A minimum lovable product (MLP) is an initial product version that, in addition to minimal workable features, delights customers with design and adorable components. MLP has an appealing look and well-thought-out value, which makes the product enjoyable to customers.
Why is MLP important for your product to grow? Due to competitiveness in the market, it’s not enough to solve a user’s problem with your product now. You have to delight them with your offering instead. Thus, even to test the waters, you should present an enjoyable product to your customers. This is where an MLP (minimum lovable product) is coming.
Our team has been cooperating with startups for over 8 years and has learned the intricacies of the MLP concept. So, we invite you on a journey of how you can make your product lovable and raise its business potential.
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the concept of MLP and discover how you can build one. Also, to better understand a minimum lovable product's meaning, we will touch on the MLP vs MVP and MMP approaches here. Let’s get started.
Understanding the basics of a minimum lovable product
MLP (minimum lovable product) originates from the lean startup approach and the minimum viable product (MVP). These concepts promote starting with the minimum features and testing them with a small audience first. Yet, they took the next step in the form of the MLP method. What is MLP, and where does the concept come from? Let’s see in more detail.
MLP in practice
The priority of an MLP is to win the empathy of the future audience. To better understand this idea, we will give you a simple minimum lovable product example. Say, you are hungry and decide to order a hamburger at a restaurant. You ate it but found that it had too little salad for your taste.
In fact, you got what you wanted, and it did solve your demand. Yet, you weren’t entirely pleased with your meal, as your preferences were not considered. Thus, you got something you needed but didn’t like. In short, you had an MVP but not a minimum loveable product.
So, a critical difference between MLP vs MVP is that the former has the minimum points needed to love the product rather than bear it. Lovability builds a community that values your product and prefers it to other similar suggestions.
The origin of MLP
Brian de Haaff introduced the concept of a minimum lovable product (MLP) in 2013. He described it as a reduced version of a new product that clients would love from the start. In his bestselling book Lovability, the author states that bringing happiness to customers helps businesses grow in the long run. So, he outlines the 10 basic blocks of lovability presented in the image below.
Brian de Haaff is a co-founder of the Aha! corporation, providing software as a service for business growth. He shares how their company prioritizes people, profit, and performance. These aspects inspire others to create services and products that people will love.
The concept of MLP (minimum lovable product) appeared as an enhancement for MVP (minimum viable product). The author understood that MVP is insufficient for customers to buy a product. That is why, besides key features, like in MVP, MLP focuses on the UI/UX factor.
You may also like: POC vs MVP: What to Choose to Build a Great Product
Benefits of creating an MLP for your project
What is an MLP project’s advantage in software development? There are a number of them. Let’s discover what they are.
As you have understood from the MLP definition, it appeared as a remedy for winning customers in crowded markets. An appealing product is likely to make prospects engaged and loyal.
With an MLP, you bring your product’s value to your customers and help them solve their pain points. As a result, you increase the competitiveness of your solution.
Minimal resources for development
A minimum lovable product is a simplified version that is ready to go to market. Developing MLP requires minimal investments. So, you can test your product with low initial costs.
At the same time, you offer users more than a product. You give them positive emotions, resulting in their interest in your solution. Thus, you can build long-term relationships with few resources.
Reduced time to market
MLP includes the minimum features to make your product workable and marketable. By focusing on primary features and looks, you reach the market faster than with a full-fledged product. The design and development
Besides reaching your prospects earlier, you gain their empathy. Also, you raise your chances of attracting a broader and more engaged audience.
Free product promotion
By creating an enjoyable product, you create a viral effect. Positive reviews from friends and family make a buzz, and more people become interested in your product. The slightest effort makes marketing work for you.
Also, you can get valuable feedback and improve your product. So, it will be even more delightful for your customers.
Branding from the start
Incorporating branding elements into your product’s design makes it recognizable in the early stages. Thus, you familiarize more customers with your brand.
Early branding will help you tell your vision and story to your customers. So, you will improve how the audience feels about your company and build trust in your brand.
Key properties of MLP vs MVP vs MMP
MLP is one of the concepts that arose based on the MVP, or minimum viable product, notion. Another concept is the minimum marketable product (MMP). We decided to make a detailed comparison for you. So, you can decide which of the modifications suits your business goals best. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Minimum viable product (MVP) definition
Eric Ries invented the term MVP in 2008 and described it as a test that helps gather validated data about clients with the least effort.
Dropbox is just an excellent example of a company to build a minimum viable product with as little effort as possible. Its founders, Arash Ferdowsi and Drew Houston, decided not to make a full-fledged app prototype. Instead, they crafted the product’s explainer video as its MVP. Thus, the owners wanted to check if their sync cloud storage service would be in demand for the audience.
