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Minimum Lovable Product

And not Minimum Viable Product.

We might have to rethink on the definition of the ‘Minimum Viable Prototype’.

Especially since the bar for what’s viable keeps rising up, with the likes of Gumroad, etc being built in a weekend.

Notion, Figma, Airtable, Superhuman and Discord with their extremly high quality user experience has led to a highly devoted user base among tech Twitter. It would be foolish to think of the MVP of Notion as a bare bones note taking app. The high quality UX has been extremely critical to its success.

We had low-floor, low-ceiling setups for an MVP in the past. Now, the ballpark has shifted quite drastically. It’s a higher floor, and an even higher ceiling.

For the past decade, the prevailing startup playbook has been to build an MVP, ship it early, and then iterate your way to success. But the environment in which we build products has evolved quite a bit.

Today, there’s so much capital in the startup ecosystem, and so many tools that make it cheap and easy to ship a product, that baseline applications have become a commodity. Most users can intuitively feel the cheapness of the average product today, and their app fatigue is at an all-time high.

MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product, and I want to specifically emphasize the word “viable.” We’re continually experiencing quality inflation as app-building frameworks get better. As it gets easier to build basic applications, the floor for what is actually viable rises.

The problem today is that most founders’ idea of what constitutes a software product’s MVP is outdated.

One of my best examples of the ethos of a ‘Minimum Lovable Product’ is the development of mymind by Tobias:

While it may not be as rewarding in the short-term, we want mymind to be that kind of product.

We don’t want to stress about keeping up with other tools (many of them here today, gone tomorrow) and shipping new features to satisfy “users” who demand it. We don’t want to try to meet every need and create a monster of a product, dinging bells and tooting whistles until we spontaneously combust. We want to achieve the purest form of our tool and let it continue to be that. We want to be here 10 years from now. We want to create, if possible, the digital equivalent to the iconic chair, sunglasses or notebook. Something you proudly care for, polish, return to, count on year after year. Something you own for a long, long time.

The desperation for newness is a sickness of technology.

It’s a disease perpetuated by algorithms, desire for immediate satisfaction and the craving of dopamine unfulfilled by unhealthy lifestyles.

Refusing to succumb to that illness requires saying no. As creators and business owners, it requires forgoing the temporary rush of users riding one tool to the next. It requires coming back to our original mission, over and over again, every time we make a decision about our tool.

And we hope it leads to something meaningful. A tool built to last.

Minimum lovable product is also not to be engulfed in featuritis and leading to doing all about everything. It’s about a balance where you see the whole triad as a whole. Making something lovable is about shifting the mindset. It’s not about how it works, but the way it works. 1

Take an example of keyboard shortcuts, which causes a lot of love among early adopters. Another thing is doing a little bit extra pixie dust. For example, in the way Obsidian has made plug-in development more lovable.

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