If you’ve been around software products for a while you probably have heard about the idea of the minimum viable product (MVP). The famous MVP is a widely-used software design concept that delivers a scaled-down, functional app. Sounds good to us… unless you take Minimum too literally and design with the ‘minimum’ feature set in mind.
By releasing the bare minimum app you are more than likely to miss the trick of creating a great first impression on your first customers. Would they be excited about a watered-down version of the original vision you had for your product? Probably not, but you know that you have to start somewhere. After all, it’s just an MVP, isn’t it?
It’s tempting to rely on your own assumptions, create a quick feature list, and jump directly into solution building mode, especially if you are under time pressure. However, jumping to conclusions will most likely land you in the wrong place. Imagine going through all the trouble of building something (because you are certain you have a fantastic business idea) only to discover that nobody wants to use it and your efforts were in vain. The good news is that this is preventable. How?
Validate your idea before you start crafting a pixel-perfect design solution to problems nobody had.
If you want your product to be used by other people, it’s essential that your MVP is customer-driven, not product-driven. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is getting caught up in the designs before understanding the why. Think about customers’ needs and values and talk to them to figure out what they need, want or don’t want.
Turn that MVP into a MLP – Minimum Lovable Product.
Instead of defining the minimum viable product you could launch with the least amount of effort and expense, think about a product you can launch to create customer love with the least amount of effort and expense.
Our old reliable friend, the MVP, might validate that people like cake, but it won’t get them talking. The MLP should validate that people love your cake and will not only come back for more but also tell their friends about it. And it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to invest tons of money in frosting, decorations, candles and sprinkles.
The difference between MLP and MVP is that you launch a minimum lovable product with your customers, not at them. By interacting with your customers during the design process you could learn that they prefer a wild strawberry cream to a standard vanilla cream that is available in every bakery in the city. And by observing your customers, you could learn that adding a few inexpensive decorations actually made your customers spread the word to other cake lovers!
We believe that good design is about first asking the right questions, then thoroughly understanding the problem to the point where the solution is obvious and straightforward. Stay curious, focus on the underlying problems, ask meaningful questions at every stage of the design process and don’t forget about the long-term vision of what you’re trying to accomplish.