Why I say “V1” instead of “MVP” or “MLP”

(Note: This post applies to features as well as products, but I’m only using “product” for simplicity)

For a long time, everyone seemed to use “MVP” (Minimum Viable Product) to refer to the first version of what they’ll release as a product. “MVP” has been used in books about product management and startups, blog posts, etc. I still hear “MVP” a fair amount.

A couple of years ago, I started to hear “MLP” (Minimum Lovable Product) used by some people instead of “MVP.”

I personally like “MLP” more than “MVP” because a “lovable” product sounds more appealing and valuable than a “viable” product, but if you asked 10 people to define what an “MVP” or “MLP” is intended to represent, you’d probably hear several different answers. Most of the answers might generally point in the same direction, but there wouldn’t be alignment in the definition.

Now think about how important it is for a team within a company to be aligned on what they’re setting out to do. Whenever “MVP” or “MLP” is said within that team or company, each person hearing it might have a different mindset about that first release.

people shrugging shoulders

Is the first release meant to test a hypothesis? Is it meant to help establish a new revenue stream? Is it meant to make a specific customer happy (in the enterprise world)?

Should the first release look perfectly polished? Should it be adequately polished? Is it okay to be somewhat ugly (as long as it’s usable)?

Different people think about these things differently, even within the same team/company. This is the problem with using “MVP” or “MLP.”

Instead, I use “V1” (Version 1) to represent what will be in a first release, and I accompany that with a story and artifacts (e.g., goals, flow diagram, wireframes, a design) to provide context and details. “V1” simply means the first version, while the purpose of that first version — the goals, etc — vary from one situation to another.


The same person (product manager) could take a different approach for a first release in different situations. For example:

  • Is the first release going to be a limited rollout? A full rollout? Will it only be seen by existing users? New users? Both?
  • Are the users who will see the first release in close communication with the team/company? Or is the intention to have them be on their own?
  • Can the first release include a manual process that’s not a seamless solution or fully automated (e.g., using Google Forms)? Or does it need to be seamless / automated?

There’s no one size fits all in product management. Use an approach that relies on YOUR definition, not someone else’s assumption. “V1” can help you do this.

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How I stay updated on the news with minimal time spent

I like to stay updated on tech news and world news, but with work, family, etc there’s not enough time in a typical day for me to look around for such news — so I have the news delivered to me. While there are many good news sites and apps, it’s relatively easy to set up a system where you can automatically receive the type of news that you’re interested in, direct to your email inbox. This allows me to get updated on what’s going on at convenient times (e.g., while on a train), regardless of whether I have an internet connection.

The best email newsletters for this purpose are ones that include summaries or snippets of each story so that you often don’t need to click for the full story, since you’ve learned enough from the text in the email. If you want more details, you can click to get the full story.

Here’s my current list of email newsletters:

Launch Ticker – Tech news

  • Free Version – Delivered once per week
  • Paid Version ($10/month or $100/year) – Delivered twice daily on weekdays and once daily on weekends

The Hustle – Focused on tech and business

  • Delivered once daily on weekdays
  • Free

theSkimm – Covers general news, including U.S., world, and entertainment

  • Delivered once daily on weekdays
  • Free

CNN Five Things – The top 5 stories that a CNN editor decides to push on any given day

  • Delivered once daily on weekdays
  • Free

The Journal – A collection of tech, business, and human interest stories

  • Delivered once per month

I’ve used this system for a couple of years now and it’s kept me informed in an efficient way.

I also occasionally use the Apple News app, but I get a lot of the same news in the emails.

I also receive new blog posts via email from several blogs for the same efficiency reasons mentioned above about newsletters. If a blog doesn’t provide an email subscription option but does provide an RSS feed, you can use Blogtrottr to send you emails with the new content that gets added to the RSS feed (i.e., new blog posts).

Do you receive a different email newsletter that you’d suggest others take a look at? Post a comment or send me a message and I’ll check it out.

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Demystifying product strategy


Since “strategy” can mean different things in different situations, here’s a definition of how I think about it related to product management:

Finding efficient ways to achieve the company’s goals through product solutions

Another way to think about it is:

Finding ways to maximize value at minimal cost

A good product strategy can give you a leg up in a race against the clock (or the competition), and it can increase the odds of your team and company being successful.

