Scoping your MVP using User Story Mapping

This is a post in our series about outsourcing a digital Minimum Viable Product to test the viability of your idea with real customers. This could be a good read if you're looking to build an MVP for your startup or enterprise.

In the previous article, we took a look at why you want to keep your MVP scope minimal and some ways to come up with the core features. This article will dive into how you can put it down on paper following loosely the User Story Mapping method coined by Jeff Patton.

A solid product scope document is a critical part of an MVP project. You need to be able to describe your idea to stakeholders, be it people inside your company or an outsourcing partner. Especially if you are starting work with a new partner, you have to assume anything you have not written down in your scope document, will not get built.

Generally speaking, the less you pay for the outsourcing, the more effort you have to put into building a very detailed definition document and managing the development process to ensure quality output. We will get back to this in a later article when we talk about finding a partner.

Enter user story mapping

There are several ways to approach scoping your product. In this article, I will introduce you to user story mapping. User stories help you step into your user's shoes and see the product from their eyes.

This is a good technique to enable you to describe your product in great detail. Which is exactly what we are looking for. I will be using Tinder as a fairly simple example here.

If you are right now going through the process, it's time to whip out your favorite word processor and start typing.

  • Define the primary goal/benefit of your product and write it out. For Tinder, this could be: "Users can find and connect with people, who find each other mutually romantically interesting."
  • Define the main high-level process to achieve the primary goal. Visualize how you as a user of your app would go through this process and write it down. In Tinder's case it could be:
    • User signs up
    • User sets their interests/settings
    • User can browse through profiles matching their interests/settings
    • User can indicate interest/disinterest per profile
    • User will get notified when there is a "match" indicating mutual interest
    • User can chat with matches
  • Focus on each step of the process at a time and write down a list of features available in that step. You should try to visualize yourself using the app. It might help to draw each step on paper.
  • Identify and prioritize critical features and put them on top.
  • Clean up and add more details.

You will want to be very specific about how each step works. For example, in the signup step, you have to answer questions like:

  • How does the user initiate this step (opens app, tap a button e.g.)?
  • What does the user see first? Are there animations? What info should be collected at this stage (name, email, password e.g.)?
  • How will each piece of information be collected (text field, dropdown, third party integration like FB login e.g.)?
  • What happens when they submit the form? Possible error messages?

This is the user story for the core flow of your application. Next, you will want to repeat this process for each feature of your MVP until you have described the whole app. In the end, you should have a document detailing all the possible use cases for your application.

PS. If you're looking to outsource your MVP application, take a look at our Flightplan course to get it right. :)