Remember the last time you used a digital product that made you smile, get completely immersed, or lose track of time? Companies like Apple, Slack, and Instagram have mastered crafting such powerfully engaging experiences. But it wasn't by accident.

They tapped into the minimum lovable product (MLP) framework - prioritizing emotional engagement over functionality or marketability alone. According to Motista's Global Customer Engagement Study, emotionally connected customers have a 306% higher lifetime value. It pays to delight users from the start.

Read on to learn what a minimum lovable product (MLP) is, and how to create an MLP, along with much more.

Why is the MLP Important?

An MLP is an initial version of a product that users don't just find useful but truly love. It's about making an emotional bond between users and your product.

The importance of MLP lies in its ability to drive higher customer loyalty and retention. Research by Capgemini found that about 82% of consumers stay loyal to their favorite brands.

In short, products that evoke positive emotions create memorable experiences that keep users coming back. And the MLP framework ensures you build products users love from the start.


Now that we know what a minimum lovable product (MLP) is, let's explore how it differs from MVP and MMP:

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) - Focuses on building a functional product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and gather feedback.

Minimum Marketable Product (MMP) - Aims to build the most marketable version of a product to appeal to customers and maximize growth.

Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) - Centers on crafting an emotional connection between users and the product by delighting them.

While MVP cares about functionality and MMP cares about market appeal, the MLP framework is all about making users emotionally engaged and loyal.

How to Create an MLP

Creating a minimum lovable product takes more than just building basic functionality. It requires a thoughtful approach to craft emotionally engaging user experiences from the start. Here are the key steps to build an MLP:

Set your delight goals

First, figure out what emotions you want users to feel. Think about where in their journey you want them to smile, feel delighted, or love your brand.

For example, Duolingo uses gamification, animations, motivational messages, and streak tracking to evoke a sense of accomplishment and progress in its app. This keeps users coming back, and today, Duolingo has over 74 million active users.

Understand your users' needs

Gain empathy for your target users through generative research. Watch how they behave and listen for their emotional cues. Understand what makes them happy and what might hold them back.

Back in 2009, Airbnb realized that people were 2.5 times more likely to book a listing with good-quality photos, earning its host an average of $1,025 per month. However, not everyone had the resources to take good photographs of their spaces.

To enhance the hosts' experience, Airbnb created a free professional photography service to craft great listings. This boosted not just the hosts' experience but also the experience of people looking to book stays.

Map out must-have functionalities

Make sure your product actually solves your users' problems. List the main features that make your product work and let users get what they need. Use storytelling, transparency, and humor to create an emotional bond between your product and users. Make them feel understood.

Craft a delightful user experience

Go beyond the basics. Think about small things that surprise and delight users, like fun animations or design touches. Make sure your product is easy to use.

For instance, Slack delights users through playful animations, emoji reactions, and fun features like Giphy integration. This brings joy to mundane tasks.

Asana’s gamified animations are also a great example of this. When a user completes a task in Asana, it shows a unicorn soaring through the screen, giving the user a feeling of reward. This creates a strong emotional connection.

Launch and validate learnings

Lastly, release an early version to a small group of users. Watch how they react emotionally. Keep what makes them happy and improve what doesn't. The idea is to iterate rapidly.

The Benefits of MLP

Crafting minimum lovable products provides several key advantages:

  • Increased retention - Pleasurable experiences make users more likely to return and engage with your product repeatedly.
  • Stronger competitive edge - Winning users' affections helps differentiate you from functional-focused competitors.
  • Improved brand affinity - Users feel a deeper connection with brands that prioritize delightful experiences.
  • Richer insights - Observing how users interact emotionally with your product provides valuable learnings.
  • Lower acquisition costs - Happy users are more likely to recommend your product, reducing acquisition costs.

How to Evolve Your MVP into an MLP

If you already have an MVP, here are tips to evolve it into a lovable product:

Re-engage with your users

First, reconnect with your users to re-assess their emotional needs and wants. Times change and so do user expectations. Conduct user interviews, surveys, and generative research to identify new pain points, desires, and delight opportunities.

Analyze the language your users use to describe their ideal experiences. This emotive vocabulary will reveal unmet emotional needs. Really immerse yourself in your users' world to spot gaps your MVP may be missing.

Analyze your MVP's feedback

Next, revisit all the feedback you've received about your MVP from user testing, product analytics, reviews, and support tickets. Look for clues pointing to deficiencies in evoking positive user emotions.

Are certain features or flows consistently labeled as confusing, frustrating, or overwhelming? That's a red flag that they need an emotional overhaul. Spot patterns in the feedback that signal room for emotional improvement.

Identify delight enhancement opportunities

Analyze your MVP with a fresh eye to identify areas where you can elevate the emotional experience. Look for touchpoints along the user journey that could benefit from more surprise, delight, or emotional connection.

For instance, the onboarding flow is a prime target for delight enhancements. You could gamify portions or add charming animations at key milestones to evoke joy. Even small emotional boosts make a difference.

Build & test delight prototypes

Convert your delight enhancement ideas into testable prototypes. Don't get bogged down in execution details yet - focus on conceptualizing interactions and experiences powered by surprise and joy.

Test your prototypes with users. Observe how they react emotionally during the experience. Interviews afterward can reveal whether your intended delight landed as hoped. Be ready to keep iterating.

Double down on emotional wins

When particular features or interactions prove successful in evoking positive emotions, invest further in those areas. Look for opportunities to take winning emotional components up a notch.

Say your playful error messages elicit smiles in testing, then brainstorm other moments where you can incorporate this humorous tone and personality. Leverage what delights.

Phase out emotional misses

If certain aspects of your MVP consistently miss the emotional mark, consider removing or replacing them. Don't hesitate to rework or eliminate flows users find frustrating, confusing, or lacking an emotional reward.

Remember, moving from MVP to MLP is about evolving your product emotionally. Use testing and feedback to determine what must stay versus go to achieve lovable experiences.

The MLP framework provides a competitive edge by ensuring you build emotional connections from the start. While MVPs help validate ideas and MMPs maximize market appeal, the MLP approach lays the groundwork for loyal users who fall in love with your product.

When you understand the steps to build an MLP, you can build products that exceed expectations, create memorable experiences, and forge lasting relationships.

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