Minimal Lovable Product (MLP)

What Is a Minimum Lovable Product?

The minimum lovable product (MLP) is a relatively new concept that provides a seemingly better alternative to the more popular minimum viable product (MVP). First coined by Brian Haaff in 2013, it refers to a reduced, initial version of what you have in the pipeline, designed for users to love and not just use. An MLP denotes the minimum you need to deliver a product that customers love.

What this means is that, with an MLP, you don’t just think of how to solve problems but also how to delight. Customers shouldn’t have to tolerate your product (they don’t want to) but enjoy using it to solve their problems.

How Does an MLP Compare to an MVP

Minimum lovable product and minimum viable product have one major similarity: they’re both abridged versions. However, the former is usually what you get after first creating versions of the latter. In other words, an MLP is an improved version of your MVP.

Eric Ries, credited with developing the MVP concept, describes it as “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

The MVP aims at shipping something quickly to assess business viability, with minimal thoughts (if any) given to delighting users. MLP covers that missing or less-covered aspect, giving more attention to design and usability.

MVP is a tool you’d use more to test or validate the ideas you have. You build one when you do not fully understand the problem and/or the market cannot yet be well-analyzed. With MVP, you need to place a high premium on working lean. But you go more all out in your efforts on an MLP.

Why is a MLP Important?

The Minimal Viable Product makes absolute sense when you’re the first in a new or differentiated market because it allows you to validate the market itself in a quick and effective way.  But when you’re entering an already-established market, that is not the question. The market is already validated and you are instead trying to figure out the minimal product you can enter that market with, relative to other established products.  In that context, why would someone choose your product compared to others available? 

When you’re dealing with an already thriving market, you need an MLP, not an MVP. It will help you stand out in a domain that is probably already jam-packed. Working with this mindset means you’ll do everything with customers’ delight at the top of your mind.

How to Create an MLP

Target the problem

As with any product development process, you need to grasp the problem and not lose sight of it. Yeah, you’re looking to build something that users will love but not without addressing the problem. What would a superficially-appealing product achieve if it doesn’t address a pain point well, for example?

Work on the lovable

Beyond those needed to make the product viable, hone in on features that users will love or enjoy using. These should be what can make customers, or early adopters feel engaged.

Bake in features that will drive an emotional reaction, which is what fuels engagement. You know you have a winner when users readily share these features with others for positive reasons.

By identifying what could cause a product to be lovable, you will be in a better position to align the work of your team appropriately toward achieving your goals.

Think agility

Last but not least, be lean and agile in your approach. Be ready to adapt. The reason for creating a minimum product in the first place is to offer users a limited number of key features to see how they resonate.  You build the final product and then iterate after first testing your MLP. Use qualitative data provided by early adopters to fine-tune and build something lovable.

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