Minimum Lovable Product– lovable is an interesting word. We find teddy bears and babies lovable. They’re small and endearing. Who doesn’t want to be lovable? But can technology be cuddly, delightful, adorable -- loveable?


If there’s one thing I’ve learned as both a customer and a vendor of technology products, it’s that minimum viable products (MVPs), while good intentioned and functional, will rarely make “good” products. And by “good” I mean products that make such an impression upon customers that they happily tell their friends about them. These products are so delightfully cuddly and squeezable that they generate love at first sight. And love is a powerful thing.

If you liked this article, listen to Dialexa’s VP of Software Engineering, Andrew Turner, on Custom Made talk technology reliability and security and how in today’s current landscape CIOs won’t get promoted if everything works. But they will get fired if anything doesn’t: Listen to all episodes of Custom Made for insights and perspectives from industry disruptors and technology leaders.

Recently, I came across Laurence McCahill’s post contrasting MVP with MLP (minimum lovable product) and well, fell in love with his case for taking products from viable to lovable. This was partly because he crystallized for me exactly what makes Dialexa different -- we take an end-to-end approach; blending the art of design and user experience with the science of an intricately engineered, yet lovable product and solution for customers’ most challenging problems.

How Do You Define Lovable (vs. Viable)?

Thanks to the lean startup movement, the MVP has been treated like the holy grail. The concept was originally conceived as a means to improving product value, which every business leader will agree is a valid goal. But in a world where the ability to “get the work done” is increasingly flattened and there’s a lot of choice in products, only the ones that have the qualities, functions and features that your customers believe make their lives easier/better/happier/etc. will make a deep enough impression to have staying power. And this means the bar has been raised. Don’t blame me, blame Steve Jobs (God rest his soul) and a host of other technology trail blazers. If Apple only released MVPs, we would not have an iPod, iPhone or even iPad. Folks would have fallen out of love with them a long time ago. It’s hard to be revolutionary with an MVP; you end up only being evolutionary….and mediocre.

Our End to End Guide to Product Development

For the record, this doesn’t mean that we completely walk away from the MVP principles of minimizing waste, accelerating time-to-market and allowing for iterative improvements based on customer needs and feedback. As we outline in our Ebook, we start with asking “why?”, and we put the product development process into perspective that, in many cases, you really only need a few more features to go from MVP to MLP. Yes, you may have to spend a little more money on those extra features to be loveable, but you only get one shot to win your customers’ hearts and minds from the beginning. And it costs more to fail and go back to the drawing board.

Don’t believe it can be done? Here’s an example of how we did it.

While age-related macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease are anything but cuddly and adorable, if you know someone who suffers from these aggressive, debilitating vision conditions, you know that the ability to test and monitor changes in vision and to automate the physician-to-patient feedback loop - all from the comfort and safety of home - are priceless steps in an effort to save something as precious as a person's eyesight.

Visual Art and Science (VAS) developed myVisionTrack (mVT)an application designed to allow patients with diabetic eye disease to monitor their own vision. From home, patients can test their vision using any smartphone or tablet, then send results to their doctor.

VAS challenged Dialexa to design a system that takes mVT a step further by allowing physicians to easily track their patients' testing, treatments and history, while improving the ability to take immediate action to mitigate potentially debilitating issues. Data gathered would then be used in studies to determine the viability of the test in improving treatment options for patients.

From there, Dialexa developed the mVT Physician Portal, a simple, elegantly designed application that understands the growing pressures and time constraints of today’s physicians. From the first product roll-out, mVT invested in user experience and design, focusing on a clean, graphical design to help solve our customers’ biggest need: improve patient compliance and patient outcomes in the easiest, most efficient way possible.

Throughout, Dialexa focused on doing one thing really well: making it an easy, one-stop-shop for physicians to quickly assess, monitor and manage their most critical patients’ vision. We made the product so easy and delightful for physicians to use that it became a welcome part of their daily routine/habit and they were happy to recommend mVT as a solution for others.

There you have it. While there were more aspects of this product that were designed to make our first roll-out loveable, not just viable, my point is this: If we can, quite literally, elicit love at first “sight” with a product designed to manage the not-so-cuddly issue of diabetic eye disease, you can do it, too.

Still curious how we did it? Here are a “few” of the boxes we checked.

Laurence McCahill and Brian de Haaff, both leaders in the minimum lovable product movement, have outlined their insight on how to get from viable to lovable. As we developed mVT, almost every one of these questions were asked and boxes were checked in the ideation and development process.

  • Assuming you know you have a darn good idea, before you start thinking about developing your next product, think “loveable.” Before you invest one minute in development, ask yourself Brian de Haaff’s seven questions and check the boxes in what I affectionately call the lovability litmus test:
    • Are you relatively sure that it’s never been done before?
    • Do customers visibly smile when you describe it to them?
    • Does anyone swear (in delight or disgust) when he/she hears the idea?
    • Do you dream of using it and all of the features you could add?
    • Are your CTO or top architects the only people who think it’s possible to create this product?
    • Do people start contacting you to learn about what you are building?
    • Are the top industry analysts not yet writing about it?

Okay, so you’ve passed the initial lovability litmus test, now think about these things as you are planning to develop your product (gleaned and summarized from Laurence McCahill’s post):

    • Start with “Why?” Why are you building this product/solution? Have a clear purpose to awaken an emotion within your early customers so your product creates a connection with them.
    • Do one thing really well. Get the core of the product by having a clear focus. This means learning to say “no.”
    • Relentlessly prioritize. Figure out what to leave out so you can focus on the most important stuff within the timeframe you have.
    • Prioritize what’s painful. You can’t solve every problem so focus building features that relieve your customers’ biggest pain points and allows them to get their jobs done easier.
    • Design for emotion. This means going above and beyond what’s expected to elicit a positive response from your users. (I would add design for empathy as your top emotion.)
    • Invest in design. Customers are more loyal to well-designed products with a great user experience. Period.
    • Focus on creating a habit. Have a great trigger and call-to-action, great usability design, a reward for loyalty and incentivizing an investment, possibly a referral. (I might add to go as far as to “punish” bad habits.)
    • Build a community of advocates. Get customers to rally around your mission and ultimately, your product.
    • Don’t sell (at least in the beginning). Focus on getting to know your customers and what makes them tick. Then focus on being different, talkworthy...remarkable.
    • Ensure your team understands the long-term strategy. Your first release is just the start of your product’s journey toward product-market fit, not the end of the road.

Final Thought

I’ve given you a lot to think about so I’ll summarize it this way: A minimum lovable product will jump off a page whereas a minimum viable product will just sit there. A minimum lovable product is special and unique, while a minimum viable product blends in. A good idea can go a long way, but turning a good idea into a great product takes creative effort, business savvy and a disciplined approach to dream up, design and develop cuddly, squeezable, lovable products that customers don’t want to live without.


If you want to learn more how to develop your own products, download our end-to-end product development process white paper here. 

Editors note: Updated 05/01/2017 with Slideshare

 Our End to End Guide to Product Development


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