, the focus is on making things work rather than creating a robust and flexible codebase that can accommodate changes down the line.
Unexpected bugs and issues lead to a frustrating user experience where things don't feel like they need to be more reliable and consistent. Users can quickly become restless when they're constantly faced with glitches and bugs.
Even if your core product is revolutionary, you’re going to see churn if users perceive the platform as being undercooked. They're also likely to spread the word about their negative experiences. This could lead to poor reviews, which can seriously harm your reputation. In the worst-case scenario, this can create a vicious cycle of high churn rates and negative feedback that's hard to break.
Problem: No-code and poorly repurposed platforms like WordPress and Teachable aren’t flexible or scaleable and, at some point, have to be completely rebuilt
Another significant challenge with your MVP might be the limitations imposed by the platform it was built on. This is particularly relevant if your MVP was created using a no-code platform or a proprietary all-in-one solution like Teachable or WordPress. While these platforms are excellent for quickly validating an idea or launching an MVP, they might not offer more flexibility and scalability for long-term growth.
Why does this matter? It comes down to control and customization. No-code platforms or proprietary solutions typically offer a predefined set of tools and features to build your app. But as your user base grows and their needs evolve, you might find that these preset options can't keep up.
Moreover, there's the issue of "vendor lock-in." When you build your MVP on a platform, you're essentially tying your product's fate to that platform. If the platform fails, if their prices increase, or if they decide to discontinue certain features, your product is directly affected. This dependency can leave your MVP vulnerable to changes out of your control.
And here's the kicker: switching from these platforms can be challenging. You may need to completely rebuild your MVP using a more flexible and scalable technology stack. This process isn't just time-consuming; it also requires a significant investment of resources.
Problem: A clean UI and thoughtful UX usually gets pushed down the list of priorities
When you're in the heat of developing your MVP, user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) considerations can sometimes get sidelined. It's a common struggle. The priority often lies in packing the MVP with the features you think users want. However, this approach might overlook the importance of how users interact with these features and how they feel about the overall experience.
UI and UX are the heart and soul of any product, including your MVP. Your UI is what your users interact with – it's what they see, touch, and navigate. On the other hand, UX is about how a user feels when they're interacting with your product. It's about meeting their needs and expectations and making the entire process smooth and enjoyable.
In the rush to build feature sets, the user-friendliness of your MVP might suffer. If users find it hard to navigate your product or if they encounter unexpected problems, they might not stick around to appreciate the features you've worked hard to implement.
Problem: You’ve accumulated a bunch of technical debt
Technical debt is a concept that refers to the implied cost of additional work caused by choosing a quick, often suboptimal, solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer. Essentially, when you're racing against the clock to get your MVP up and running, there's a tendency to opt for shortcuts or quick fixes to issues rather than investing the time to implement more efficient, long-lasting solutions.
These shortcuts can accumulate over time, creating a 'debt' that needs to be paid off eventually. And the 'interest' on this debt comes in the form of slow development speed, bugs, performance issues, and the overall decrease in code quality. This could affect the stability of your MVP, its scalability, and even user satisfaction in the long run.
The tricky part about technical debt is that it's not always obvious in the early stages of your MVP. It usually becomes a significant problem when your product begins to scale or when you start adding more features. The shortcuts that helped you move quickly in the early days can become obstacles that slow you down as your codebase grows and becomes more complex.
No more problems, please; how about some solutions?
Hopefully, I’ve struck a chord by describing some of the problems that your MVP might be struggling with. These problems all take a bit of work to solve, but there’s a structured approach you can implement for each to get your MVP back on track.
Problem: Bringing new devs onto the project to help it grow is difficult
Solution: Fix up your documentation
There’s a handful of quick fixes to this situation and some more permanent ones that take more effort to implement.
The first quick fix is improving your documentation. It sounds like common sense, and it is! But writing high-quality, thorough documentation is a skill plenty of devs struggle with.
At a minimum, your team should record enough detail that a new developer can get the project installed locally, know where all the resources are kept, and gain access to any credentials they might need.
I don’t usually pat myself on the back for small wins like writing documentation, but we’ve recently built a complex SaaS product that has excellent docs.
I’m happy to provide our doc list as a template. Right now, it’s not prepared in a way I can easily share.
If you want to sure up your docs by simply filling in the blanks instead of starting from scratch, use this link to book a 20-minute call with me so I can help get you set up.
We’ll quickly discuss your project and figure out which parts of the documentation you need, then get them in a format you can use.
I might spot other growth opportunities during the call, but this isn’t a sales call! It’s just a quick one to help you solve your documentation woes.
Solution: Refactor your code
Devs often write code quickly intending to go back later to make it cleaner, easier to read and more efficient.
