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The Secret Recipe to Creating an MLP (Minimum Loveable Product)

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Product design has taken off in a way that no one could have predicted. Today, customers don’t just expect their needs to be met, they want to be delighted. They don’t want to just use a product, they want to love it. That is where MLP comes in.

To understand what MLP is and how we can build it, we first need to understand MVP.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Eric Ries developed the idea of the Minimum Viable Product or MVP. He described it as that version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about the customers with the least effort. Basically, it refers to the simplified version of your product that has the bare number of features to solve the user’s problem and capture audience interest. It is used to test the idea of the product. It is floated at the first stage to figuring out if there is an interest for the product in the market. In the worst-case scenario, if the product fails the company can pivot and explore other options without having used up too many resources or a lot of time.

An MVP translates the main intent of the product to the users and allows them to explore it. While the functionality and interface are still quite simple, the product should have a well-tested look and feel. In fact, many companies develop an MVP only for internal testing purposes.

An MVP is the shortest possible way from idea to market. Instead of using years and thousands of dollars to create the perfect product before launching, the MVP is used to test audience interest in the real market. You will know from the early days if users need your product and how you can improve it. The MVP helps to:

  1. Identify risks at an early stage at a relatively low cost.
  2. Analyze actual user behavior and preferences rather than relying on assumptions.
  3. Increase customer loyalty among early adopters.
  4. Predict demand for the product.
  5. Generate interest among investors and partners.

Minimum Lovable Product (MLP)

MLP is a minimum loveable product. It’s a level above MVP and now the product can’t just be viable, it has to be loveable. This means that it has to do more than just solve problems, it has to offer a great user experience and impress users on an emotional level. While the MVP puts a lot of emphasis on getting to the market fast, the MLP seeks to delight the customers. Instead of focusing on just what you want, it focuses on what you would like.

MLP is defined as the version of a new product that brings back the maximum amount of love from your early tribe members (early adopters) with the least effort. Your Minimum Loveable Product allows you to gain a following while exploring opportunities.

The differences between MVP and MLP are:

  • MVP’s main scope is functionality. MLP should be, first and foremost, enjoyable to use.
  • In MVP, the focus is on features. In MLP the attention is on user experience.
  • MVP provides practical and rational benefits. MLP engages users emotionally.

Recipe to creating an MLP

1. Focus on the why

An MLP still needs to have a purpose and solve a problem. Without a clear purpose, a product can seem bloated and pointless. You need to awaken emotion in your users because most purchasing decisions are built on emotion rather than logic. That is where the importance of the why comes in. Having a clear purpose will also add meaning to your team’s work and effort.

2. Do one thing well

Too many companies try to do too much too soon. Having a clear focus and clearly expressing what your product is and who it is for will bring clarity. As the co-founder of Basecamp, Jason Fried said “if you can’t fit everything within the time and budget allotted, then don’t expand the time and budget. Instead, pull back the scope.” It takes discipline to stay on track and not lose focus, but this discipline forms the basis of most of the successful products in the market today.

3. Add constraints

It is easy in today’s day and age to be overwhelmed with choices. This can result in extended timelines and budgets. To avoid this you should prioritize the most essential tasks you need to complete before you can launch and then put constraints on the time and budget for every step. These constraints cannot be exceeded by any member of the team.

4. Solve only high-value problems

Do not forget the M in MLP. The goal is to choose the minimum set of features needed to solve your user’s problem — the real pain point — and then make the solutions as delightful as possible. One product cannot hand the users everything they could possibly want from it in one iteration.

That will be time-consuming and expensive. A balance has to be found between underinvesting and overinvesting. If you go to the minimum you will not delight your customers and hence, not stand out from the crowd. However, if you over-deliver, you will use up too much time and too many resources to be able to pivot in the future.

5. Add surprise and delight

Next, go above and beyond the expected. Design for emotion. Well-designed products can delight consumers and bring them back for more. So don’t just say design is important to you, spend more to hire better designers. There is a high correlation between positive user experience and loyalty.

6. Add a hook

For customer retention, add a hook to your product that will ensure that customers will keep coming back again and again, and using the product will become a habit. Social media apps like Instagram and Facebook do this really well. Nir Eyal, the primary researcher in this field, outlines the four-step process companies can use to build customer habits; these are the trigger, action, variable reward, and investment.

7. Build your tribe

Build a community of passionate users around your product that believe in your mission. Think about which customers will become passionate advocates for your product and not only come back to it regularly but also bring their friends with them. This will involve winning with the heart, not just with the wallet.

8. Gather qualitative research

Talk to the early adopters of your product or your tribe and find out how the product performed in the first release. Use user surveys with open-ended questions that allow users to truly express how the product made them feel. This is valuable data to use as you go forward in the iteration process.

9. Make it part of the strategy

To align your team with your goals, you need to weave the love facet of the product into every aspect. Hence, all the team members including user experience, sales, marketing, design, and tech, have to be geared towards making something the users will love. It should reflect in every decision that team members take.

10. Test, iterate, and repeat

The MLP is a valuable learning tool. Learn from the feedback that you gather to iterate the next version of your product. Then repeat the whole process again.

Remember, to build something people really want, it is better to be loveable than to be just viable.

Written by: Manik Arora, Co-Founder, Onething.design

Originally published at https://www.onething.design on March 3, 2021.


The Secret Recipe to Creating an MLP (Minimum Loveable Product) was originally published in Muzli – Design Inspiration on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.