SaaS business

MLP vs MVP: Which One Brings Customers?


mins to read

Any person who has been thinking seriously about launching their own product knows that an MVP (minimum viable product) is the thing to start with. However, if you start researching more, you discover that many people state that MLP (minimum loveable product) is a better thing to do, while the concept of MVP is outdated. Let’s figure out if this is true.

As a design agency, we meet both clients who want to build an MVP and those who are determined to develop an MLP. Here is our short guide to minimal viable and lovable products.

What are MVP and MLP?

MVP — the minimum viable product is a product with a minimum set of basic features that is used to collect feedback for further iterations.

MLP — the minimum loveable product that has not only basic functionality, but also the potential to make users fall in love with it.

What is the difference between MLP and MVP?

Let’s take a look at the MVP and MLP from the point of coffee: favorite example. There are hundreds of coffee shops in any city. Even in your area, there would be more than one. But which one do you choose when you want some coffee?

The answer depends on many factors: the quality of beans, the skills of the barista, pretty cups, comfy chairs, or the availability of a lactose-free option. These are just a few factors that create a user experience in the coffee buying process.

Each coffee shop offers you a caffeine drink to give you an energy boost. Still, there are certain things that make the process of coffee drinking more pleasurable.

Coffee shops try to create the best conditions to get loyal customers. Depending on your priorities, you will choose a favorite coffee shop (or few) and stick to your choice.


Adding hot water to a spoon of instant coffee is probably the easiest way of making coffee. Using minimum time and resources is the hallmark of the MVP. A hot drink with caffeine in a paper cup in our case can be called “minimum viable coffee”.

On the contrary, preparing a cup of fine espresso requires more time (grinding beans, loading the machine, cleaning it) and resources (professional coffee machine, fancy-looking cup). The product is still minimal (no cream, spices, ice cream), but loveable at the same time. Drinking this type of coffee brings pleasure and makes us come back to the coffee shop serving it again and again.

But what if you are running out of the house at 9 AM for a meeting after having missed the alarm? Which option would you pick? A cozy coffee shop with a barista grinding fresh beans for you, or a cup of instant coffee that you can grab to drink in a car? In such a case, you are likely to go for that very basic coffee.

The latter example shows us that MLP is not always the perfect option. Depending on conditions, MVP might be the best choice.

MVP - faster, cheaper, solves the problem. MLP - slower, not that cheap, but makes people all in love

As a team of professional designers, we want to make thought-out products that people love. However, our clients might be in a condition where they don’t want/ can not invest enough money and time to build a loveable product.

Each product is special and we practice individual approaches. However, if to get a general idea of when to go for MVP and when go for MLP, you can base on the following principles:

When do you need an MVP?

  • When the time is limited
  • When the budget is low
  • When the product is so innovative and unique that the most important is to launch it as fast as possible
  • When the product is built for beta testing

When do you need an MLP?

  • When the product is not the only one in the niche and has to provide an exceptional user experience to win over competitors
  • When you want to gain the loyalty of your target audience right away
  • When you have already built an MVP and want to go to the next stage

How to build an MVP

We have a whole article on how to build a minimum viable product, but to save your time, here is a short list of things you have to focus on:

  • Define the user's problem and think of a solution to it. Validate the idea.
  • Think of the minimum set of features necessary to solve the problem.
  • Define the target audience. Even with a minimum viable product, you have to tailor it to people that will be using it.
  • Research the market: are there any competitors? What do they offer?
  • Create a user journey map. Most startups can’t afford to invest heavily in UX research at this stage, but totally ignoring the research is a way to fail.
  • Develop and test the MVP. The keyword here is “test”: remember that MVP is a product that has to be tested by real users, iterated, and serve as a basis for building the future product.

If you are curious about what you can get at the end, check out our article about MVP with examples.

How to build an MLP

Many product managers aim to build a minimal loveable product right away. This is a good objective, but it has some requirements to succeed. Here are some important pieces of advice on developing an MLP:

  • Start with functionality. Solving users’ problems goes before making them love the product.
  • Avoid adding too many features. The product has to stay minimal, as it would be subject to changes and iterations anyway.
  • Talk to users and research. The product that seems to be totally loveable to you might not be as attractive to your target audience. Run some user interviews to find out how people really relate to your product.
  • Define the criteria for lovability. Yes, when we talk about UX research, we can try to measure even love.
  • Invest in design from the very start. Building a startup team does not typically start with a designer. However, for making an MLP, a skilled UX professional has to be involved in the project at the very beginning: possibly at the stage of idea validation.