The maximize value part

This comes down to translating company/business objectives (including key metrics / KPIs) into a product plan that helps the company achieve its goals.

Product folks are tasked with helping their company achieve its goals while also helping customers (aka, users) achieve their goals, and while also keeping their team informed, efficient, and motivated to get it all done. (Project managers or other roles in an organization can also help a lot, but these roles don’t always exist.)

Sometimes, there’s a clear path for how product work can help the company achieve its goals, such as when an integration with a partner can propel a business strategy. Other times, the team needs to explore possible solutions to meet the company’s goals, which factors in:

  • Customer needs discovery/analysis
  • Team brainstorming (including exercises such as whiteboarding/sketching)
  • Research/testing with customers

After this, solutions need to be designed, built, tested, and released.

After releasing something, it needs to be measured and potentially iterated on to build out further or to optimize.

I could write posts to cover each of these steps, but in a nutshell, this is what needs to be done in order to maximize value. Depending on timelines and resources, you might be able to skip some steps, or at least move through them faster, while still achieving the goals (and perhaps revisiting in the future for further improvement). In general, I’ve found that it’s more important to be practical with how you go about things than to try to follow a process according to every detail as it’s written in a book.

The minimal cost part

There can be several types of costs with product work, including:

  • Dollar cost – You might need to pay for a technology or service to achieve a solution, or you might need to hire people. These are straight dollar costs.
  • Time cost – It takes time from one or more team members to do anything, which can be equated to the dollars that the company spends employing those people for their time. For example, if the company spends $50 per hour on an employee, and if it’d take 10 hours for the employee to complete something, then the cost of having that employee do this work is 10 hours of time which you could equate to $500.
  • Opportunity cost – This comes down to prioritization. In general terms, if you work on Option A now, then Option B might be postponed until Option A is done. The expected gains from Option B (which could be postponed) is an opportunity cost of Option A. For example, if a $10,000 gain is expected from Option A while a $5,000 gain is expected from Option B, then you might prioritize Option A over Option B. In this case, Option A brings an opportunity cost of $5,000 (i.e., expected gain from Option B), which is generally okay because it’s less than the expected gain from Option A (i.e., $10,000).
  • Team dynamic cost – This can be harder to quantify than other costs. On a high level, if your team is happy, motivated, and efficient, they’ll be positioned to do well (assuming they’re working on the right things and helping the company succeed). The challenge is maintaining a positive environment for the teamwork, which includes communication, collaboration, celebrating wins, learning from issues, and making it clear that it’s ok to discuss struggles or suggestions for the benefit of everyone (doing sprint retrospectives is one way to facilitate this). Some situations bring more pressure than others, but always remember that you’re part of a team that comes to work every day to solve problems, so tap into that in a supportive and collaborative way.

An example of where to apply strategy

Do multiple current customers, prospective customers, current partners, or prospective partners have similar needs? If so, you might be able to leverage a new product capability that can provide value across a broad spectrum of users / entities. In other words, doing a single body of work that results in more than one win is a strategy that could be explored.

Things that can help think through strategic opportunities

1. Create a product plan (roadmap) 12 to 18 months in advance

  • Break it down by quarters (e.g., Q3 2017, Q4 2017, Q1 2018, Q2 2018, Q3 2018, Q4 2018)
  • You only need to think about high level items (i.e., a new product/app or major new capability of an existing product/app) for the periods that are between 6 and 18 months away
  • Be more detailed with items for the periods up to 6 months away
  • Keep in mind — and include an explicit note on the roadmap — that roadmaps change based on shifting priorities and new learnings (about customer needs, partnership opportunities, etc). You want the roadmap to be seen as directionally correct, but fluid based on the company’s shifting priorities (or significant shifts in what’s learned from the market, such as customers or competitors).

I’ve used a few different roadmap formats over the years and currently employ the following two for different purposes:

Template A:

(this is good for high-level discussions around significant high-level deliverables)


Roadmap Template A

Template B:

(this is good for mid-level discussions that gets more detailed than Template A)

Roadmap Template B

Template B also helps to facilitate update meetings with any stakeholders about progress, what’s been accomplished, if there are risks or dependencies, etc.

Beyond Template B would be a backlog that gets very granular (often tracked in software like Jira, Trello, or some other project/task management tool), which typically only needs to be reviewed with scrum team members (e.g., developers and QA).

