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 IndieDev Tips #5 - Guide to MVP • Part 3: Mind mapping features

 IndieDev Tips #5 - Guide to MVP • Part 3: Mind mapping features
By Edouard Barbier • Issue #5 • View online

Hey! I’m back with Part 3 of my Guide to MVP. Today we’re diving into concrete stuff as we start mapping features for our app. 
At this stage, we’re going to think about user stories and there won’t be any limit. Do not think about design, do not think about building complexity, do not think about whether feature A or B is feasible or not… just let your mind go wild, nothing is off limit. There are no bad ideas during a brainstorm. The only constraint is that each of the things you will come up with have to enhance (or have the potential to) your idea somehow.
A user story describes something that you want the user to be able to do with your app. The term is often used within teams that follow Agile and Scrum strategies. As indie developers, since we’re doing things alone, we don’t necessarily need that much structure or that many processes but that doesn’t mean we can’t take elements from these methodologies that can help us be more productive or organised.  
Mind-mapping features
For me, coming up with these user stories is an excellent way to map potential features I could bring to the product I want to build. Since I’m a very visual person, I love to use Mind Mapping for that and my go-to tool for many years now is SimpleMind. I haven’t look at many other MindMapping tools, I know there are many. Any tool can do the trick, nothing we’re doing here is very advanced. Let’s dive in. 
I always start from a main node called « user should be able to… » and from that node, I brainstorm every possible ‘stories’ (features) I can come up with that would make the product more useful, clear, complete, powerful etc.
So it begins...
So it begins...
You can start with the basics, and slowly expand from there.
  • Users should be able get onboarded with a tutorial
  • Users should be able to skip the tutorial
  • Users should be able to create an account with email or « sign in with Apple »
  • Users should be able to reset their password
  • Users should be able to….
Whenever a feature needs to be broken down into small pieces, just add sub nodes to it. 
Listing all the items contained in a Settings screen.
Listing all the items contained in a Settings screen.
Your mind map will get bigger and bigger, and doesn’t have to be structured just yet. Messy and raw is completely fine at this stage. You will refine / sort / filter everything later. 
How long should it take?
Whenever I work on a new app, I tend to take just a few hours to map everything, often all in one go. You don’t want to drag it too long. If your idea is defined well enough in your head, all the necessary features will flow very easily.
When should you stop?
Generally I tend to stop when I need to think too long for a new item to pop in my head. This phase isn’t ever going to be complete, because by design a mind-map has no end and you could go on and on and on… but that’s not the goal. We’re just trying to get to a place where we know what to work on and where to set our priorities. More features ideas will come later after you launched, some will come from your own imagination and some hopefully from your customers. There’s just no way to think about everything so accept it and move one when you have had enough.
Once you think you’ve got the bulk of it, call it a day or at least try to not touch or think about that project for a few hours. Usually, I sleep on it, and pick up where I left off the following day. 
This is roughly the size of where I got to with mine.
This is roughly the size of where I got to with mine.
Where do we go from here?
The next step is to strip down your feature set to its core and start thinking about a structure or a hierarchy. The rest needs to be left out for now. Other features will be prioritised later. 
Alright enough for today, you know what to do, start mapping your idea and keep an eye on your inbox next week for the next steps. 
If you’ve enjoyed this series so far or have suggestions or questions you’d like to see covered in the future, feel free to reply to this email.
You can also find me on Twitter @edouard_iosdev or on Instagram @edouard_iosdev.
Thanks for reading.
Ed
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Edouard Barbier

I’m Edouard, an Indie iOS Developer & Serial App Maker from Belgium. In 2015, I started to teach myself how to make iOS apps. In 2018, I left my job at Google to pursue the indie lifestyle.

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