The evolution of minimal products

The concept of MVP was introduced in 2001 by Frank Robinson. MLP appeared in the vocabulary of product managers, startupers, and designers in 2013 thanks to Henrik Kniberg. This means that for 12 years people were focused on creating a viable product, until suddenly it was not enough anymore.

What happened during this time? The number of digital products grew exponentially, the competition rose. Developers and design teams make way more effort to create a popular app.

Rising standards in the industry raised user expectations. They are not satisfied with just anything that does the job: now customers are spoiled with sleek interfaces, smart copy, intuitive structure, pretty visuals, lively animation — all this and many other things that create a great user experience..

Nowadays, when apps’ copy talks to us as old friends, while marketing and advertising are doing their best to build a sentimental relationship with a product, being “just a product” is not enough. Only brands that win the love of people get loyal clients, and companies that don’t invest enough in design will soon be replaced by those who manage to create that loveable product

This story explains why people talk about MLP where they previously used to talk about MVP. Many think that loveable is the new viable, and it makes sense.

What else? Live, love, sell?

Along with MVP and MLP, you often see other abbreviations, like MMP and MSP. These stand for minimum marketable product and minimum sellable product (and are the same thing).

MMP is possible after the product has already been through testing and has proven its viability. Making a sellable product is the ultimate goal of all product managers.

And then comes the MCR — a minimum credible release, an MBP — a maximally buyable product… What’s next? Minimum Profitable Product? Minimum cult product? Jokes aside, let’s wait and see what tomorrow brings.


Why do we need so many ways to differentiate between different minimal products? Do you really need to start with MVP and go all the way to MLP at the initial stages of the development?

The key is not in the terms. Whatever you call the minimal product, you have to keep the objective clear: to find product-market fit. Once you achieve this goal, you can start going serious with marketing and thinking of shifting from minimum product to the new level by adding new features and expanding functionality.

So, how do you achieve product-market fit? Find out in our article “How to Screw up Everything but Still Succeed. Guide to Product-Market Fit

Masha Panchenko


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SaaS business
min read

UI/UX Trends: Balancing on the Dizzying Path Between Unique and Usable

Two decades ago, in the year 2000, Jakob Nielsen declared that Flash design is 99% bad because it kills usability. What's being said between the lines is that everything that kills usability was bad. 

Mr. Nielsen was the voice of a new trend that revolved as a reaction to the websites from the 90s — the ones with acidic colors, prominent blue hyperlinks, wild graphics, and all those amazing GIFs.

gifs from websites from the 90s
All those amazing GIFs. Image credit: cameronsworld.net

Web design took its very first steps back then. It wasn’t limited by user-centered principles, Nielsen Norman Group guides, or Apple’s flat aesthetic. First websites weren’t made for users, they were made for “pure art”.

No wonder that new UI/UX trends turned to simpler, cleaner, and clearer interfaces. In one word, minimalistic. Over decades of user research, designers figured out minimalism is what people want from interfaces. Jakob Nielsen’s voice was heard.

The voice of Minimalism

In the same year, in response to Nielsen’s minimalistic manifesto, Joel Spolsky wrote a little note stated the following:

“You get the feeling that if Mr. Nielsen designed a singles bar, it would be well lit, clean, with giant menus printed in Arial 14 point, and you’d never have to wait to get a drink. But nobody would go there, they would all be at Coyote Ugly Saloon pouring beer on each other.”

It was a voice of brutalism in web design, manifested 15 years ahead of its time.

The voice of Brutalism

Minimalist UI/UX design

A minimalistic movement encourages designers to simplify interfaces by removing unnecessary elements or content that doesn’t support user tasks. Google, Microsoft and Apple pioneered such simplification two decades ago, and since then, the UI and UX design world has gradually come to be dominated by minimalistic aesthetics.

Apple's website in years 1996 and 1999

Minimalism is very commendable. It helps users understand the content and complete their tasks, it looks polished and professional, it is a really good trend on so many levels that it’s no surprise this trend has become so… hmm… popular. 

When we all have one recipe that works better than anything else, we naturally end up in an almost homogenized web. It was clearly felt, but not so clearly seen (for me, at least) until this tweet from 2018 by Jimmy Daly.