If the code is a completely disorganized mess, then refactoring is a waste of time. But most of the time, making the code more readable will help new developers understand what’s supposed to be happening.
The caveat to this suggestion is it needs to be done by the person that wrote the code or someone very close to the codebase. Otherwise, it takes way too much time, and you might find more value in rebuilding from scratch.
Developers don’t love pair programming, but it’s an effective way to get new devs up to speed.
The idea is to sit your new developer down with someone who understands your MVP and write some code together.
It’s slower than regular development but easier for the new guy to ask questions in a natural setting.
Problem: Every change breaks something, making our users restless
Solution: Setting up automated tests to catch bugs
If your MVP has become a bit “unstable” and it seems like every change results in half a dozen bugs, then you’ll get some value from end-to-end testing.
This kind of automated testing is written into the code to test the major user workflows (i.e. making a purchase, signing up for an account, using a key feature). Every time a change is made in your MVP, an invisible browser will open and automatically run through the steps to complete the test.
If something breaks and the end result isn’t achieved, then the test will fail, and your team can have a look at what went wrong.
This isn’t an end-game solution. It’s just more of a sanity check that will help you spot fires before your users start making noise.
Problem: Users are churning because they’re sick of waiting for new features
Solution: Figure out if the problem is developer velocity or feature prioritization
These kinds of growing pains are normal. MVPs don’t grow to complete suits overnight. Every second user will have an opinion on what features are missing.
Your job is to figure out if the noise that’s coming from your users is frustration because the features or changes they need are happening too slowly OR if you’re prioritizing the wrong features.
Suppose you’re releasing new features regularly, and users complain that your product isn’t doing what they need. There’s a chance you’re listening to the minority complaining loudest.
This is a simple fix you can tackle with surveys and polls and even just look at the volume of support tickets to spot the most common requests.
However, if the problem is that users are requesting features that are taking too long to build, then the solution isn’t as clear-cut.
Your MVP could be overloaded with technical debt, making simple changes a time-consuming affair and grinding progress to a halt.
There are three options in this situation:
- Refactor the code that’s causing headaches. It’s not fun and it’s not glamorous, but it can make life easier going forward.
- Dedicate time to “paying” your technical debt. This may mean rebuilding whole parts of your MVP with different technology or laying new foundations.
- Ignore the problem and accept that your velocity will be slow. You may be planning a complete overhaul in the future, and sometimes ignoring the problem for a little while is the right choice.
Knowing the right option here is hard, especially if you’re not a developer and can’t tell if the code is in a good place or not.
I can help you determine which approach will give you the best return on your investment. It’s not always building from scratch. Sometimes spending a few weeks refactoring will solve 95% of your problems.
If you feel ready to accept help solving this problem, we can figure it out over a free 20-minute consultation. Grab a time from my calendar below.
Problem: You started with a no-code platform, and it’s become a limitation
Solution: Incremental migration
Rebuilding your entire application is usually the riskiest approach (even though it can be the cleanest).
Instead, consider an incremental approach. Identify the most limiting functionalities on the no-code platform and start by rebuilding these on a new platform that lives on a subdomain like newapp.yourwebsite.com.
Gradually, as more features are migrated, you can switch completely to the new system. This approach allows the existing application to continue serving users while development occurs in parallel.
Solution: Keep using the no-code platform’s API
This is a similar approach to an incremental migration, but if your no-code platform has a decent API, then you can treat the old platform like a backend that stores data and drives functionality.
The customer-facing frontend can be rebuilt using a more flexible, more “permanent” technology like React or Next.js.
Problem: Your design and UX suck because it wasn’t a priority
Solution: Redo your UI and UX
This is probably the most straightforward problem to solve.
As long as you have the resources and expertise to implement a new user interface, it’s just a matter of sitting down to figure out what a pleasant experience for your users will look like and then building it into your app.
Problem: Not sure the best way to pay off your technical debts
Solution: 30-minute free consultation
There’s no quick fix or single solution to technical debt. Even if the best approach is clear, like rebuilding your entire application, it’s not always the practical solution.
You might have budgetary resource constraints, or there’s a pressing need that can’t wait for you to implement a longer fix.
The next step is talking through your situation. It can be hard to analyze from the inside. Book a 30-minute call below, and we’ll figure out your best three options to move forward.
Steering a growing MVP in the right direction is a good problem to have, but it can feel like time is working against you. If you moved quickly at the start of the project, there’s going to be some technical debt that needs to be paid.
Hopefully, you can take some of my suggestions hit home and you can apply them to your own project!
Tim is the face of the company. When you want to kick off a new project, or an update on your existing project, Tim is your man!