Actually, investors didn’t willingly put their money into this product because of stiff competition with similar apps. Moreover, the founders had to cope with significant technical barriers to ensure the product’s reliability. As such, the Dropbox creators didn’t want to risk spending much effort on creating a possibly unnecessary thing. So, they played it safe in case their product idea failed.
Yet, we bet you know the results of this test. “It drove hundreds of thousands of people to the website. Our beta waiting list went from 5,000 people to 75,000 people literally overnight. It totally blew us away.” - Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox
Notably, other well-known companies such as Uber, eBay, Spotify, Yahoo, Snapchat, and many others started their way into the market with the launch of MVP. Creating a minimum viable product allowed them to analyze the demand and identify the basic needs of the target audience. Therefore, MVP became the basis for developing a unique, practical, and competitive product.
Thus, the main MVP’s intent is to explore if there is an interest in this product on the market. In fact, it does not even need to be an actual offering to reach its target.
Being an MVP development company, we know how beneficial MVP development is. So, we recommend our clients test market fit and audience’s response to their solutions with MVPs.
As for MLP, it’s an approach that is based on MVP ideas but seeks to solve more complicated goals. So, what is the relationship between a minimum lovable product vs MVP?
Further reading: MVP Development Cost: 5 Main Aspects for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
A comparison of MVP vs MLP vs MMP
When technologies were evolving and diversifying, MVP was enough to test a product in the short run. As the market has become saturated with solutions, providing prospects with the minimum features is not enough. You need to connect and build relationships with customers. So, MLP makes a step forward compared to MVP and helps to reach such goals.
So, generally, minimum lovable product vs MVP differ in the following aspects:
- Primary objective. MVP helps to justify if the product is workable with existing features and what strategy to use to adjust or improve it. MLP, on the other hand, aims to attract early adopters and win prospects. Thus, the MLP-MVP relationship is about the focus on features and features plus delight.
- Timeline and costs. As MVP prioritizes features, it takes less time to build it compared to an MLP. The latter demands more time and money, as you need to put effort into making your product enjoyable. So, MVP-MLP contrast in spending resources for development.
- UI/UX design. When creating an MVP, the primary focus is the product’s user experience (UX) design. You make a product functional, so the user journey must be smooth. At the same time, the minimum loveable product also considers user interface (UI) design to give the audience emotional appeal.
- Relationships with users. Testing an MVP brings results about convenience and functionality, showing users’ interest in the product’s features. Meanwhile, MLP builds an emotional response from the audience and, ideally, spreads word of mouth about it.
MVPs and minimum lovable products are very close by nature. Yet, they still have different functions and are used for diverse goals. In a nutshell, an MVP is aimed more at testing assumptions, while MLP products - at creating reduced likable apps.
In parallel with the MLP vs MVP comparison, it’s worth also mentioning MMP (or minimum marketable product). Actually, a minimal marketable product is a version of your MVP (or MLP product) that you are going to release to the market.
MVP, MMP, and MLP are three stages of product evolution with the fewest features. Starting with a bare minimum, you enhance your product for better user engagement in the long run.
We give the ultimate summary of these versions by comparing their characteristics in the table below:
|Basic goal||Helps check features’ viability, avoiding massive investments||Helps check what response the marketable version gets from the audience||Helps establish long-term and quality relationships with engaged customers and attract new prospects|
|Time to market||The fastest among other “minimum” products to develop as it tests assumptions on the features to give a value to users||Includes features that turned out to be valuable for early adopters in an MVP and enables the product to be delivered on the market with adjusted features||Takes more time to develop than an MVP and MMP as the development team invents and adds delighters|
|Target users||Tested with a narrow group of early adopters||Launched to market for a broad audience||Used and liked by customers in the long run|
|Features||Minimum features and their value to check the product idea with early adopters||Features included after the MVP testing to promote a workable product at the market||Minimum features plus delighters to establish long-term relationships with users|
|Design||UX & UI design focuses to make a product functional||Focused on UX & UI design to deliver the product on the market||Focus on lovable UI & enjoyable UX along with marketable functionality|
|Advancements||Aimed at users who want to check out a new product even if it has flaws||Thoroughly tested and developed for target audience’s business interactions and with customer support||Includes the value and advantages gained in MVP and MMP, plus delightful enhancements to improve customers’ engagement|
|Competition||Effective to use if there are only one or few rivals||Effective to use in a different competition environment||Effective to use if there are many alternative options in the market|
Regarding your market goals and competition, you can choose one of the three and move on with improvements. The commonality between these three versions is that they encompass the minimum features. So, they help you use the fewest resources when you try to win the audience's attention with your product.