Jimmy is speaking about almost identical anthropomorphic illustrations top SaaS brands have, but you still can’t tell the difference between which landing page is which even if you forget for a moment about pictures. Look at those rounded sans serif fonts, black & white interfaces, rounded rectangle buttons.

App design blurs even more and becomes literally invisible: link is link, text is text, navigation is all the same and suddenly everything in your phone feels like one big white application. 


Is it bad that our designs look like clones? 

Not really. The product’s visual identity and junior designers’ ego may suffer. But for users, uniformity in product design is a good thing, because...

When people use their GPS navigators and banking apps or scroll through a long article like the one you’re reading, they don’t want to focus their energy on an interface. They want to focus on the job. And since they have dozens of apps on their phones, uniformity across everyday digital products helps to switch between them smoothly. 

If you want to set yourself apart from the rest of the apps by unique design, consider the case of Snapchat’s redesign disaster. 

In 2018 the company shocked its fans with innovative user interface design and unfamiliar navigation patterns. The reaction was not long in coming — you see the dramatic drop in consumer sentiment.

Close to a quarter of all downloaded apps are deleted after just one use. And annoying people with overloaded interfaces is not the best strategy to stay afloat, even for the brightest brands. 

What is the best strategy is to spend designers’ time working on little touches that matter for user experience — like Figma’s animated onboarding or Asana's celebratory unicorns

When minimalism is not enough

For a few months already, I’m struggling through Ulysses by James Joyce, probably the most challenging text I have ever read. The plot of the story is pretty elusive, buried under the layers of Greek myths, Irish history, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Dante, and 19th-century memes. Most of the time I hate this book. But in the moments when tiny dots come together in my mind, I’m the king of the world.

Sure, I don’t want all my life, or, God forbid, my apps, to feel like Ulysses. But there are situations when people want to be annoyed with some level of mystery and complexity. When they want to solve some puzzle. 

Minimalism’s aesthetics feels way too boring sometimes. When we've had enough of well-lit, clean bars with giant white menus, we started looking for Coyote Ugly saloons. 

Brutalist web design

Remember Morgan Freeman’s office in Bruce Almighty? That pure white sterile space recalls me of some bare-bones minimalist white websites. Brutalist web design came as a reaction to standardized visual design and spray-painted some punk stuff onto walls of minimalism.

Since 2014, the Brutalist Websites page has been collecting the brightest brutalist web design examples. Back then, these were personal portfolios of designers and coders who were tired of the mainstream.

In 2016, the Washington Post said that “the hottest trend in Web design is making intentionally ugly, difficult sites”. And that was the point when businesses started careful experiments with their interfaces. Digital agencies, creative media and fashion labels, all the cool kids turned their attention to provocative brutalist tricks — broken grids, random colors, ugly fonts. Some experiments turned out to be more successful than others.

In October 2017, Dropbox’s rebranding blew the collective mind of the worldwide designer community. The company was known for its design system that helps users handle files with minimal distraction. And suddenly it went wild with a plethora of colors and 259 (!!!) fonts. Sounds like lots of destruction.

Image credit: christian-beck.medium.com

The idea of rebranding was to change Dropbox’s positioning from being just a place to store files to being a workspace for creative teams. So the new design was speaking to creative teams. But it looks like the target demographic turned out to be more moderate than Dropbox expected because most of the feedback I’ve seen on the Web was negative.  

You’d say that we can’t judge the effectiveness of a redesign by comments from the web, and you’d be right. But we have something much more valuable to consider — how the users behave in the redesigned pages. 

Here’s how Arlen McCluskey from Dropbox comments on pricing page redesign:

The bold rebrand color palette negatively affected trust and clarity. As a result — a drop in several key metrics. So shortly after the makeover, Dropbox returned its pricing page to a more discreet design. 

You may want a creative web page, and your brand may need a brighter identity, but any moves towards design diversity may decrease usability. And if you're in business for money, you can’t ignore users voting with their dollars against bad usability.

So current UI/UX trends are all about balancing on the dizzying path in between great usability and a brave outstanding brand.

Some of 2021 UI/UX design trends

#1 Edgy typography

Making fonts bigger and bolder is a very noticeable trend. Complex typography looks fresh and entertaining, it adds some spice to your design but doesn't usually impact its functionality and navigation performance.

