Why do we need to build digital products in the first place? The answer is to meet the needs of users, whether it would be a taxi app, food delivery service, or a planning software tool. What is the best way to build those digital products? This question requires a far more complex answer, that we will, hopefully, provide for you in this article.
Before embarking on a full-scale development, it will be a good idea to build an MVP first and make sure that your product is what the market requires. Basically, there are three ways to develop an MVP and later scale it into a complete product: using no-code tools, leveraging pre-made solutions, or writing a code from scratch for a custom solution.
In the following table, you can see the most common tools, solutions, and technologies for each category:
Every case is unique, so it is impossible to advise one single approach that will suit all. However, with more details on each one of them, you will obtain a perspective and understanding of which one will be the right for your current product. So, let’s dive deep and uncover the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.
No-code frameworks could be a perfect solution for non-technical people that don’t want to figure out how to program, but still, get the required functionality. These frameworks are the set of tools with a user-friendly graphical interface, drag-and-drop capabilities, allowing you to bring your business logic to life easily.
To put it simply, the no-code approach brings you the value of creating full applications without having previous coding experience. Sounds too good to be true, right? What’s the catch? Well, this approach may be a very good or a very bad move, depending on your situation.
Look at the following table:
Yes, no-code seems appealing to non-technical business people due to its ability to deliver apps and workflows easily and fast. All you need to do is construct your app using pre-build modules and a drag-and-drop interface. Who needs Quality Assurance? The testing is automated, which decreases time expenses even more.
Now, as we discussed the obvious indisputable advantages, we should acknowledge some major drawbacks and risks. The first problem lies on the surface, as there are no two no-code platforms that have the same features. You will need to discover what exact constraints and limitations the particular tool has.
Additionally, you will need to know what features your future product must need. Because the moment you encounter the need to add some unique feature to your app and your no-code tool would not have, your development process will hit a screeching halt.
Suddenly, you will realize that your attention would be shifted from ‘what I want to build’ to ‘what can I build with these limitations’. If you decide to continue using your no-code tool, you need to figure out a costly and time-consuming workaround to achieve your business goals. Sticking to this route, you may end up with expensive and clumsy software that can end up costing you more than a custom solution.
Building an MVP with no codes fits when:
- you have no programming experience
- you have short deadlines
- you have a need for a quick market response
- the out-of-the-box solution with minimal functionality and little customization will be fine for your case
While the no-code approach seems great for MVP, as it allows you to quickly test your idea, it will limit you in the long run. With the continuous growth of your product, you will run in more and more situations when you will require more functionality and unique features.
Pre-made solutions and CMS
The second approach you can choose is leveraging existing pre-made solutions. Those solutions include Content Management Systems (CMS), open-source solutions, libraries, as well as other tools and platforms.
Pre-made solutions were designed with common problems faced by many businesses in mind. We can think of pre-made solutions in two ways: the first one is for end-users without any in-depth technical skills, and the second one is for experienced software developers.
Let’s take Shopify as an example. This platform is easy enough for an end-user to manage the templates, however, with software development expertise you can benefit from customization and integration with other solutions, as your business requires.
Pre-made solutions are built to save time for developers and to reduce the budget for businesses as a result. Based on our own practical experience at Visual Craft, we use pre-made solutions for certain types of projects, like eCommerce, more often than developing custom software entirely from scratch. Why? The answer is simple: it’s faster, more efficient, and cheaper. And, as we mentioned previously, the speed and the ability to iterate quickly are crucial for MVPs.
This type of solution, however, can work just as well for the full-scale product thanks to the same benefits. The biggest problem is that because pre-made solutions are created to satisfy the typical needs that businesses have, you can hit the roadblock eventually. Just when you will need a unique flow, features, or an implementation of complex functionality, pre-made solutions will become expensive and not so convenient to work with, similarly to no-code solutions.
Let’s look at the advantages and the disadvantages of pre-made solutions in the following table:
Building an MVP with ready-made solutions fits when:
- You have a typical project, and you know your specifications from the very beginning
- You will not need extensive customization in the later phases of the development process
- You don’t need a unique flow for your project
- There is an available and well-known ready-made solution that will cover your basic needs
Custom or traditional software development approach means collaborating with a team of programmers and IT experts that will fully understand your business demands and write unique software according to your specific requirements.
You can think of this as hiring an architect that will help you build a house according to your personal demands, needs, and wishes. Yes, it will be more expensive compared to the typical projects of a townhouse or an apartment that are designed similarly with a goal to reduce costs, but you will get exactly what you want.
The custom software development process usually contains a few key steps:
- requirement analysis and planning
- technical and visual design
- development and implementation
- maintenance and support
With this approach, the code will be created entirely from scratch, and you will get complete ownership of it. Compared to no-code and pre-made solutions, it will take longer to create a mobile app or develop a website, but you will get much more flexibility.
