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 IndieDev Tips #8 - Guide to MVP • Part 6: How to (not) MVP

 IndieDev Tips #8 - Guide to MVP • Part 6: How to (not) MVP
By Edouard Barbier • Issue #8 • View online

Hi guys, I’m back with the next episode in my guide to MVP. It’s a bit of a special one because I’ve had a bit of a setback and I wanted to use this opportunity to share what happened so you don’t make the same mistake. 
Today, I’ll get into 2 main lessons I learnt in the past few days:
  1. Planning better, saves time later. The situation I’ll describe today shouldn’t have happened and I would probably be much closer to shipping my main MVP if I had planned it better.
  2. There is always a way to leverage situations in ways you might have not initially anticipated. Let’s hope my strategy will pay off.
Let's get into what happened...
Two weeks ago, I had reached a point where 80% of my MVP was complete. It was Easter Break in Europe so I took a week off to spend time with my family.
When I got back to work I got side-tracked. For context, in a previous episode, I shared how I usually plan my MVPs and how I use mind-mapping to: 1) list all the features that could make my product great, and then 2) set my focus on the features that will make it to the MVP.
I made a mistake at this stage and it trickled down into a cascade of unplanned things I decided to work on just because it sort of fitted into what I needed to build as per my priority planning BUT mostly because I thought it would be super cool to build. It turned out to be way overkill for an MVP and it set me back by a few days.
The planned feature I wanted to build was a way for users to add stickers to their thumbnails in my YouTube Thumbnail Maker. The fatal mistake I made was to not think about this thoroughly enough when I did my initial planning. As a result, when I started designing the UI for it… my brain came up with tons of “What ifs”:
  • What if it could generate stickers out of photos
  • What if it could remove background from photos
  • What if it could outline stickers to make thumbnails pop
  • What if it could save these custom stickers in a gallery for later reuse
I wasn’t thinking MVP anymore… I was back in my ‘brainstorming’ mode. That’s never good when you’re trying to bring a product to completion. I didn’t realise what was going on until too late. I had entered a rabbit hole full of problems to solve to make this happen: reading blog posts, starting prototypes, finding ways to improve the usability of my prototypes etc…
Two days later, without really realising it, Xcode was fired up, with a new test project and things were taking shape… but my MVP hadn’t progressed at all. The sticker feature was still far from being completed (and it still is as I’m writing this). I got myself side-tracked, pretty good!
It felt wrong, but my gut-feeling was telling me that there was a way to exit this situation with a win-win. 
I felt stressed and guilty to spend so much time on a pet-project while I was already trying to build a quick MVP before going back to work on my main apps. I was actually feeling it physically: poor sleep, constantly agitated, difficulty to focus on personal projects etc. But I was so deep into it that I would be stupid to just park this project so close to the end. Big thanks to my fiancée to bear with me when I have these phases. 
Decision time: accept, commit & push on.
In order to not waste the time invested, I decided to use this test project and actually turn it into a stand alone project… shipping 2 MVPs instead of one sounds cool… so why not. It’s not like I had a deadline in mind anyway.  
I took 2 more days to polish the UX on that sticker generator feature I was working on and make it production ready-ish: app icon, screenshots, quick ASO research, privacy policy (duplicated from previous projects), etc… all the fun stuff. The project is a mess, full of unused files, the main file is still called ViewController.swift and there are no Analytics at all… but it doesn’t matter at this stage.
Yesterday, I shipped this new feature… as a separate app and I will now go back and integrate that ‘app’, as a feature in my main MVP for the Thumbnail Maker that I really need to finish.
Now let’s see how this mini app will do on the App Store. I’ll have to first to get it approved and deal with Apple’s rejections that won’t take long to come in as for almost any first launch… but that’s a story for another day :)
Edit April 14th 2021: App approved, feel free to try it out. Positive ratings & reviews are always appreciated!
Have a great week everyone.
Til next time.
Ed
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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.
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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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