Get lean, but don’t lose the part of your app users will love.
Most times, you’ve got one shot to impress your users with a product. The first time it’s presented to them, we know it won’t be perfect. In fact, in order to avoid spending unnecessary time and money on features that haven’t been validated by those users, it shouldn’t be perfect. However, it should give a strong impression and represent a crystal-clear value proposition to them. How do you get down to the nitty-gritty of your product to ensure these things occur? One concept that has gained popularity, riding in on the wave of “lean startups,” is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
What is an MVP?
“The version of a new product that brings back the maximum amount of validated learning about your customers with the least time and money.”
The digital product world has been evolving rapidly since 2009, and similar to any major boom, there reached a point of clutter and overload. Products were becoming bloated, and engagement from users was low. Many who were building products realized that they couldn’t have it all, even though the technical world was introducing an abundance of new possibility. This turned out to be a positive revelation. We’d soon see striving for too many features as a common turn towards failure for digital products. There was a need for a faster, more concise way to develop and explore innovative product ideas. Alas, the MVP was born.
This was introduced as a more efficient way to validate decisions in the development process. The idea was to build the most simple spec of a product, release it, observe reactions and feedback, and head back to the drawing board to do more of whatever seemed to work. While this was a fresh thought in an industry that desperately needed it, products were put at risk of becoming too minimal and losing early user attention. They were indeed being accelerated to the market, but lacked a competitive edge upon arrival. Additionally, the MVP didn’t leave room for the types of products that may rely on community endorsement, which are commonly the most infectious type. Seth Godin explains, “Many products depend on community, on adoption within a tribe, on buzz–these products aren’t viable when they first launch, precisely because they haven’t been adopted.”
So, we’re grateful to the MVP for getting things a bit more simplified–but there is a next step: identifying the MLP.
What is a MLP (Minimum Lovable Product)?
“The version of a new product that brings back the maximum amount of love from your early loyal users with the least time and money.”
With so much being introduced to the market every day, users are responding to emotional design now more than ever. This takes considering and empathizing with what users would identify with past simply a core need. Something they don’t just use, but something that they’re connected to and advocate for. Even better, this type of product attracts VC’s. Many of them have seen enough to understand that a solid MLP is what it takes to rise above the rest.
An amazing example of this is Airbnb. They are past features that fill a need. If their only intent was to build a platform that allowed others to book out their empty homes, their site would look like VRBO’s. They’ve created a product that tells the story of human beings opening their homes, exploring the world together, and exchanging tales from the road; a story many of us feel that we’re a part of.
An MVP tends to look for “likes” from users. But what if we focused on the “love” instead? What if we created a product that a community could be built around, or that our users are rooting for? This quality in a product creates a connection and lasting support from users. We believe that even a smaller batch of those who love a product are more valuable than a large pool of those who like a product!
“Love” is a big word. How do you create an MLP?
One way to carve out your MLP is to focus on the why, instead of the how. Asking “why” is synonymous with, “Is this in support of our lovable product?”. At New Lion, we focus on this question during our Product Strategy session. This session begins by brain dumping every feature we can think of, and the potential future of the product–no matter how farfetched. Taking a cue from the MVP process, we know it remains important to boil these many ideas down to a core, minimal feature set. This tends to emerge fairly quickly, but it isn’t necessarily loveable yet. It is from this point we can start to sort out which features we could add to make the product go from minimal to truly lovable; ways to not only meet a need but to delight our users and keep ‘em coming back.
Curious to know more about strengthening your MLP? Tune in next week for our post on using Rapid Iteration to validate what users connect to most.