Shipping successful MLPs: Best practices and key learnings

Sush Labs

Best practices for MLPs and the testing phase in general + what we do at Sush

As explored in our blog Why MVPs are out and MLPs are in, creating a minimum viable product (MVP) can be a useful approach for businesses wanting to quickly validate an idea with their target audience without building a full app or experience.

As mentioned in the blog, when we shift our focus from creating a MVP to a MLP, or minimum lovable product, we realign ourselves to the original intent of the concept and can create a prototype that will test theories and assumptions, validate the concept, and give a roadmap for how we will continue to process and develop the idea.

Steps to creating an MLP

MLPs look at building out an idea layer by layer, creating the minimum viable piece across each layer so users are receiving a fully formed service or experience. Within this there are five top aspects to remember: know your why, align your team, research and map, stay lean and agile, and reiterate and repeat.

Know your why

Before any project you need to know exactly why you are making the investment and what your ultimate aim is. To do this we need to consider the idea or concept objectively and thoroughly. We’ve seen many teams come with a concept or idea that satisfies one aspect of a business problem, but hasn’t taken into account how the business can continue to develop, scale and grow in time. To build with purpose will ensure you’re not only making something beautiful, but something that directly impacts a recurring issue or capitalises on an opportunity.

You may start by identifying your business needs, determining the long term goal of the product and writing it down, answering the question “Why are we doing this project?”, and highlighting key success metrics such as improving customer experience, increasing active monthly users or reaching more app transactions.

Align your team

Bringing together a robust team tasked with shipping the MLP is a key ingredient for success. Identify a project manager, lead developer and extended development team. Beyond the initial development, you may also want to bring in sales, marketing and comms people to drive the project forward as you move from the MLP stage to full launch. It is important to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of what you’re doing and why. It takes the buy-in of all team members to make a product that is lovable and brings value to your user.


Research and mapping

Touching on the previous two points, research and mapping are necessary components of building a MLP that’s fit for purpose. 

Depending on your resources, the research phase can include qualitative and quantitative data, internal and external interviews, and brainstorming sessions. A significant piece of research is around your customer. When your project is customer-driven it has a much higher chance of success. 

It’s useful to map out the user journey - including identifying who is using your product, their end goal and the actions taken to meet this goal. From here you can create a ‘pain and gain’ map for each section and where you have the greatest potential to add value. Summarise the pains and gains into opportunity statements to stay focused.

This process will also help you prioritise what features should be built first and what can wait for the full launch. Deciding what is most important can be aided by asking simple questions, such as, what do you want your user’s to be able to accomplish through the product? What is the number one function of the product? What features don’t add to this core function? A prioritisation matrix can offer additional support.


Stay lean and agile

Even though we’re shifting focus from MVP to MLP, and this may require more time or resources up front, we can’t forget about the M. While we’re focusing on building a prototype or product that is loved by users, we must remain agile and lean in our approach for the greatest return on investment. Lovable encourages us to strike that specific and delicate balance - not too minimum where we risk losing potential customers, and not too maximum where we over-invest in too many features.

In terms of platforms, you have multiple options available to you. With the likes of progressive web apps (PWAs) and Flutter, you can code for multiple platforms without having to build your MVP for iOS, Android and the web. If your MVP succeeds and it’s deemed necessary to build out the platforms this can always be done.


Test, iterate, repeat

As with all tools for building a product or service, our MLP is part of a broader business strategy that requires us to consistently be testing, iterating and returning to our overall business aim. Our MLP is a learning tool that will help us to discover what our users want and help us towards the next step.

Our approach at Sush

Every client journey is different, but we have mastered certain principles to help guide us along the way. First we begin with value risks, of which there are four types. In order of importance they are: value, usability, feasibility and viability.

We challenge the core need of the product or service in a dynamic discussion that identifies and inspects these four types of risk. We start with the riskiest assumption - value. An important part of our initial discussions is to ask the question, “Do customers see value in that?”, and we look at how we can go as far as possible without spending too much.

Our next step is to complete a chain of experiments where each experiment focuses on adding more evidence for the need of the product. The progression of experiments are based on strength and cost. For instance, we may complete low cost experiments as the first stage, and look at the likes of trend analysis or research discussion forms, and then move into more involved experiments such as customer interviews. A prototype test is an example of a high strength but also higher cost experiment. 

Through continuous discovery, working as a team we are continually referring back to our overall aim to see how we are tracking against our business aims. At every stage of our work with customers, we weave in principles of riskiest assumptions testing, minimum viable product or minimum lovable products, lean canvases, and more, so we are always working in the most efficient and intelligent way.

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