Hierarchy of ‘users’ needs

As Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory describes, we human beings have different levels of needs. Our most basic needs are physiological needs such as eating and sleeping. These must be met first. Having satisfied these needs, we seek a feeling of safety; and then we want to have a sense of belonging. Once these needs are met, we yearn to feel confident about who we are and what we do. And above all these needs, we have this innate desire to fulfil our highest potential – we want to create something or to stand for something.

Aarron Walter, in his book Designing for Emotion, translated Maslow’s model of human needs into the needs of users:

In order to deliver a positive experience, an interface for a product or service must be functional. And it needs to work well every time, so that it’s reliable. And it needs to be user-friendly. When designing a digital system, companies run many rounds of usability testing to ensure that users can perform desired tasks successfully.

The problem with Minimum Viable Product

Due to the popular movement of adopting “Agile” methodol- ogy, the term MVP – Minimal Viable Product – has become a catchphrase among digital product development teams. MVP is a concept urging teams to create something as quickly as possible and get it into the hands of real people. By releasing the MVP, teams aim to test it and quickly adjust and improve the product. The original definition of MVP is a version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learn- ing about customers with the least effort.3 This means MVP is a learning and development mechanism, rather than a goal.

However, two things about this worry me.

First, MVP is often misunderstood as a goal. Teams aim to produce MVP and end up delivering merely a functional product that does not deliver the positive intended experience. I’ve often observed MVP as a concept misused to justify releasing a subpar product that does not satisfy users’ needs.

Second, the value of the craft side of design is often neglected due to the pressure of having to launch something quickly. While it is important to be agile and release a version fast so that we can validate and learn, we must not forget that what we are designing needs to embrace all levels of user needs. I often hear teams complain that the work of “design” is slow. It is not just because the design process may take longer. It is because design is a reflective and contemplative process of exploring possibilities. And design is about crafting and weaving all elements of human experience such as visuals, sounds and touch so that we can sat- isfy and attract users emotionally.

Developing agility while allowing this reflective and deep pro- cess of design is key in creating products and services that win customers’ hearts.

MVP to MLP – Minimum Lovable Product


We need to change our mindset when designing a customer experience. Instead of delivering experiences by horizontal slices (functional level first, emotional level last), we should go by ver- tical slides. This means that each release of a product includes elements of every level – it is functional, reliable, usable and emo- tional. It is a deliberate choice you can make to go with possibly fewer features but to make them engaging, rather than releasing as many “functional” features as possible.

To drive this mindset change, I encourage you to change your vocabulary, from MVP to MLP – Minimum “Lovable” Product.

Why love? The word “love” might seem somewhat foreign to your line of business. By “love”, I refer to the positive emotions you want to create for your customers. There is a big difference between your customers being satisfied and when your customers love the experience. If we aspire to create that love, we start with a different frame of mind altogether.

Love stretches your thinking. Love simplifies.


Discover how to define that ‘vertical slice’ of Minimum Lovable Product from The Simplicity Playbook for Innovators.


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