(I’ll save for another post why it’s better to have a goal-based or theme-based roadmap than a feature-based roadmap.)

2. Meet with your company’s executive leadership team (e.g., CEO, CTO, the heads of Marketing / Sales / Business Development / Customer Experience)

The main goals are to:

  • Recalibrate on business priorities
  • Make sure that executives across the company understand what’s been happening with the product and what the vision and plans are for the future

At some companies, it’s easier said than done to get executives in a room together, so you might need to sell this kind of meeting in advance by setting expectations for what’s going to be covered and what the goals are (which should clearly sound beneficial to the company as a whole and also to each department)


Strategy is a skill that can be developed over time. The more you think about it, work through exercises, collaborate with others, and read about examples, the better you’ll get. Just always keep the main purpose in mind: finding efficient ways to achieve the company’s goals and finding ways to maximize value at minimal cost.

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Are you paying enough attention to the little things?

I consider things like loading indicators, success notifications, error handling, and other user experience niceties as “little things.” They can make a product more enjoyable to use, more helpful, and less confusing — but they’re typically not going to move the needle in a meaningful way for the business. I’ve found that there are consistent opportunities to fit these kinds of little things into your design and development plans without costing you business priorities.


Success notifications:

One of my favorite little things is a checkmark that appears after you’ve successfully done something, such as adding an item to a list or updating a profile. I refer to this as a “success notification,” which come in many varieties.

Success Notification Example 3



Success Notification Example 2




  • The text that accompanies the checkmark can say whatever is appropriate for the action that the user took (e.g., “Added” or “Updated!”)
  • In some cases, it’s fine for the message / checkmark to automatically fade away after a second
  • Bonus points if the user sees the checkmark draw itself (but this is of course more time consuming to implement)







Loading indicators:

Waiting for a page / screen / module to load can be frustrating for a user if it lasts more than a second, so having a nice loading indicator is an opportunity to prevent dissatisfaction. Any kind of indicator is better than nothing (e.g., a simple spinner), but some extra effort can make it a good experience.




Seeing the above isn’t so bad, right? It makes me think about the indicator, as opposed to the fact that the data on the screen hasn’t loaded yet.

Compare that to a very basic loading indicator:




And compare both of those to an over-the-top example that’d take more time than most companies have for this kind of thing:




So where should you end up on this? How about a spinner, but a little more interesting than the most basic kind, such as:



It’s great to find ways to reduce loading times (such as by caching data, removing unnecessary data, or loading multiple things asynchronously), but loading time is a reality and you can prevent it from being an unpleasant one.

Error handling:

Plenty has been written about creative 404 pages, but error messages are another area that deserves attention.

Error Message Example 2




I’ve seen error messages that aren’t clear what the problem is, aren’t helpful with how to resolve the problem, and don’t seem like they fit into the design of the application that they’re a part of. A little bit of descriptive text goes a long way, and a tiny bit of design attention is better than nothing.

Error Message Example 1

Don’t overlook error messages as part of your user experience approach.


I like to have yearly, quarterly, and monthly plans when it comes to roadmapping.* These plans outline an approach to hit company goals while solving for user needs. Examples of company goals are increasing sales by X% or $Y, or reducing churn by Z%, within a set period of time.** A roadmap should be focused on achieving company goals, but with some planning, you can likely also fit in some “little things” along the way.

I suggest doing advance planning for the little things just like you should be doing advance planning for the bigger things that are aimed at company goals. If you identify something that could be made nicer with a little thing, add it in your backlog and prioritize it appropriately.

At any time, if something needs to get bumped from your plans, it should be the little things. With this approach, you’ll be focused on company goals, but you’ll also deliver value via the kinds of nice little things that are often missing from products to improve a user’s experience.


*I also build an idea of where things might be more than a year into the future, but that’s on a higher level with less detail because things are expected to change over time. Things also change within a quarter or even a month, but items on a roadmap within the next quarter are typically rearranged and not cancelled, while items more than a quarter out are more likely to be cancelled. So, have a vision for where things can be in the future, but don’t spend significant time on the detail.

**It’s important for any goal to have a target (i.e., a number to achieve), a deadline (i.e., how much time you have to achieve it), and a clear way to measure progress. Define success, measure it, learn from it, and report on it.

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