9 Proven Ways to Reduce Software Development Costs of your MVP
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- 12 min
- May 27, 2021
The question of reducing software development costs has always been crucial for startups. Among all cost reduction strategies, launching a minimum viable product (MVP) instead of a full-fledged product is one of the most useful. Building an MVP allows you not only to reduce software development costs but also to test your business idea fast and minimize the risk of startup failure.
In this article, we enumerate several practical tips that can help you drastically reduce the cost to build an MVP without compromising its quality.
What are the factors that drive the costs of software engineering?
Before we proceed to ways of reducing software development costs, let’s find out what the factors that influence the costs of software engineering are.
A set of functional features is the core of a software product and is a critical factor that influences the cost of software development.
The whole idea of creating an MVP is to launch a product with a minimal feature set to get feedback from end users as soon as possible. The more features you implement in your MVP, the more effort your team needs to invest and the higher the software development cost.
However, you need to remember that an MVP isn’t a prototype or mock-up. An MVP is a functioning product, and it must deliver value to your target audience.
User experience and user interface design
User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design are crucial for users’ engagement with your product. The UX defines how easy it is for customers to use your product, how long they use it, and how often they return to use the product again. The UI, in turn, helps you convey your brand image and stand out from competitors.
The overall cost of your MVP hugely depends on the number of user flows, navigation elements, screens, pages, buttons, illustrations, and animations designers create for your product. Also, software development costs rise as you involve complex design technologies such as 3D modeling or motion design.
Before kicking off the development phase, you should clearly define the platforms you want to reach your end users on. For instance, you can develop a responsive web application so your target audience can use your application in a browser on any device, or you can create two separate apps for web and mobile. If you choose to reach your audience through mobile, you also need to decide if you’re building an Android or an iOS app (or both). The more platforms you wish to cover, the higher your software development costs.
The price of software engineering also depend on how many external integrations (for example, with third-party payment processors) and internal integrations (such as with CRM and HR systems) your software product will have.
The novelty of the software solution plays an essential role in your project’s budget as well. Creating an MVP of a marketplace or another type of software that already exists is a regular and comprehensible task. Meanwhile, developing an MVP of a one-of-a-kind application that has no analogs is much more challenging. If a development team doesn’t have a clear vision of how to implement your product’s functionality or even if it’s possible to implement it, researching the product and creating the prototype can require many resources.
An optimal team is essential to avoid constantly increasing software development costs. It may seem logical that hiring more specialists means faster development. However, that’s not always the case. The more specialists participate in your project, the harder it is to ensure efficient communication and effectively manage the development process.
Poor communication and management, in turn, hampers development, causes delays, and increases the overall price of the project.
How to reduce software development costs
Now that you know the aspects that affect software development costs the most, we can review proven ways to reduce the costs of developing an MVP.
Prioritize features for your MVP
Appropriate prioritization allows you to do the first things first. When developing an MVP, it’s critical to differentiate between must-have features and nice-to-have features. Must-have features are those without which your product won’t function properly and deliver value to users. In turn, nice-to-have features are those that boost the user experience but can be added at later stages of the project.
For example, for an MVP of a taxi app like Uber, calling a taxi and paying for rides are must-have features that should be implemented in the first release. Splitting fares is a feature that is nice to have and can be released later.
Poor prioritization of features for an MVP and implementing more features than required often lead to increased software development costs.
Customer development is one of the most useful methodologies for shaping your business model and defining your MVP functionality. To choose the right features for your MVP, you may need to conduct a brainstorming session with your team to form a product hypothesis and then validate that hypothesis by interviewing potential customers.
Based on customer development results, you can start prioritizing features with the help of various prioritization techniques. For instance, you can use the numerical assignment technique to divide your product features into three priority categories: critical, moderate, and optional. Here’s an example of prioritized features for a taxi app:
Use design systems
Since quality design is essential for user engagement and the overall success of your software product, UI and UX design are not something you should save on. However, that doesn’t mean you necessarily need to design your MVP from scratch. You can opt for a design system instead.
Design systems are sets of ready-to-use HTML and CSS user interface elements, design patterns, and style guides that you can use to design your product’s user experience and interface. By applying a design system, you can accelerate the design process and significantly reduce the overall software development costs.
Start testing as early as possible
Engaging quality assurance (QA) specialists at the early stages of your MVP development helps you significantly cut down software development costs.
For instance, when creating product requirements, QA specialists can identify incorrect or contradictory requirements and prevent the appearance of numerous bugs caused by them at subsequent stages of your release flow.
Otherwise, your team will design and engineer your solution based on untested requirements, which may result in bug-prone functionality that entails extra hours of rework and bug fixing and involves additional costs.
One of the best practices is to involve test engineers at the stage of business requirements development and engage them in the user experience and user interface design, backend development, frontend development, and release deployment stages of your project.
Opt for cross-platform development
In case you’re targeting users of several operating systems, you can consider cross-platform app development as a way to reduce software development costs.
Cross-platform development tools like React Native and Xamarin allow you to build a single app that will operate on both iOS and Android instead of creating a separate codebase for each operating system. A UI software development kit called Flutter, in turn, can help you create a single app to run on mobile, desktop, and web platforms.
