Recently I had the pleasure of spending the day with George Berkowski, the founder of IceCream and author of How to Build a Billion Dollar App. Most of the time was spent discussing app design and, in particular, what features would make first release for the latest app the team was working on.
At some point the term “minimum viable product” (MVP) started getting banded around as we struggled to decide which features to keep and which to drop. George however was very quick to interrupt. In his experience it was a dangerous term to be using and would only foster a mindset that would inevitably result in the production of a very poor product.
Instead, George insisted on the team thinking in terms of a “minimum lovable product” (MLP). What were the minimum features required for first release to make users fall in love with our product.
I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of the phrase “minimum lovable product” before but it really struck a chord with me. George was right. Almost all of us had worked on projects in the past where MVP had been the mantra. In fact, I’ve worked on several projects in the past where management even moved away from the term MVP and instead started asking for “the thinest mint”.
All of these projects started life as very good ideas but ended up being stripped of almost everything that would make them engaging or fun for the users. I’ve seen amazingly talented people become completely demotivated churning out MVP after MVP, knowing that what they were being asked to deliver was never going to resonate with the end user. Many of you may ask, isn’t MVP and MLP the same thing? I guess in many ways it is, but more often than not, people take Minimum too literally and end up sacrificing the design and scope of a product.
Software development can be challenging. There are delivery deadlines and budget constraints to meet. For small development studios this ultimately means that it’s not going to be possible to deliver every feature they’d like for first release. But rather than build something a large number of users might like, it’s much better to build something that a small number of users will love. An MLP is more likely to gain a following and generate enough revenue to help you grow the product over time. From my own experience, an MVP almost never will.
It was really great working with George and I learned a lot from him. If you’ve got the time, spend some time watching the video from his TEDx talk above. I think you’ll learn something too.