Dev Guide: Minimum Viable Product vs Minimum Lovable Product

By Joshua Gross, 03 December, 2022

When comparing a minimum viable product versus a minimum lovable product, a common analogy is that an MVP is like instant coffee while an MLP is like a well-brewed cup of espresso.

MVPs, like instant coffee, get the job done in the simplest, most affordable, and quickest way possible. That being said, both MVPs and instant coffee are stripped-down versions of something that has the potential to be much more enjoyable.

MLPs and espresso, on the other hand, are a bit more time-consuming, more expensive, and complicated, but they are still minimal products. At the same time, most people would argue that a nice cup of espresso is quite a bit more enjoyable than a mixture of instant coffee and hot water.

With this illustration, it is easy to see that both MVPs and MLPs have their place. MVPs are a suitable option when time is of the essence and the budget is tight, while MLPs can help test an idea that requires delighting the user right from the start.

What Is a Minimum Viable Product?

A Minimum Viable Product (or an MVP for short) is a bare-bones version of a product that only has the most basic features. This simplified product is just enough to test an idea without having all of the bells and whistles that will be included in the final iteration.

MVPs are popular in app and software development because they allow you to collect user feedback before you have invested in creating the final product. This means that you can ensure that the product meets the customers' needs before adding features and functions that aren't central to the app's purpose.

What Is a Minimum Lovable Product?

A Minimum Lovable Product (MLP), on the other hand, takes a step further past the question of how to solve the problems of customers. Recognizing the importance of user enjoyment in terms of app success, the MLP also asks just how much the audience loves the product.

There are a lot of different elements that can contribute to whether users fall in love with an app versus simply feeling like it is adequate. Everything from the onboarding experience and aesthetic to its integration with other tools can impact how customers feel about the app.

MVP Vs. MLP: Understanding the Difference

Both MVPs and MLPs are small samples of what an app will be in its final form. However, what they offer the user in this initial sneak-peak differs.

That being said, there can be a tremendous difference in how audiences respond to a successful MVP versus a successful MLP. This is because the latter takes into account the importance of receiving a positive emotional response from early users right from the get-go.

When you build an MVP, you are only focusing on the most basic functions of the product. You are testing out the app's main features without much in the way of design concern or consideration for the more visceral responses of users.

When you create an MLP, you recognize just how vital it is for users to be pleased and delighted with the product beyond simply being satisfied and content.

For this reason, MLPs don't just focus on the most important features of their functionality but also on their enjoyability.

In short, MVPs are usually only needed in the early stages of app development. If you are building an app that is fairly similar to others already on the market, an MVP might not even be necessary. This is usually needed when developers propose a unique idea that doesn't yet exist.

When similar apps exist, you don't have to go through the effort of validating the concept. Instead, you can use market research and surveys to determine whether your idea is viable.

Minimum Lovable Products aren't nearly as quick to develop as MVPs, and they typically cost more money as well. However, when done right, MLPs can give early adopters the opportunity to connect emotionally with your product in a way that can be very meaningful to the overall success of your app.

When you allow users to fall in love with your product early on, it means that you've created loyal customers and potentially even brand ambassadors that will spread the word about your new product before it's even on the market.

Building a Minimum Viable Product rather than a Minimum Lovable Product can be very tempting because it is both faster and cheaper to build an MVP. It is also a great way to test the general concept behind a product before investing a tremendous amount of time and money into creating a final product. MVPs can let you answer questions you have about the creation of the app in a time and cost-efficient manner.

Minimum Lovable Products, on the other hand, are slower to create and not as cheap. For this reason, many companies choose to stick with an MVP to validate their idea and test the basic concept behind their product with an audience.

Even though MLPs are more expensive and time-consuming, one important difference is worth not overlooking: they can make users fall in love with the product.

Considering the fact that emotion and other less rational factors can play a huge role in whether or not someone decides to incorporate a new app into their daily lives, the ability of an MLP to create fans early on in development is something that could have a huge impact on the long-term success of a product.

How to Decide Between an MVP or an MLP

All that being said, the fact that MLPs help you gain the loyalty of your target audience right away doesn't necessarily mean you should invest all of your cash in building one. Both MVPs and MLPs have their place, and it depends on a number of factors which is likely the better choice for your product.

Reasons to Use an MVP

There are a number of circumstances where it is appropriate to use an MVP rather than an MLP.

For one, this is a good option when you are on a tight budget. You can create an MVP to test an idea and get initial feedback from an audience without breaking the bank.

Secondly, MVPs are also likely the right choice when time is limited. It doesn't take nearly as long to develop an MVP as it does an MLP or a finished product.