Summing up, let us say that MVP targets validating the idea, MMP - selling the product, and MLP - gaining users' empathy. Thus, it depends on your business goals which specific "minimal product" you need to build at this time.
8 steps of how to build an MLP product
Building an MLP implies that you focus on the lovability of your product. This view entails certain aspects of building one. Let’s see what they are.
Align your team with your lovable goals
Definitely, to create MLP in its own right, you need to activate that love in every aspect of your future product. To that end, your team needs to recognize this common goal. Notably, your strategy has to be clear and transparent for all its members.
Acting in alignment with your vision, your crew will strive to apply best practices in tech, design, marketing, and sales for your app. Thus, you will get a delightful minimum lovable product as a result.
At Codica, we rely on an agile methodology that helps us observe project's progress. With regular sprints and feedback from clients, we make project adjustments as soon as needed.
Perform research and set goals
In pursuing lovability, you should still remember the main goal you create your minimum loveable product for. After all, your offer has to solve your clients’ pain points first.
It’s essential to have a clear vision of your future product’s functionality during its creation. Since coolness is not enough for your customers to love your solution.
That is why it is crucial to start with research, such as product discovery. It is a step when you analyze the value and market potential of your project. This preparatory stage ensures that the MLP development process will be optimal and require minimal resources. Check out the video below for a brief review of what product discovery is.
At this stage, you or your team analyze the crucial aspects of the project, such as the product’s market value, competitors, and features. But what’s more important in the context of lovability is that the product research focuses on the target audience and their needs. After all, it is people who will like your product, use it, and recommend it to their friends and family.
So, how can you prepare to create an MLP? Below, we discuss the aspects for you to consider in product discovery.
Explore your audience by creating buyer personas
It is a generalized description of a typical consumer who will use your minimum lovable product. Buyer persona comes as a result of research and encompasses basic information. The primary aspects to consider are needs, pain points, and ideal experience. That’s because you will create the product value around those aspects.
Other important components can include age, personal preferences, profession, interests, and life goals. The image below presents a typical buyer persona with crucial points to explore for a better MLP.
As part of project discovery and development, our team focuses on UI/UX design research, which is a primary aspect of making an MVP product lovable.
Use the customer development approach
To go further in research of your target audience, you can apply a customer development approach. Steve Blank proposed this concept, which means conducting a user survey to discover their pain points, motivations, desires, habits, beliefs, and more.
You can apply a customer development approach in the following cases:
- At the start of building your product;
- After the product has been in commercial use for a while;
- Throughout the whole time of the product’s continuous usage.
The approach differs from similar surveys because it offers a deeper understanding of your prospects. As a result, you grasp how you can make your product even more lovable. So, to perform a customer development interview, use the following strategy:
- Choose the main topic to discuss and build hypotheses concerning your MLP;
- Find people to interview who are ready to pay for your app;
- Create questions that are based on your hypotheses and are open to users, making them contemplate;
- Choose recording over other tools as it helps capture answers with all vital details;
- Prepare a research document that will enable you to find significant patterns.
Customer development is a versatile and complex method. So, you should approach it carefully to achieve valuable results. When developing interview questions, remember that they should reveal the customer’s true thoughts on your product.
That is why we recommend you use the principles from the Mom Test developed by Rob Fitzpatrick. This technique ensures that you ask your customers questions so they cannot lie to you. Those questions are so bulletproof that even your mom will not lie about them.
So, the principles of the Mom Test go as follows:
- Ask customers about what they do instead of what your ideas are;
- Enquire about specific things in the past rather than about generic things in the future;
- Listen to customers carefully and avoid interrupting them;
- Get the big picture right and then pass to small details;
- Research the crucial topics that matter for your product or idea.
Create a unique selling proposition (USP)
To delight your customers, think of a unique feature or approach that will ease their lives in a specific way. USP will help you solve your prospects’ pain points. Here are some aspects you can consider when defining your minimum lovable product’s USP:
- Take care that your unique feature solves the crucial needs of your users;
- Outline your MLP’s value by highlighting a specific feature or approach;
- Suggest the feature delightfully and softly to leave your customers with space for choice.
Add delight with UI/UX design
When creating an MLP, we focus not only on the features to be implemented but also on the look, convenience, and accessibility of the product. So, a vital part of lovable product development is UI/UX design.
Since your customers are supposed to adore your minimum lovable product, you should also put your effort into UI/UX design research. Actually, it’s better to have a well-designed product from the start rather than "sprucing it up" at the end.
