MVP vs. MLP: Why Shift From Viable to Lovable
What is MVP?
MVP stands for ‘minimum viable product’, which is shorthand for a working prototype that includes all of the ‘must-haves’ that your final product version will include. As such, it gives you the opportunity to gather insightful information from users about how they would interact with your product. The main goal of MVP is to validate your product concept by allowing you to test its functionality and uncover any potential UX problems and frictions, in advance, before you enter the full production phase.
Nowadays, MVPs are considered best practice in product design, and it’s easy to see why. Getting everything right before rollout can save you a lot of valuable time and resources. Building a release version of your product can easily take more than six months and burn through $150,000 of budget and more. Without a minimum viable product, you might end up in a situation where your final release product is not what you initially intended it to be, or even worse — it doesn’t fit the market.
MVP can thus provide an essential sanity check and safety net for fintech entrepreneurs and their innovative, challenger products. Moreover, from an investor’s perspective, spending $10,000 over 1–2 months to test your idea and make sure that it works is much more sensible and responsible than wasting six months and $150k with your fingers crossed.
So, the main advantages of creating an MVP compared to working towards a fully-functional release product are:
- it’s cheaper
- it’s less risky
- user feedback helps you shape a more marketable final version
- increases investor confidence
Why shift from viable to lovable: The essentials of MLP
The ultimate goal of an MVP is to build a viable product (that drives revenue from customers) and be somewhat feature complete. Although the model makes perfect sense in theory, over the past few years, there’s been increasing debates and criticism about its validity in the real world. According to Laurence McCahill, co-founder of the Happy Startup School, “too many take Minimum too literally and skimp on the design as well as the scope” of a product, which on the other hand fails to deliver a sufficient first impression with the end users. In today’s highly competitive and digitally savvy world, being viable or functional is no longer enough to attract customer’s attention.
“If you decide to build a feature you should live up to at least a basic standard of execution on the experience side.” Ryan Singer
So, here comes the MLP or Minimum Lovable Product. In contrast to MVP, MLP may not be viable at all and is often not feature complete. MLP is all about creating a version of the product that generates the maximum amount of love from early adopters with the least effort — its core objective is to drive user growth and scale rapidly.
In practice, MLP means taking your MVP and focusing on design, UI and user experience. In this way your product can still provide a solution to a user’s problem, but it’ll also be delighting them whilst doing so. Below we’ve summarised the essentials to implementing an MLP:
- Start with the user’s “why”: What value does your product bring to end users?
- Separate the problem from the solution. Detach yourself from what you think users need and what they’re actually experiencing.
- Stay laser focussed on the one thing that you do really well. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Solve only high value problems and keep the balance between “Minimum” and “Lovable”.
- Invest in design, marketing and branding early on to build a loyal and enthusiastic community.
- Listen to users, but don’t take their words at face value. Seek both quantitative and qualitative user feedback.
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