The key benefits of custom-made solutions include:
The possibilities are almost limitless
With a custom development approach, the options for implementation are virtually unlimited. You will get much more flexibility and versatility, with the right stack of technologies and a proficient software development team.
Scalability per demand
This is the best approach to process large quantities of data. Custom solutions are scalable according to your demand and are able to provide users with the best experience without technical limitations. You will be able to easily scale your project from MVP to a full-featured product, and make changes at each stage of a product’s life cycle.
With custom development, you will be able to build an integrated ecosystem with responsive web applications, mobile and desktop apps, admin portals, and creating systems for data, security, and load management, etc.
Let’s compare the advantages and disadvantages of the custom development process in the following table:
Building an MVP with custom software fits when:
- You need a unique flow of your solution
- The project will need customization from the start or in the future
- The project will require flexible integration with other solutions
- Your product will need seamless scaling from MVP to a full product and beyond
- You want to have full ownership and control of the product, code, and data
When choosing what development approach you will take, consider the overall cost, time expenses, expertise, and availability of resources. Custom software development process may take months to program, implement, conduct testing, deploying the product, which will lead to higher costs. But tailor-made solutions pay off in the long run, with higher scalability and freedom of customization.
No-code and pre-made solutions are cheaper and faster to make because they use existing templates for visual interfaces and a basic set of features. However, when your business grows and the demand for customization increases, at a certain point no-code and pre-made couldn't provide you with the required functionality, not for a reasonable price, at least.
How much does it cost to develop an MVP from a technical perspective
It is hard to put a final price tag for each solution, and determine which one is more expensive or cheaper. Usually, the dynamic is looking like this:
Here is how we see these three approaches in the context of building an MVP:
No code approach is a great way to develop a clickable prototype or a landing page. We would be able to validate the idea, collect the initial user feedback and test the user flow. However, even with the minimal version of a product built with no code, the product will quickly become overgrown and will need scaling eventually. Without the ability to scale, having only minimal functionality will force us to find another way to implement the idea anyway.
There are dozens of pre-made solutions for industries such as E-Commerce, the travel industry, payment, booking and many, more, which could be easily integrated. Our team often works with pre-made solutions that fit the requirements of the project and customize it as much as this solution allows us.
With the custom development, we would be able to deliver an MVP with a one-team-one-technology approach. After its successful launch, MVP can be scaled up to a full-size product without changes in technology, team composition, and not wasting valuable time as a result. The possibilities here are almost limitless. The main advantage of the custom development approach is that developing MVP and the full product with the same team and technology will lead to the ease of scaling.
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Sometimes it is hard to separate the MVP phase from the development of a full product. In this aspect, custom development has a significant advantage compared to the other two approaches, because you don’t need to change technologies during the development process. You will be able to develop your product evolutionary and integrate development and validation processes multiple times. As a result, you won’t lose money on changing technologies, teams, and approaches in different phases of the development.
So, you are starting an entirely new project and have a choice to go with a custom solution written entirely from scratch or go with a no-code or pre-made solution. What factors do you need to consider? The main ones include project type, availability of technical expertise, budget, and marketing plan.
The no-code approach can offer a quick and not expensive solution, but before going with it, you need to understand what final product you want to have. Otherwise, with a no-code solution, you will be always at risk to lose all of your progress and start from the ground up with a pre-made or custom solution.
According to Statista, in 2021, there are over 4.6 billion internet users and 7 billion mobile users. The number of websites is close to the 2 billion mark and the number of mobile app downloads is close to 220 billion.
Custom development will give you good chances to stand out among competitors and attract potential customers. The website or an app created with the business objectives, brand image, and target audience in mind have more potential to multiply conversions and sales. The benefits are not only with visuals. Custom development offers more possibilities in the convenience also, creating a more satisfactory user experience adapting to the needs of customers.
While custom development sounds exciting in terms of customization, scalability, flexibility, and security, it is not for everyone. If you have a limited budget or timeframe, and you know for sure that limited functionality and typical flow will serve you well, maybe you should consider no code or a pre-made solution.
What is a no-code minimum viable product?
A no-code minimum viable product can help you get started with the development process without having to hire developers or engineers who are well-versed in coding at a lower rate. This enables you to gain valuable insights into what your end users need before you begin full-scale product development.
How much time would it take to code a minimum viable product?
It takes about 3-4 months to develop and release an MVP. However, this timeframe can change depending on each case because every project is unique. After the initial discussion with the developers' team, they will be able to dive into your idea and calculate how long the project will take to complete.
How to Build Minimum Viable Product (MVP) without coding?
The first step in building a no-code MVP is to gain insight into the problem and its solution. One way to do this is to leverage a product/market fit approach that clarifies your target customers, value proposition, feature set, underserved needs, and user experience. Then you can find a pre-made and minimally customizable solution that addresses these needs.
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