Scoping your minimum loveable product

Written by

Laura Bosco

The featured image for this blog post.

Staring down temptation 👀

Once you've validated your idea and seen some traction, you'll want to blaze ahead and build the product. This is how we spent months and thousands of dollars 💸 and, wound up with something our customers didn't even want. 😖


We want something better for you. Better than a dumpster-fire-launch 🔥, lost money, and time you can't get back. We want you to know about Minimum Loveable Products (MLPs) and how to take the guesswork out of building one.

Cool, what is that?

A Minimum Loveable Product is a complete story; it has a clear purpose (its function) and just the right set of features. It's not minimum releasable crap or a hacked together and barely functional product 👎. Rather, it's an insanely valuable package of one or two core functionalities that lets you start small, gather feedback, and build up to exactly what customers want.

Okay, do I get there?

Creating an MLP starts with defining what you need. We call that scoping. It's outlined in detail on our blog but here's a quick overview. Your goal is to distill lots of ideas into a simple, loveable starting point:

  1. Step 0: Write down your biggest assumptions, then identify your riskiest one. Note what your MLP has to do, what function it has to perform, to test that assumption. Keep this laser-focused. If you have trouble, take a trick from Amazon's playbook: work backward and write a press release for your MLP. This'll help you visualize where you want to end up.
  2. Step 1: Create three columns. Label the first column "MLP" and write down every possible feature that comes to mind. Think big and go crazy - you'll cut later. ✂️
  3. Step 2: Switch mindsets - literally put on a different hat if needed 🎩 - and label the second column "Version 2." Take every nonessential item from your MLP list and put it in Version 2.
  4. Step 3: Switch hats again 👑and label the third column, "Manual Solution." Look at your MLP list and figure out what you can do manually. Put those items under Manual Solution. Be creative and remember it doesn't have to scale.
  5. Step 4: Repeat, repeat, repeat. Take a break, get a latte ☕️, come back, and repeat again.
  6. Step 5: Find a notebook or stack of computer paper. Then sketch, in however terrible handwriting you have, every screen or view you need for your product. ✏️

Note: helpful details on steps 1-5 are on our blog.

Keep in mind the end goal of this process: a product that has a clear function and just the right set of features. Consider making, "clear function, right features" your mantra while you do this.

Still confused?

Admittedly, this sounds easier than it is. (We know - we've done this with our own products and with several clients.) The questions below will help you move through the sorting process. If your answers to any of them are "yes," move the feature in question to the Version 2 list.

Lastly, when you've exhausted the questions above, consider this framework from Gusto's co-founder. If a feature isn't high-impact, it shouldn't be on your MLP list. (You may wind up making a fourth column, "totally unsure about these," and that's okay. Your technical team and designers will help you sort through all of this again.)

These steps will take effort, brainpower, and commitment. Simple isn't easy. In fact, it's damn hard 😅. But simple is exactly what you need as the starting point for the product you, and especially your customers, are going to love. 💰

"Simplicity saved our company." - Demio

Not sure you have the technical know-how?                            

We developed a custom scoping process to help you build a bullet proof plan for your MLP. Schedule a free call and we'll see how we can help.

Want to see us cover a topic? Have major startup questions or sticking points? Email                                                

Laura Bosco is a writer and people person. She helps tech startups do tricky things, like explain who they are and what they're doing. Ping her on Twitter to say hi.