An essential part of UI/UX research is considering customer experience (CX). It means how customers interact with your product and brand, particularly your website. Designers learn about CX aspects to optimize customer journey, ensuring successful interaction with your brand. After learning CX details, designers create interfaces and think over interaction scenarios.
Using this methodology in our UI/UX design services, we ensure that the final product will delight your customers and help you thrive.
How can you create a pleasant design for your MLP? Let’s see the vital points to creating a delightful design:
- Make key elements easy to reach and navigate;
- Group similar elements close to each other;
- Use white space to keep elements readable;
- Apply columns and blocks for an easier understanding of the MLP’s structure;
- Keep the content display concise.
For instance, one of the recent projects with the delightful approach in mind we delivered was the kids’ activities marketplace PlanMyKids. This platform allows parents to find and book activities for their children. We helped create MVP quickly and with minimal costs. In such a way, our client could test their idea at an early stage.
To make the product lovable, we created a well-thought-out design. We carefully chose colors and typography to convey the mood of softness, comfort, and playfulness. Joyful photos and whimsical small drawings resemble children’s creativity and explorative character.
Also, we refined the flow to make the user experience delightful. Convenient buttons, clear fields, and comprehensive activity descriptions add to the pleasant usage of the app. Believing in the positive effect of consistency, we provided a smooth user journey at all steps to make the app even more enjoyable.
Our endeavors found positive responses from the platform users and the founder, David Watkins.
We created the platform as an MVP to help David Watkins to test his idea and assumptions about it. At the same time, we made it appealing and enjoyable for users. And it worked! The platform is successful and brings benefits to the owner, parents, and their kids.
Also, it's great to add surprise traits to your MLP. Undoubtedly, everyone enjoys getting extra pleasantness when they don’t expect it. But keep in mind that delighters should be in line with your product’s goal and should not distract users from its functionality.
Choose key features in MLP
When building your MLP product, it’s also vital to stay lean. Thus, when providing custom software development services, we advise our clients on what features to include in a minimum loveable product.
We recommend focusing on one or two lovable points that make an app stand out from others on the market. It will save you valuable resources and allow you to be flexible enough to move on. By having a reasonable minimal marketable feature in your MLP, you can give your customers more in MMP.
Remember to have a strong prop statement and a solid vision of your MLP. They will help you make decisions and focus on your MLP’s mission.
From our experience, key features can be defined based on customer interviews. Typically, customers share their pain points and mention particular needs. Based on this information, you can decide how to meet those needs and bring value to your customers.
For example, Airbnb offers customers simple and reliable rent options for hosts and guests. So, the company implemented a flexible and versatile search with filtering options for guests. Even if there are no specific locations, the search offers close locations and dates. For hosts, Airbnb offers easy listing options and reminding of tasks for the day.
Recommended reading: Custom Software Development for Startups: 6 Tips to Save Costs
Of course, by creating your MLP product, you aim to win your clients’ love. Yet, it is just as essential to turn this love into an everyday habit.
In his book “Hooked”, Nir Eyal offers 4 steps to form customer habits. They consist of the following:
- Variable reward;
This mechanism works well with Instagram, Facebook, and other social media. Thus, you can hook your target audience for the long term.
Build your tribe
Today’s customers are fed up with marketing. Thus, it’s reasonable to build your tribe of passionate users around your app. These people can share your mission and advocate for your product in their midst.
Definitely, it's hardly possible to create such a minimum lovable product that everyone will adore. Moreover, it’s difficult for the public to love you if you strive to attract everyone.
Sam Altman summed it up well: “Build something that a small number of users love rather than a large number of users like.” As such, you need to find and support such a community. The following steps will help to do that:
- Establish your brand’s visibility with different channels, depending on your goals;
- Choose your social media depending on demographics and content types;
- Pay attention to customers’ queries, discussions, and interactions;
- Nurture your community with meaningful support and communication;
- Grow your brand’s advocates with exclusive perks and entice social media followers;
- Build community connections with member spotlights, networking events, and expert panels.
You may also like: How to Build an MVP for a SaaS Startup: Practical Tips
Gather qualitative feedback
Though lovability is a subjective matter, it’s vital to gather qualitative feedback about your MLP. Thus, your crucial target is to learn how your early adopters feel about using your app.
Applying surveys with open-ended questions can help you learn their true emotions. Moreover, it’s a valuable base to reveal what you need to change in your offering.
So, we recommend that you first launch your product to a small group of users and observe how they respond. If you see positive reactions to your minimum lovable product, you can proceed with a broad launch and offer it to the world.