MVPs can also be appropriate when you are creating a product that is so unique and innovative that you are testing a brand-new idea with your target audience. In these instances, time is often of the essence, and one of the most important factors is how quickly you can get to launch.

Finally, MVPs are a suitable option when the product is built for beta testing.

Reasons to Use an MLP

While MVPs have their place and might be the right choice for your product, MLPs serve a separate purpose in responding to different factors and needs.

For example, you might choose to build an MLP rather than an MVP when you are creating a product that isn't the only one in its niche. In these instances, the focus becomes winning over an audience with other market options. Therefore, you might choose to build an MLP to validate the exceptional user experience you are offering rather than build an MVP to test a basic concept that has already been validated by the market.

You also might build an MLP rather than an MVP when one of your primary focuses is building a loyal customer base right from the get-go.

Finally, some app developers will build an MVP first and later follow up with an MLP to test and receive feedback about the user experience of a product.

Building a Minimum Viable Product

You can learn more about building an MVP in this guide, but let's take a quick look at the steps you will want to focus on when creating an MVP.

Define the Problem You Are Solving

Anytime you consider bringing a product or service to the market, the core question is what problem you are offering to solve for the user. App development is no different. Your concept should begin with an audience's known issue and the solution you will present to them.

A useful exercise in the process is writing a few sentences that respond to the question, "what problem is this product solving for users?" This can be incredibly valuable in boiling down the basic app concept for you and your team. On top of that, it can be called upon when you create your marketing copy.

Define Your Target Demographic

When you're building a product, trying to appeal to a huge audience can be tempting. After all, don't you want the largest possible number of people to buy what you're selling?

The reality is, though, that products are often much more successful when they hone in on a specific target audience. When you cast too wide a net, you end up not catching that many fish.

Instead, you will want to clearly define your ideal user personas. These are the people that your product will appeal to. In creating these personas, be as detailed as possible, including information such as their age, gender, income level, social status, habits, needs, and device usage.

Understanding who you will be marketing your product to is essential, so this isn't a stage in the process you want to rush.

Do Market Research

Now that you have a clear picture of your target audience, it's time to take a look at the market and see what products are already out there with the purpose of solving the same problem you propose to solve. While you might truly have a unique idea that hasn't been brought to the market yet, there's a good chance other apps and sites will be your competitors.

Design a User Journey Map

UX research can be a big investment, and many start-ups will skip this step for this reason. The truth is, though, that it's essential to build a customer journey map to ensure that your product will provide a good user experience.

Consider the Minimum Features Required

The next step is to think about which features will be necessary in order to solve the users' problem. When brainstorming about the functionality of the MVP, you can divide features into essentials and extras. During MVP development, only the necessary features will be included.

Develop and Test the MVP

It might feel like it was a long road to get here, but taking the above steps before developing and testing your MVP can make a big difference in the probability of your success. Make sure you read this post before hiring MVP developers.

Building a Minimum Lovable Product

If you decide that building an MLP is the right call for your product, you'll want to incorporate the following steps into the process.

Define the Problem You Are Solving

When building an MLP, defining the core problem you are solving is just as important as it is for an MVP. Even though your MLP will focus on delighting the user, the functionality still has to come first.

Consider the Features

An MLP obviously goes beyond the bare-bones features of an MVP, but it's still important to keep this version light. Focus on the things you believe are necessary to the product and those that will elevate the user experience in a way that creates a loyal audience base.

Consider What Will Delight Users

What can your product bring to the table that will win over audiences with several other market options? While you still want to keep your app minimal, creating an MLP involves incorporating design features that push peoples' emotional buttons rather than simply solving an objective need.

Conduct User Interviews and Do Research

You know your idea is brilliant, but the proof is always in the pudding. Once you have built your MLP and started testing it, you must conduct user interviews to get feedback on how people are responding to your new app or site.

Make Design a Priority

If you decide you want to build an MLP instead of an MVP (or you're developing an MLP as the next stage after your MVP), it's important to invest in UX design. You might even consider working with a UX professional right from the start of the project when you are working to validate the concept.

MVP Vs. MLP: What's the Right Choice?

Both MVPs and MLPs have their place, so the answer to this question has to do with your product, audience, needs, budget, and timeline. These two minimum products aren't mutually exclusive, either– your team might decide to first develop an MVP to test the initial idea and functions before creating an MLP to gain feedback on the UX and build a solid customer base.

Whether you build an MVP, an MLP, or neither, one of the most important aspects of the app development project is the partners you team up with. If you're looking for experienced and knowledgeable developers that will help you turn your idea into a reality, drop us a line and tell us a bit about your project.