What the hell is a minimally lovable product? And why ought to designers care?
this article was written by Nick Babich and originally published on Built-in.
One of the biggest fears product designers have is the fear of creating products that nobody wants to use. How do you minimize the risk of a product defect? The answer is simple: invest time in creating a minimum product to validate the product with the target users. Nowadays, creating an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is an essential part of many teams‘ Product design strategy. With the “think big, start small” approach, product teams invest time and effort in building an MVP and testing it with the target audience. However, an MVP isn’t the only type of minimum product that product teams can make. The MLP (Minimum Lovable Product) is another concept that is becoming increasingly popular with product designers.
If you work in product development, you may be wondering what approach to take. Should you create MVP or MLP? Let’s look at what each path offers to answer this question.
What is an MVP?
A minimum viability product is a version of the product with only one essential functionality that helps developers test their hypothesis about its usefulness. Product teams create a solution, which can range from an early prototype to a full-fledged product, and test it with their target audience, i.e. early adopters and / or potential customers. The aim of these tests is to understand whether the original vision for the product was correct.
Product design is an iterative process, and the goal of creating an MVP is to get the most out of each iteration. If the product team finds they are headed in the wrong direction, they can easily adjust their design strategy and create another MVP in the next iteration.
Well-designed MVPs have the following characteristics:
- value. People will have no motivation to use a product that is of no value to them. Because of this, the features available in the MVP must provide clear value to the customer. Rate your users‘ true needs; Only then should you invest the time and effort in developing a solution.
- reliability. The MVP should work consistently well. Users should not experience unexpected errors when interacting with a product.
- user friendliness. Good usability is an essential part of product design. The MVP should be both easy to learn and easy to use.
Display the MVP as a solution to users‘ Problems. Therefore, it is important to conduct user research to understand users’ needs and wants and develop the right product features.
The cost and time it takes to create the product are two major advantages of an MVP. Since it contains only a minimum of functions, it should be very cheap to manufacture. For the same reason, designing an MVP shouldn’t take long either. These advantages enable product designers to test and validate various hypotheses in a short period of time.
An MVP usually looks like an unpolished product, and first-time adopters rarely make an emotional connection with it. As a result, it becomes more difficult to predict how the product will behave in the real world and what emotional reactions that product will elicit. All you can tell by testing your MVP with users is whether the functionality of that product is working well.
What is an MLP?
An MLP or a minimally lovable product is a further development of the MVP concept. Steve Blank, the entrepreneur who popularized the MVP, once said, “They sell the vision and provide the minimums to visionaries, not everyone.” That may be true, but it’s a lot easier to sell the vision when you get people to fall in love with your product. And that’s what happens when products don’t just hit users‘ but also needs to please. The MLP approach prioritizes emotionally appealing design – that means creating a design that makes users feel comfortable with the product.
An MLP has the same characteristics as an MVP (value, reliability and ease of use), but adds a new attribute: joy. When creating an MLP, strive for surface delight through well-designed animated effects, crisp microscopy and beautiful imagery, and deep joy that puts the user in a state of flux and allows them to immerse themselves in the experience. Both superficial and deep joy lead to positive emotions from users, and emotions play an essential role in the evaluation of products. Products that encourage positive emotions have a better chance of sticking in our minds than something we plan to use repeatedly.
An MLP should be appealing. However, “nice” doesn’t necessarily mean creating a nice user interface. Instead, it means creating products that users enjoy interacting with. The aim is to get a positive reaction to the interactions with a product. For example, you could use visual styles that you think your target audience will love. An MLP therefore requires strong user engagement, which in most cases leads to a better understanding of the users‘ Needs.
In general, creating an MLP takes longer than creating an MVP. To create an MLP, the first thing you need to do is find out what features your target users will love. To do this, you need to invest more time in user research, as it is important to talk to the target audience and learn how they are comfortable in both real life and digital space. You’ll also need to spend more time refining a solution, testing your product and learning how users feel, and then improving your design based on those insights. As a result, the production costs for an MLP are higher than for an MVP.
MVP OR MLP: WHAT’S BETTER?
“Should I choose an MVP or an MLP?” is a common question among product designers. If you have the time and budget, it’s always better to raise the bar from viable to lovable. Why? Because if a product is adorable, it offers you additional competitive advantages. Adding love to the ingredients in your product will result in better changes in your design and create products that users will appreciate from the start. Your product also stands out from the competition and gives you an additional competitive advantage in the market.
But what if you don’t have the time or budget to do a full MLP? In this case, you can apply the Kano model, which allows you to take into account both product functionality and customer satisfaction. The Kano model can be represented as a two-axis diagram that depicts customer satisfaction (on the vertical axis, from happiness above to dissatisfaction below) versus effort or investment (on the horizontal axis). Note that the functions are evaluated from the customer’s point of view. This model allows you to decide which features and options will bring the greatest benefit to users.
Ingredients for a great MLP
Here are some simple rules that you can use to save time and make your work on your MLP more effective:
- Make it clear which user personality you are targeting. It is difficult to develop a product that meets the needs and wants of multiple user personalities. Hence, identify your primary person and design your product to suit their needs.
- Focus on what is important. Don’t try to add a lot of features to your MLP. Trying to solve every problem will result in a bad product. Start with a high quality problem for your users and define key features – one or two features that will most accurately solve your target audience’s problem and make sure you can deploy them on time.
- Communicate your vision clearly with your team. Make sure each team member understands where you are going, what you want to build and, more importantly, why. This understanding will motivate people to create something that other people will love.
- Stay focused. If you’re already working on an MLP, it might be tempting to add an extra feature or two as you think they’ll make your product more desirable to users. But it’s better to resist this temptation because you will end up spending more time and money on your MLP.
- Listen to your users. If you don’t, you will never build anything that is viable, let alone adorable. Ask what they think of your product. Start with a problem users are having and ask questions like “What is the most stressful or painful part of this interaction / experience?”
- Observe the reactions of users as they interact with your product. By observing your users’ reactions, you can distinguish between a workable solution and a lovable one. If users can’t move their focus off the screen, that’s a good sign that they’re heavily involved in the interaction.
Key takeaway: make it adorable
Both an MVP and an MLP represent the simplest versions of the product that can solve your users’ main problem. When you create an MVP, you create something that users can tolerate. However, when you create an MLP, you are creating something that people will really love. In many cases, lovable products work better because a real enthusiasm for using a product guarantees better user interaction.
Published on December 21, 2020 – 11:00 UTC