Starting a new business enterprise can be a risky proposition. The usual formula that is followed in this regard is to come up with a business plan, pitching it to the investors, assembling the team, introducing the product, and finally, hard selling the product. However, setbacks are common in this chain of events, and nearly 75% startups do not taste the success that they expected.
Recently, the methodology of lean startup is being seen as a countervailing force that can reduce the chances of failure. This methodology, with minimum viable product (MVP) and pivoting as its two key factors, favors experimentation over planning and customer feedbacks over intuitions.
Though lean startup is certainly an improvement over the traditional methods, the lean startup MVP might not be the way to go for a first generation application, as ensuring that it is “viable” is not always enough. A better alternative in this regard is going for MLP product, or maximum lovable product.
Wondering why we believe MLP to be our standard for developing any application? Here are the reasons for it.
Viable might not always be the best possible approach
First off, the reason for not using the term Minimum Viable product is not the definition of it, but rather the way it is applied in most cases. Going by the Wikipedia definition of it, it is supposed to be that version of the product, which has enough features for customer satisfaction and future development of the product.
The use of the word customer satisfaction frequently gives app development companies the idea that the app is meant to make the least possible effort for satisfying the users. Now, this ‘satisfaction’ denotes a singular experience. Think of it like this: any app that is able to accomplish the task that it is meant for, will be satisfactory to the customer and meet his requirement. For instance, a restaurant with blah food would satisfy the hunger pangs for the moment, but only a restaurant with great food would make you feel like coming back for more. In fact, it would also make you leave a great review for it.
In the similar manner, a great app needs to deliver such value that the customers keep coming back to it time and again. When the customers are only satisfied with that first-generation app, and find nothing particularly lovable about it, there is a chance that they might not give it another chance.
So, a lean MVP that satisfies the basic requirements of the users might just turn out to be one of those apps that are used only once after downloading. At the same time, a lovable app will get those users coming back for more. A lovable app will make the customers tell their friends about it, and even leave a good review.
Things that make an app truly lovable
Two key factors can elevate the apps from being viable to lovable, and they are:
There is common notion among the product developers that apps need to be able to solve problems. In simple terms, an app has to be useful. But, unless an app is useful multiple times (i.e. have repeated utility), it turns out to some sort of novelty. Remember those apps that you got bored of after a single use?
Let’s think of an example of a lovable app, and how it serves repeated utility. Think of a smart app that comes with your home air filter. It would certainly help if the app informs you in advance about the time of replacing the filter, but that just makes it viable. What would make it lovable is if it can be connected to the ecommerce store from where those filters can be ordered easily. Users will certainly love this added measure, and the company will get that love in the form of increased downloads and higher revenues.
Surprises and delights:
This is the second major ingredient in making a product lovable, but it is a bit tricky to explain this one. This is one thing that you understand when you get the firsthand experience of it. Think of it like something that keeps up the promise made by a brand, and at the same time, ensures a memorable and meaningful experience. It is all about going that extra mile to keep things from going too basic and making the customers come back again.
Let’s take the example of an app made by a spice making company for suggesting the recipes people can try with those spices. So, this app lets people make a digital counterpart of their spice rack by scanning the spices of the company on that rack. The UPC code on the back of the spice bottles are scanned to create this digital spice rack.
Now, this is enough to make the app viable to the customers. But, in order to make it lovable, we will have to let the users scan the bottles right from the front as well using image recognition and machine learning.
The thing that makes this feature an important addition is that humans, unlike robots, would read the labels first and not head straight for the barcodes. You remember the spices from their labels and bottles, and not from the barcodes. It will also help the customer develop an emotional connect with the brand.
So, repeated utility and surprise-delight features can really turn around an ordinary application into something that is far more lovable and extraordinary.
MLP is about more than only App Launches
The reason why we like to term it as minimum lovable product, and not minimum viable product, does not end in here. The lovability does not end at the first version of the app, and is rather continued throughout the lifecycle of an app.
We are not denying the importance of getting the MVP to the market fast and getting the feedback on the product. We are firm believers in user testing the apps before launching to understand how lovable and useful the app is. The problem is that most of the software development companies become so focused on this MVP and launching that they overlook the importance of handling and enhancing the app all through its lifecycle.
You cannot start off with MVP set in your mind, and simply decide on the lovability later on. Lovability has to be built in the product roadmap of the app, and it has to be there from the very first version.
The use of agile development processes has helped our clients and teams learn factors from the users and the market at each step. Within every agile sprint, it is important to think about how lovable each new feature might be, by always considering the repeated utility of the features, and the extent to which the features can offer a mix of delight and surprise.
The app definitely has to be lean, like the streak knives, and not like those Swiss knives that try to do too much at one point in time. But, in order to really meet its purpose and make the users come back to it, the app has to be lovable. Being only viable is not enough to make the cut anymore.