Arguably the biggest benefit of implementing agile product development is the continuous feedback loop that is created by releasing product improvements in increments. Agile breaks down the software delivery process into smaller pieces that allow teams to respond to customer feedback on functionality and user experience (UX).
Rather than releasing a large solution all at once and testing the market, agile breaks the solution into fragments that focus on minor functionalities and actively gather user criticisms.
Ongoing development driven by active customer interaction is a powerful tool, but it can be tricky to harness. Teams that are tasked with releasing a product must find the right balance in order to generate advantageous feedback throughout the process.
This concept is known in traditional agile development as the MVP or Minimum Viable Product.
Background: What Is Minimum Viable Product?
The MVP is the most basic version of the product requiring the least amount of effort possible that allows the development team to ascertain the maximum amount of useful feedback about user experience.
If the development team over-complicates the MVP, and spends an excess amount of effort in developing the initial release, they risk heading down the wrong path and wasting time on a solution that does not fit the customer’s needs.
However, if a development team does not complete the functionality, then the user feedback will be incomplete and generally not helpful in future developments.
Consider a housing construction company who’s end goal is to sell a new model. An MVP in this example is a structurally sound house with unpainted walls and unfinished floors, ceilings, and doors.
This minimal build allows a customer to walk through the house in a completed framework. This might be all that is needed if the builder is interested in gathering minimal functionality feedback from customers.
But what if the builder needs to understand the customer’s wants and needs beyond a functional dwelling space? Is this home for a financially-strapped college student, a growing family, or empty-nesters?
Should the kitchen be chef-inspired or would an outdoor patio with room for a grill be a better fit?
Should the layout call for an open concept or closed floor plan?
When MVP Is No Longer Enough: the Minimum Lovable Product
Traditionally, the MVP is focused on functionality. It is considered “viable” because the user can perform the required basic functionality and provide feedback on the experience. However, in an environment where digital experience can make or break customer retention, “MVP” may not be enough anymore.
Depending on the audience and the type of information required, development teams risk limiting customer feedback by releasing a product that is unengaging and built with minimal user experience.
With this in mind, the definition of “viable” has had to transform into more than just functional. Enter the MLP, or Minimum Lovable Product. While MVP meets the functionality requirements that the user needs, MLP goes beyond the minimal user’s needs and begins to satisfy their wants as well.
Product teams want to understand the customer needs and frustrations and User Experience (UX) teams can help close that knowledge gap. In some cases, painted walls, finished floors, and fully staged furnishings and decorations might provide the MLP necessary to obtain required feedback for the builder to move into the next iteration of development.
How to Get to a Minimum Lovable Product
Skilled UX teams understand that a final high-fidelity design is not the only way to gather valuable user data. The right design is a view that makes the end-user comfortable and engaged, but the level of design depends on the kind of feedback needed and audience to whom the design is being presented.
For example, the building company might consider the customer’s current living situation to identify areas of improvement. With the assistance of the UX team, these designs might be more conceptual or low fidelity. A prototype of the design would allow the building company to obtain valuable feedback before beginning construction of the home.
These types of designs save time and money because the building company does not have to invest too much time building something that may fail. More importantly, these designs allow teams to test ideas quickly and the sooner ideas are proven to fail, the better.
The Role of UX in Getting Minimum Lovable Products
There are many benefits to building a strong UX team. A key value is the ability to gather the strongest usability feedback with the minimal amount of development effort. As companies construct their agile development teams, they can miss the mark without the proper data and research provided by UX teams. This only leads to wasted efforts and failed production testing of new user interfaces.
Smart companies know the value of a strong UX team as experts to implement design review cycles and A / B testing teams that can help them to stay ahead of the competition by leveraging the most out of their development efforts. More importantly, a strong UX team strives to understand customer needs to deliver features that are not only functional, but simple, intuitive, and pleasing.
Let Us Help You Find Your Minimum Lovable Product
Curious about what your minimum lovable product looks like? We’d love to help you find out.
Talk with one of our Engineering experts about the right MVP or MLP for your product and how it can help you meet your business goals.