What Is a Minimum Lovable Product?

The product game has certainly changed over the last few years. Technology used to be such a novelty, back when phones still have keypads and if your video game stopped working you had to blow on the cartridge. How times have changed.

Customers are much, much, harder to please than they used to be! Product Design has taken off in a way that no one could have predicted. Customers don’t just want their needs to be met, they want to be delighted. They don’t just want to use your product, they want to love it.

love you heart GIF by Alice Socal

So what does this mean for Product Managers? Firstly, you should get comfortable with your design team, and work on building a strong relationship with them. And then you need to rethink your Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

That’s right, being Viable just doesn’t cut it anymore. You need to be Lovable. You need to think about creating a minimum lovable product (MLP).

MVP, MLP, and MMP…what?!

Eric Ries developed the idea of MVP, and described it as “the minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

While some companies prefer to use their MVP as a closed beta for testing only, other lean startups actually launch their MVP as the first version of their product.

🚀 MVP: Minimum Viable Product – this is a version of your product that you first launch to your customers. It has the bare minimum number of features to solve their problem, and is most commonly used as a testing tool only.

❤️ MLP: Minimum Lovable Product – similar to an MVP, but with more thought and care taken in design and UI. It aims to solve the problem, but also delight.

💰 MMP: Minimum Marketable Product – this is the version of your MVP (or MLP) which you’ll push to market.

What Exactly is an MLP?

A Minimum Lovable Product (also known as Minimum Loveable Product) goes beyond asking ‘how do we fix customer’s problems?’ by also asking ‘how do we delight them along the way?’

Jiaona “JZ” Zhang, VP of Product at Webflow and formerly of Airbnb, WeWork, and Dropbox, comments on the evolution of the MVP:

“The minimum viable product was appealing because it was cheap, and you could get it to market faster. But we’ve advanced past a world where products are ‘the first of X.’ Stiffer competition means that MVPs aren’t going to cut it anymore. If startups truly want to stand out, they need to strive toward creating a minimum lovable product instead.”

Let’s imagine that you go over to a friend’s house. They ask you if you’d like a coffee, and you say yes. They bring you a cup of black, instant coffee.

Is it what you asked for? Yes. Is it going to give you the caffeine boost you need? Yes.

But is it going to delight you? Probably not. It’s not an experience that’s going to stick in your mind, and it certainly hasn’t delighted you.

Had your friend taken the time to ask you what you like, not just what you want, they would have known enough about your preferences to delight you.

MLP vs MVP

In product development, it’s important to take the time to conduct the proper research to adequately fill the needs of the user. When building an MLP, that research includes finding out what they love. This could be a pleasing design aesthetic, an innovative user on-boarding experience, or integration with other tools.

Earning your user’s love is vital for early product success, as it’ll give you an edge over your competitors, and help keep your product memorable.

Steps to Creating an MLP

The rules for building an MLP are very similar to building a product in the usual way. But if you’ve never done it before, there are a few key things to keep in mind:

Focus on ‘The Why’

It’s all well and good making something beautiful, but it still has to solve the problem. Just as with all products, you need to be building something with purpose. Think about that coffee your friend served you earlier. If it came covered in cream and sprinkles with a fudge brownie stuck on top, it doesn’t exactly fulfil the role of ‘coffee’ anymore!

unknown question mark GIF

Align Your Team on Your Lovable Goals

It takes everyone on the development team to make a product lovable, and you need to weave that love into every aspect of your product. As a Product Manager, it’s your responsibility to align your teams to one common goal. User experience, sales, marketing, design, tech…they all have to be geared towards making something that your users will love. You’ll have to use the power of influence without authority here, but it’ll really pay off in the long run.

Stay Lean and Agile

Don’t forget about the M in MLP. While you’re focusing on delighting your users, remember that the goal is still to be agile. Choose the minimum set of features needed to solve your user’s problems, and make them as delightful as possible.

Don’t assume that building something lovable means handing users everything they could possibly want. Not only will that waste your valuable time, but it’ll be more painful to iterate in the future.

There’s a delicate balance to be found between underinvesting and over-investing in an MLP. Too minimum and you risk losing out on potential customers or not standing out from the crowd. If you over-invest with too many features, that’s time and resources lost if you miss the mark and have to pivot.

GIF by andrewillustration

Gather (The Right) Qualitative Research

Talk to your early adopters, and find out more than just how the product performed. Find out how the product made them feel. In user surveys, offer open-ended questions which allow users to express themselves, rather than just simple yes/no answers or tick boxes.

You might also be interested in: Customer Feedback Loops + The Tools You Need

You should also be aware of who you’re testing with. Make sure your MLP lands in the hands of your target audience, and not just other tech people. They won’t be dazzled by the same features/designs as the average consumer.

Test, Iterate, Repeat

Your MLP is not the final form of your product. Much like an MVP, it’s a valuable learning tool which will help you to discover what your users want. Once you’ve gathered your qualitative and quantitative feedback, start planning the next step for your product.

Thanks to your MLP, you should be well on your way to building a well-loved product.

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