It’s interesting in product thinking how we’re constantly trying to figure out the absolute bottom line for what will make something work. This might simply be the basic set of features which define our minimum viable product (MVP) or how we can build on an emotional exchange to create a minimum lovable product (MLP). But if you think about a product like one of your relationships, someone you talk to everyday, doing the bare minimum would in fact be pretty rubbish.
So why as product designers are we obsessed with the minimum? Well, like a relationship, a product is a two way street. A discourse between functionality and the user. When meeting someone for the first time and beginning a friendship, it is unlikely that you would unload on that person an encyclopedic amount of information on who you are and what you can do. Typically getting to know someone is a slow build of introduction and growing rapport, finding similar interests and things you might enjoy doing together. Products getting to know their users are exactly the same.
Founders at start-ups must face this dilemma head on. No one has ever seen their product before, so how does a strong and healthy relationship grow between product and user? What if nobody likes it? There may well be a defined MVP with the core features, plus perhaps a few extra to develop an MLP; but how can they nurture and support an ongoing relationship with the user? Introducing the Minimum Viable Experience (MVE).
The MVE is inclusive of all consumer touchpoints. It’s a more holistic approach to understanding the relationship between product and user. The MVE can broadly be broken down by product, brand, marketing & sales - respectively, these four categories create a scale from pragmatic functionality to more qualitative personal relationships.
The MVE is important because it helps negate typical pitfalls of MVPs, such as zero experiences or buggy user journeys, by building a support network. This is critical in trying to keep people regularly using your product and trying to reach that ever elusive tipping point to catapult it to unicorn status.
A few examples of touchpoints where you can consider a product’s MVE are:
- Branding & Marketing: Creating a recognisable tone of voice helps build trust and consistency, plus if done well helps customers identify products which are a good fit with their principles..
- Sales & Onboarding: Demonstrating value to customers and how to get this value immediately makes your product more valuable than the alternative which relies on user intuition
- Customer Service: Things go wrong. People typically understand this. Machines don’t. Machines always think they are right because they are built on rules. If you can provide good customer service for when things go wrong, sympathy will help build an ongoing and repeatable user experience.
- Ecosystems: People don’t like to change their whole life around. Products are much more successful when they work within existing systems and behaviour patterns.
Some KPIs to measure an MVE include Retention Rates and Net Promoter Scores, these are quantifiable metrics which should be both short term and long term trackers to ensure your user experience is at the right level or improving. Like any great relationship however, a true tell is an open and honest conversation. This can be nurtured by a good customer service team, or any other touchpoint where you can speak to your users (even if manufactured, like a user test).
Ultimately what a good MVE creates is an experience which people keep coming back to. These repeat visits help capture behaviour and attitudes towards a product, forming a feedback loop: an ongoing method to test through real user feedback and learn how to improve the product experience. This starts to form a relationship with the user and the vehicle to create measurable improvements.
So remember, don’t just do the bare minimum. Start slow and let the relationship blossom. Anyone who considers the MVE can also dream of making their users live, love, laugh in a rewarding relationship built on trust, honesty and communication (but also measured by KPIs and maintained through agile sprint planning, just like all good relationships).
Looking for a partner to strategise, design and build your MVE? Contact us today to discuss.