How to Build a Minimum Loveable Product
Learn how to get your digital ideas to market sooner, but still deliver a product that users fall in love with.
Written by Laurence McCahill Founder of The Happy Startup School
Published in Medium, 10/11/14
When launching any new product there’s always a tricky balance to strike between speed of delivery and quality of execution. To create a great product takes skill, dedication and discipline. And it requires us to make bold choices. Whether that is who to hire, when to launch, what to build or how well we build it.

In essence, your product is defined by the decisions you make.
You can’t have it all
Part of the reason the lean startup movement took off was we were all frustrated with how things were working – bloated products being shipped that delivered on ‘the plan’ but little in the way of value. The product world had reached the peak of stuffocation. Then our ‘saviour’ Eric Ries came to save the day. Along with his BFF – the often misunderstood Minimum Viable Product. It had good intentions. It had a purpose. But more often than not it was crappyCheap, yes. Fast, yes., Good, generally not.

So if like many out there, you struggle to get much traction with your MVP, how will you know why it didn’t work?
Too many take Minimum too literally
They skimp on the design as well as the scope. Rather than seeing an investment in a great experience as wasted effort, consider every interaction with your potential customers an opportunity to make an impression on them. A chance for them to engage in your mission And a chance for you to start building your tribe. Think of it as your marketing spend before you’ve launched. Thanks to the likes of design-led companies such as Apple, Nest, AirBnB people have become more savvy and now the price of entry is higher. So if you want to get your product noticed you’re going to have to raise your game too.
So long MVP, hello MLP
So if the MVP is no longer fit for purpose in this new age of design-hungry users what’s the alternative?  Enter The Minimum Loveable Product. The version of a new product that brings back the maximum amount of love from your early tribe members with the least effort.

    10 Tips from MVP to MLP
    So now you should have a feel of the context, here’s my top 10 for making your product Minimum Loveable.
    1. Give it a point
    Too often people focus solely on the solution they’re building without really considering why they’re doing it. Without a clear purpose that drives decisions, a product can seem bloated and pointless. And when things get tough, you won’t have much to pull you or your team through. Having a clear purpose adds some real meaning to your work. Simon Sinek points out that you need to awaken an emotion with your early customers so that they feel something and that most buying decisions are based on emotion, rather than logic. This is where the Golden Circle comes in.

    By focusing on the ‘why?’ you can create much deeper connections with your audience and give your product a better chance of success.
    2. Do one thing well
    If there’s one thing that startups in particular are often guilty of, it’s trying to do too much, too soon. Having a clear focus means it’s easier to communicate what your product is and who it’s for. Take lead from success stories such as Dropbox and Instagram by doing one thing really well. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

    Often there can be pressures from customers, investors or other team members, but learning to say no is something you’ll need to get to grips with if you want a usable product. Get the core right and you’ll make your life a whole lot easier. One thing we make a point of doing with each product we work on at Spook Studio is to make a list of things we won’t do. This helps to add some constraints to the design process as everyone has a clear idea of what the product isn’t. In this way we can make better decisions and not take our eye off the ball. We also find that agreeing on some design principles for the product can be a great way to make better and quicker decisions.

    One way to achieve this focus is by developing your Blue Ocean Strategy. A simple but effective framework for developing a targeted value proposition. It allows you to consider ways in which you can stay ahead of the competition and create new value.

    It takes discipline to stay on track and not lose focus, but it’s a valuable trait that all successful entrepreneurs and product owners seem to have.
    3. Timebox it
    You need to prioritise. Without prioritising what’s important to you the road ahead will be a rocky one. By setting constraints on time and budget this forces you to reduce the scope. After years of trying different approaches, we’ve come to develop a 12 week process for launching an MLP as we’ve found it to be the ideal timeframe to take a new product idea to market.

    FutureLearn’s Head of Product Matt Walton has reached a similar conclusion:

      4. Solve only High Value Problems
      When deciding what to include for your first release it’s wise to zoom in on problems that are real pain points for your customers. Yes it would be nice to solve all of their problems but if you try and do that you won’t achieve an elegant simplicity in your product. Only focus on building features that relieve your customers’ pain and allow them to get their jobs done simply and easily.
      5. Surprise & Delight
      If you go to a hotel room and there’s no bed there you’ll be a little disappointed, possibly angry.

      If there’s a bottle of champagne, some flowers and a box of chocolates you’ll be taken aback and probably over the moon. What can you do to create a positive response from your customers?

      Go above and beyond what’s expected of you and you’ll reap the rewards. Design for emotion.
      6. Put your Money Where Your Mouth is
      It’s been proven that there’s a direct correlation between a positive user experience and loyalty. Happy customers tend to spend more, more often and tell their friends. With this in mind, hire the best designer you can afford. It could be the best money you ever spend. Don’t just say that design is important to you. Show it through your actions.
      7. Make them Hungry for More
      One of the hardest things to crack is how you can get people to use your product again and again. You may be able to get them interested but how do you get them in the habit of using it on a regular basis. This is where Nir Eyal’s Hook Model comes in – a 4 step process companies can use to build customer habits.
      8. Make your Tribe
      Marketing is dead. Now’s the time time to build a community around your product. A community of passionate customers that believe in your mission. So think about which customers will be so passionate about your business that they’ll be your advocates – coming back regularly and telling their friends? Or another way of thinking about it: Who will love you so much that they’ll get a tattoo of your company? OK, maybe a bit far fetched but it’s a useful exercise and people do it.

      Have a think what it would take for people to love you that much? Clue: It involves winning their heart and mind, not just wallet.
      9. Make it remarkable
      So don’t play it too safe. Transform your product by making it remarkable. In Seth Godin’s words: Be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins.

      At the beginning don’t sell to them. Get to know them and what makes them tick so you can create something they find worth remarking about. So don’t be a little bit different. Be very different. Don’t be so safe you’re easy to ignore. Give people a reason to talk.
      10. Make it Part of a Strategy
      In his recent talk at Campus London, Entrepreneur’s First co-founder Matt Clifford talked about the mistakes he’d seen teams make at his startup programme, with the most common one being what he called ‘the lonely MVP’.

      He described this as a situation where the MVP was the product, not part of an overall product development strategy. He saw this as being a very risky approach and one which puts you at a disadvantage. You need to clarify and communicate your vision so your team is clear where you’re going, what your strategy is and where the MVP fits into this.

      Bear in mind that your first release should the start of your journey towards product-market fit, not the end of the road.
      Making products is hard, but if you find the right business model, aim to delight your users and get them talking, you’ll be well on your way to growing your tribe of passionate super-fans and building a business with soul.