Quirky fonts often act as design accents on SaaS landing pages. Take Dropbox’s squashed-up Sharp Grotesk typeface or Whyte Inctrap font that earned Figma a place in Eleken’s landing pages ranking.

Dropbox’ sharp typography

#2 Consistent visual language

UX is not an excuse for lack of visual identity. If you don’t want to dissolve your brand’s personality in standardized interface elements, you may come up with your own visual language, just like Miro did. 

It all started with shapes that reflected the company's key values — spatiality, fluidity, agility, and distribution. Later, Miro incorporated brand shapes into all the UI elements. They use them as photo frames, backgrounds and illustration patterns, creating a recognizable look.

using brand shapes as photo frames, background elements and illustration patterns
Miro’s brand shapes

#3 Going loud with colors

Moving away from white is a drastic change from minimalistic designs that makes your landing page stand out for users who go through hundreds of light-colored websites in a day. 

Look at Zendesk's website. This one, in its 2018 edition, appeared in Jimmy Daly’s tweet as one of four identical websites with creepy illustrations. Since then, Zendesk differentiated itself with colors, and today you can barely mix up their page with any others. 

Explosion of colors by Zendesk

Psst… If you want more trends, we have more trends.

Spice it up, but keep it functional

Latest UI/UX design trends are definitely moving from perfection to uniqueness, but it’s all about context.

If we’re speaking about a SaaS product, your first concern is making the app extremely functional and pleasant for the user to navigate. You probably want some experiments with a landing page that works as a colorful wrapper for your product, but be careful and check how changes impact your bottom line. More experiments with design probably make sense if you’re dealing with a personal portfolio of a website of a creative agency. 

The main thing you have to remember is that any design should be usable, because if it isn’t, no matter how pretty it is, it is a bad design

Eleken product design agency can help you with good design, great from the user experience perspective and still unique. 

Interested? Let’s talk.

SaaS business
min read

Design for Simplicity: Tips From Our UI/UX Experts

According to a study conducted by Google, visually complex designs are consistently rated as less beautiful than their simpler counterparts, while designing for simplicity creates more valuable experiences for users and often has a profound effect on markets.

Think of a banking app as an example. It is used to complete complex financial operations, see transaction notifications in real-time, analyze personal income and savings, prevent fraud, and more. But because of their interface design, banking apps make all these complex procedures easy to deal with for different users.

No wonder many clients that turn to our SaaS design agency these days have a request to make their products simple. But the thing is that different people have different perceptions of simplicity. 

So, before figuring out how to create intuitive and clear interfaces, let’s define simplicity.

What is simplicity?

To begin with, we need to understand that there is no universal way to make your design simple. 

For example, most of us would agree that Apple products are famous for their simplicity. But imagine giving your iPhone to your granny who uses the phone designed specifically for seniors and has no experience interacting with the touch screen. If you ask her whether it is easy to use, the answer would probably be negative. Does that mean that iPhones are not simple?

No, it means that the definition of simplicity depends on the context and the target audience that is going to use the product.

Next, it’s important to state that simplicity doesn’t equal minimalism. It isn't achieved just by using a lot of negative space, adding flat design elements, and big headlines.

Simplicity is about streamlining the user’s path to reaching the goal, making it faster and easier to achieve. 

So, making complex SaaS products look simple is a challenging task that requires solid understanding of the users and the logic behind that product. But it’s definitely a rewarding one, and here’s why.

Arguments for keeping design simple

Users are most likely to choose and stay with simple products that effectively help them cope with the modern rhythm of life.

  • Users' attention span is way shorter today.

Since the Internet gives us fast access to any type of information, we got used to this speed and won't tolerate sluggish apps that take longer to load. According to a survey conducted by Unbounce in 2019, out of 1145 people surveyed, half claimed they would be willing to give up animation and video for faster load time. This means that designs must be as simple and clear as possible to prevent consumers from feeling overwhelmed and to speed up page loading. 

  • Simple design lets people choose the path of least resistance.

It’s in human nature to choose the path that would take the least effort and time to reach their goal. That's why design simplicity gives products an additional competitive advantage allowing users to quickly and effortlessly satisfy their needs. 

Think of the process you have to go through when taking a taxi in a traditional way: calling the service, waiting for an available operator, finding where the driver parked, making sure you have cash, waiting for the change at the end of a ride, and other tedious things. Modern taxi applications automate this procedure, making it fast and convenient for users. 

  • People want options — but not too many.

