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Are you trying to decide which product development model is right for your business? If so, you may have come across the terms MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and MLP (Minimum Lovable Product). Understanding the differences between these two models can be the difference between a product that sharpens or dulls your user experience. In this blog post, we will explore the MVP vs. MLP development models and discuss when to use each, as well as their respective pros and cons.
1. What exactly is an MVP?
MVP is a term that has become popular among product developers in the past decade. The concept was started by Frank Robinson, and then popularized by Steve Blank and Eric Ries.
Essentially, an MVP is a product or service that has been created with just enough features to satisfy early adopters, yet not enough to be considered a finished product. This allows developers to quickly gather feedback from users and test their hypotheses in order to refine their product and increase customer satisfaction.
In terms of UX design, an MVP typically involves creating the bare minimum of user interactions needed to deliver the core value of the product. This can involve rapid prototyping and user testing in order to identify the most essential features and prioritize them accordingly.
AKA this process is about speed. Going through this quick testing approach will help strip away what doesn’t serve the user and reveal the most useful parts.
By releasing an MVP, developers are able to receive valuable feedback from users which can then be used to improve the product, iterate on features, and further refine the user experience.
One of the most popular examples is Airbnb. In the early days of Airbnb, they needed to test the assumptions that people were willing or wanted to rent from strangers instead of hotels. Combining the need to make rent and seeing an opportunity with conferences in the area increasing the demand for hotels, an MVP was born.
2. What is an MLP?
An MLP, or minimum lovable product, is a product development model that originated in the Lean Startup movement, the term first coined in 2013 by Brian Haaff. There is a lot of similarity between an MLP and an MVP; there is a strong emphasis on developing something that just meets the users requirements. The one key difference is measuring the emotional appeal in addition to solving a problem.
AKA its goal is to gain empathy quickly.
They are typically more expensive, with a more thought-out UX and UI to help tap into user empathy. The higher cost has been a major blocker to larger adoption.
With markets getting more and more crowded, it takes more than just functional products to stand out. It requires something that engages on an emotional level.
3. Deciding between an MVP and MLP
Okay, the big question; which development process should I go with? It really boils down to one big question. How well do you know your market?
Trying to stand out in a sea of identical products is difficult. Look at the language learning app space, there is an estimated 500 language learning apps out there. They all have the same purpose; get users invested in the language learning process. But each has its own approach.
Look how Duolingo and Busso approach the problem of making language learning engaging.
Duolingo has done a fantastic job of gathering a strong market share because of how much it motivates its users, both through gamification and emotional appeal. Their process has a lenient approach to vocal exercises, strong emphasis on animations and motivational micro copy.
Busso is also very popular with their audience and approach. Busso has a much stricter protocol for vocal practice, video with people and structures their lessons differently.
While neither of these products could be “minimal” they do embody the philosophy of each model. Duolingo is better with emotional connection and Bussu focuses more on the lessons and direct feedback.
Mind you, this is just a comparison between two applications in a large product market. While both models are doing well in this niche, the user feedback from both models and long term engagement can be a great indicator of what opportunities exist for your unique value proposition.
MVP and MLP are not opposing models, they are tools meant for a developmental purpose. The MVP model is better suited for those looking to test an idea quickly, while the MLP model may be better for businesses who have the resources to invest in user testing and the development of a higher quality product. Knowing which model to use isn’t an easy task but the payoff can be huge.