This is the case for the fitness progressive web application (PWA) we created. The PWA technology is easily set on your phone or tablet. At the same time, it delivers a native-like experience, so we chose this approach for the solution. Watch the video to grasp how the app works on mobile devices.
Initially, we created the PWA for a small group of trainers and their clients. The founder of Impact Personal Training, Richard Gunter, observed the primary results with the feedback the app had received. Users asked for several feature improvements to help trainers and their clients with choosing exercises and tracking personal progress. We helped with that.
Finally, the product was ready for a vast market. It included over 400 exercises, convenient progress tracking, and meal scheduling during the day for clients. On the other hand, trainers have comprehensive features for creating personal training programs that their clients will follow.
The app helped Impact improve the user experience, expand its audience, and obtain positive business results. Below, we share a review of our successful cooperation from the founder.
Test, iterate, repeat
Finally, you need to remember that a minimum lovable product is not your destination. It’s a great learning tool to reveal what your customers really like and want. In fact, it's just a midpoint in your “MVP-MLP-MMP” way.
We discuss above that your minimum loveable product starts with discovery. Yet, as Teresa Torres puts it, products are never done. They are always open to iteration and improvements. So, for your product to grow, it is vital that the product team finds new opportunities and solutions to them. It is a continuous discovery.
Why is it important? Because while developing the product, we forget how it was when we knew nothing about it, just like our customers at the start. So, your MLP product team should perform two key activities: customer interviewing and assumption testing. The first one helps you discover customers’ needs and your opportunities. The second one helps find solutions.
Moreover, you can benefit from classical key performance indicators (KPIs) to discover your product’s success. We cover them in the table below for a quick review.
|Customer acquisition cost (CAC)||(cost of sales + cost of marketing)/new customers acquired|
|Conversion rate||(number of conversions/number of visitors) x 100|
For example, email subscriber rate = (the number of people who subscribe)/(the number of people who see your email subscription form) x 100
|Retention rate||(number of users at the end of a given time period - number of new users)/number of users at the beginning of that time period|
|Churn rate||number of churned customers/total customers|
|Monthly average revenue per user (ARPU)||total revenue/total users|
|Customer lifetime value (CLV)||customer value x average customer lifespan|
Armed with qualitative data from MLP testing and tools to implement them, you can plan the next step of creating your lovable app.
How Codica builds products that users enjoy
When developing a new product, we discuss with the client the vision, value, and features that they want to implement. Those are vital starting points to understand what team we must select and what technologies to use to deliver a successful MLP.
Starting with product discovery, we thoroughly research the MLP’s market potential to know it at the earliest stage. At this point, discussions involve stakeholders and our project manager, tech lead, and UI/UX designer. The main tasks we solve are presented in the image below for a quick review.
Design is a crucial part of creating MLP products. So, our designers use their best knowledge and visual practices to make a product look top-notch for users. Creating design starts at the discovery step, when we present the MLP prototypes to stakeholders. Thus, we can make changes to the MLP design and functionality as soon as possible.
After agreeing on the features and user flow in prototypes, our team proceeds to work on the visuals and technical part. As a minimal lovable product aims to delight customers, we focus on appealing design, including enjoyable elements that enhance the perception of the solution’s functionality.
One of our recent projects is an online marketplace for domains, Dan. Thanks to our redesign and technical improvements, the marketplace has become more convenient and user-friendly.
In this project, the focus is on optimizing the Portfolio table and its components, such as search, filters, and sorting. Our team enhanced those elements and implemented an infinite scroll bar. Thus, users can view and manipulate many domain names with ease. Also, we introduced bulk changes so users can modify sales parameters in just one pop-up window.
With enhanced functionality, the platform became fast and convenient. We also made the platform delightful for users. Thanks to the UI redesign, the menu has an appealing look. The menu has a dark theme compared to the domain list. Also, we added colored bullets to make the menu points more distinguishable.
Check out the video below to see how you can manipulate the domain lists and sales elements in Dan.
Check out our portfolio for more successful projects we have delivered so far.
To successfully launch your product, you should be one step beyond the MVP concept now. As such, it’s better to use the minimum lovable product (MLP) approach to find out what your customers really want. What is a MLP? It is a product with minimum features that includes delighters to win more customers.
To achieve this, you should put more effort into the emotional aspects of your future product. Notably, it’s important to craft a well-designed, intriguing solution that will become an everyday habit for your customers.
Yet, it’s also vital to concentrate on the functional purposes of your solution and the minimal set of features to start with.
If you have a project and need an experienced team, contact us. We will discuss the requirements to create the most lovable product for your customers.