Creating a cross-platform app helps you not only cut down on development costs but also reduce maintenance costs and efforts. If you need to make any changes to your application, for instance, you can modify only one codebase.
Use open-source solutions
Open-source frameworks and libraries contribute to the time-efficiency and cost-efficiency of software development.
Many communities are built around programming languages to collaborate and simplify software development by creating and sharing ready-to-use functional components. For instance, the Ruby on Rails server-side framework now counts over 165,000 ready-to-use elements called gems. Gems are tested pieces of code that implement various functional modules like authorization, geopositioning, and payments.
Such open-source frameworks and libraries can be of great help for your project, since they allow developers to avoid coding functionalities from scratch and reduce the duration of development.
Use a backend as a service solution
Backend as a service (BaaS) solutions can help you reduce the time required to build the server side of your application. With BaaS, you can free resources and devote them to creating a high-quality client side of your application, since the client side is what your end users see and interact with.
BaaS solutions help you quickly and effectively implement components commonly used in most existing applications without reinventing them. The app components that most BaaS providers usually take care of include:
- User authentication
- File storage
- Email and/or push notifications
Examples of BaaS solutions you may use for the server side of your app are Firebase, Parse, and Kinvey.
Choose a suitable project management approach
To ensure an efficient development process and keep software development costs under control, you’ll need to choose the project management methodology that best suits your project.
Among the most popular and widely used are Agile, Lean, and Waterfall. If we compare these three approaches, Waterfall may be cheaper. However, Waterfall often leads to an increased time to market. While Agile and Lean methodologies can be more expensive, these approaches are focused on getting a return on investment faster.
Besides these, there are other approaches such as Scrum and Kanban. Before choosing the project management approach for your project, examine the principles and main aspects of all approaches to identify the one that suits your project needs.
Set clear tasks
To ensure an efficient development process and optimize the use of your software development budget, your team members should receive comprehensive tasks. The process of setting tasks for your development team should be gradual and consist of several steps:
Step 1. Shape the product vision
First of all, you need to provide your team with the big picture of what your project is about and its major purpose. For this, you need to create a product vision statement that specifies major aspects of your product idea and outlines for whom the product will be developed and what problems it needs to solve.
Step 2. Build a business model
The next step is to explain to your team how your business will operate. Your team should be provided with a business model that indicates your product’s unique value proposition, the metrics you will use to evaluate the product’s success, major customer segments, the channels you’ll reach your customers through, and your business revenue streams.
Step 3. Establish goals
Your team should start each stage of your project with a tangible goal. This helps the team have a common understanding of what efforts they need to undertake during that stage.
Step 4. Present the expected results
Members of your team should clearly understand what you expect from the final product. Functional specifications and technical requirements help you easily communicate these expectations. With these documents, you can ensure that all specialists on your project are on the same page.
Step 5. Define tasks to be completed
At this stage, you should define the tasks to be completed to achieve the project goals. To ensure the utmost clarity, each project task should have a definition of ready (DoR), definition of done (DoD), and acceptance criteria.
- Definition of ready is a minimum list of inputs that must be present before the assigned specialist starts working on the task. The more information a specialist is provided before taking on a task, the better. But the DoR is a minimal set of requirements that must be met before starting any task.
- Definition of done is a list of actions that must be completed so that a task is considered done.
- Acceptance criteria are requirements that a task output should meet so the task is considered done correctly.
These five steps ensure the transparency and clarity of all tasks that are to be performed on your project.
When you outsource development, you avoid expenses required for recruiting in-house specialists, training staff, and renting and managing workspaces.
If you decide to delegate your software development tasks to third-party vendors, you may need to decide between outstaffing and outsourcing.
Outstaffing is a remote employment model in which an intermediary company assumes responsibility for all aspects of searching for and recruiting specialists for your project.
Hiring outstaffing specialists is a convenient way to expand your existing team or complete tasks on a small project without recruiting and HR-related expenses. In this model, the responsibility for the success of your project and the timely delivery of the software product lies completely with you.
Outsourcing allows you to set project goals for the team and delegate the responsibility for product development and mitigation of all associated risks. Although this option may be more expensive than outstaffing, it’s optimal for startups that don’t have enough product development experience. Outsourcing helps you prevent multiple mistakes, solve challenges effectively, and reduce the time to market.
When outsourcing development, you cooperate with teams that are used to working together and have established workflows in place, so it won’t take them long to adapt to your project environment. Besides, when hiring an outsourcing team, you can set the number of team members yourself and modify the team composition as your project goals change or your workload increases or decreases.
You can use several resources such as Clutch, G2, and GoodFirms to search for software development outsourcing teams and check reviews on them.
It may seem logical that lower costs may result in a low-quality software product. However, if you follow these best practices when launching an MVP, you can create a high-quality product that delivers real value to users without exceeding your budget.
- Feature set
- User experience and user interface design
- Software complexity
- Prioritize features for your MVP
- Use a design system
- Start testing as early as possible
- Opt for cross-platform development
- Use open-source solutions
- Use backend as a service solutions
- Choose a suitable project management approach
- Set clear tasks
- Outsource development tasks
When you outsource development tasks, you avoid expenses for recruiting in-house development specialists, training staff, and renting and managing workspaces.
If you’re looking for a reliable vendor to help you build an advanced and scalable software product at a reasonable cost, contact RubyGarage.