Modern people have a greater choice of everything they need than ever before in history. There are plenty of options for what to have for lunch, what clothes to wear, where to go on vacation, and so on.

In fact, such an abundance of variants often leads to a psychological phenomenon called choice overload that causes frustration, decision fatigue, opting for the default variant, or refusing to make any choice at all.

Focusing your app design on simplicity helps you balance the number of features, so that your product doesn’t lose its core value and you don’t confuse users with too many options.

facebook's feature abundance causes choice overload
How often do you use “The Climate Science Information Center” on Facebook? Image credit: bettermarketing.pub
  • People multitask.

With today’s devices, an individual can cook dinner, do online shopping, and make financial transactions all at the same time.

people multitask as an argument for simple design

However, multitasking scatters people’s attention and sometimes may cause stressful situations, in which a person has to act quickly. To make such an experience smooth and pleasant and prevent users from making mistakes, the app has to be as simple as possible.

5 tips to help you maintain simplicity in design

Though, we’ve stated earlier that simplicity has no recipe, there are several rules that our UI/UX designers use in their work.  

1. Learn your target audience well

A simple design makes it easier for people to grasp what task you're trying to help them complete, increasing user success. But to help users understand the message you’re trying to convey, you, first of all, have to discover who your users are, learn about their experiences, needs, fears, and so on.

That’s what helped us keep the main advantage of the Gridle CRM — the simplicity of use. Conducting six user interviews helped us define what people expected the most from Griddle’s new version. Then we turned these insights into design requirements and finally implemented them.  

Here’s what it was like:

User’s need: “I would like to see more tutorials on how best to use Gridle, ‘cause there’s a lot of features I know available, but I just don’t know how to use them yet.” 

Design requirement: The app must make it easy for new users to get started and should give them immediate confidence that they can succeed.

Implementation: Interactive guides that walk new users through the app's interface.

As a result, we reduced the cognitive load on new users by using progressive onboarding.

2. Use common design patterns

Users gradually come to have certain expectations about how websites and applications should respond to their actions. The article Mental models for web objects…” by Sandra Roth and others, shows that distinct mental models seem to exist for different web page types, that is people agree on many design objects’ locations and look.

We can call these mental models UX design patterns, and using them in your design greatly simplifies the way people interact with your product’s interface.

Take a look at a screen Eleken designed for a habit-tracking app.

design for simplicity examples and tips: using design patterns

When we see that plus icon in the top right corner, we subconsciously understand that clicking on it will allow us to add a new habit, as we saw similar icons in many different apps before. This way, you meet the user’s expectations and therefore increase customer satisfaction.

3. Break complex tasks into smaller steps

Getting back to the psychology in UX design, let’s recall the choice overload phenomenon we talked about earlier in the article. Giving people too many options (overloading them with information) may altogether scare them off from your product. That’s why we recommend limiting the choices you give users.

But sometimes it’s impossible to reduce the amount of information you need to include on a page to bring value to your users. In such a situation, we would recommend you simplify complex tasks by splitting them into smaller chunks.

At Eleken, we love using the Wizards design pattern for this purpose. It helped us many times to make long processes simple and painless for users.

Breaking the long onboarding process into five short steps using Wizard for a financial service startup called Habstash

4. Make your design accessible

To understand the importance of accessibility in UX, think of the following: according to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people, or 20% of the world's population, live with a certain disability. 

Not to lose many potential customers just because your interface design doesn't allow them to properly use your product to achieve their goals, take care to ensure all the app elements are readable, visible, and understandable.

We teach each of our designers to create designs for all people, not just for those with perfect eyesight.

This way, when working on UI design for a drone management platform, we needed to help users differentiate the status of receivers (devices used to detect air traffic). Besides using different colors for this purpose, we created unique icons, so that people with low visual acuity or colorblindness can also distinguish receivers with different statuses.

accessible design example

5. Don't oversimplify things to the point of abstraction.

Though you should always try to simplify the interface by removing unnecessary elements, remember that there are things that have to stay complex not to lose their value.

As UX Magazine states in one of its articles, smartphones could be simpler without a camera, but they would also be a lot less useful.

Simplicity is complex

... Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

As the user demands for software are drastically rising today, there are much more user touch points and things we have to consider when creating a simple design, making this task more challenging.

So, if you want something simple, you need to devote a lot of resources to develop a product that is really effective. And understanding the complexity of simplicity is your first step toward this goal.

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