High-growth companies share one thing in common. Regardless of who their customers are, their business model, and the type of product or industry they’re operating in, they all make a product that a large group of people love. They’ve built products that, in the eyes of their customers, are simply must-have.

But how do you know if your product or service is lovable? This is an important question for any business, whether you provide supply chain software or sell voice speakers. When your customers like your products, they use them. When they love your products, even better things happen. As the growth team at Airbnb says, “love creates growth, not the other way around.”

This is a question we ask often as we collaborate with clients to discover, design, and scale products people love. Using our FUEL methodology, we create Minimum Lovable Products (MLPs). The MLP updates the minimum viable product concept popularized in Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup. A play on the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), the MLP is a version of a product that delivers the best experience possible within the constraints of the business. Staying within constraints allows businesses to adopt a test and learn approach to achieve product-market fit while reducing risk. MLPs bring utility and joy to customers.

So how do you measure lovability? The easy answer is, “When a product delivers ROI.” But ROI is a vague measure. It’s a bottom-line figure that includes attributes such as cost-effectiveness, which, while important, do not quite measure customer devotion. Lovability is more than just ROI. For a product to truly be lovable, there needs to be a magic moment, where the person’s energy changes while using the product. A change in energy means you’ve identified an experience that people really care about.

To measure lovability in our work, we have adapted Google’s HEART framework, one of many innovations pioneered by Google. Google developed the HEART framework in 2010 to provide a common set of user-centered metrics for web applications. The framework comprises five metrics that Google identified in 2010 as happiness, engagement, adoption, retention, and task success. Since then, designers have applied the HEART framework for sites and apps (this article gives you a better sense of how designers continue to use it). We’ve applied it to help companies understand how to develop lovable products such as voice-activated experiences, as shown here:


For our purposes, consider the HEART framework to be a lovability framework. Now let’s blow out its components a bit more to show you how we use it. For illustrative purposes, I’m going to cite the example of a real-life app that I use, the Headspace meditation app, which consists of a variety of meditations to suit your mood and situation throughout the day.

1 Happiness

How do your customers feel about your product or service? To us, happiness consists of the emotions you want to evoke from your product or service, such as excitement, love, trust, and purpose. Many businesses try to measure happiness with user satisfaction surveys, social sentiment, and app ratings and reviews. In addition, since Google developed the Heart framework, biometrics have emerged to measure emotional response by reading the signals your body gives. Interestingly, Amazon is reportedly developing a device that reads human emotions. The device is positioned as a health monitoring tool, but it’s easy to see how it could be used for feedback in product design, just as a wearable such as an Apple Watch could perform the same function.  With biometrics, you can measure customer feedback during, say, a design sprint to capture that magic moment when a customer responds with the “a-ha!” you always hope a lovable product will invoke. Documenting surprise and delight with biometrics gives you the confidence to make a stronger go/no go decision when you develop a product prototype.

If Headspace wanted to measure my happiness, doing so would probably be fairly easy: with biometrics, Headspace could measure my pulse before I meditate and afterward. My heart rate and level of anxiety should be going down as I use the app.

2 Engagement

Engagement assesses how much time and attention your audience devotes to your product. Engagement can be measured by number of visits per user per week, session length, or a key action, like the number of photos uploaded or songs listened to per user per day. Engagement can also include how much time people spend talking about and sharing your product, which makes the metric multiply in value. For Headspace, reading its blog, or sharing the app with others is a strong measure of engagement. But the amount of time I spend on the app is a poor measure, as Headspace is designed to be used for a brief part of your day – which goes to show how time is not always an effective measure of engagement.

3 Adoption

How many people complete the onboarding process and become customers? Adoption is probably the simplest to measure: how many customers you are attracting. In and of itself, adoption does not mean lovability. You can still be a regular user of a utility app but not really love it if you have no other alternative. This truth underscores an important point: these metrics need to work together and not be used in isolation. But when you use them together, they matter. Adoption coupled with happiness – say, an avid gamer downloads a new augmented reality app and can’t wait to play it – is a much stronger lovability metric. But happiness without adoption is not so useful, either. A customer can have that magic moment only to stop using the product if it reveals bugs with long-term use or isn’t updated as often as it should to provide new features. Or what if a product makes you happy when you use it, but you just don’t find a use for it even when it performs perfectly well? A moment, however powerful, is just a moment. Adoption tells you whether you’ve made the moment last.

With the Headspace app, adoption comes down to:

  • Whether I have downloaded and used downloaded the fremium version, which requires me to give Headspace something in return: my personal data.
  • Whether I’ve advanced to the next level by paying for the premium version.

Adoption means use, and, even better, use for which you’ll pay money.

4 Retention

What percentage of customers return to use your product again and again? Here’s an app-friendly test I like to use: which apps make it to your phone’s home screen to be used time and again – the ones you cannot do without? My home screen definitely includes Headspace. You better believe I keep Headspace in an easy-to-find location on my phone so that I can use it to suit a mood or a situation I’m facing (e.g., before going to work or before a major meeting).

Retention illustrates another interesting attribute of the framework: no single metric is better than the others. It’s tempting to think of retention as the end-all and be-all. But just because a product does not get used a lot doesn’t mean it lacks value and loyalty. On my phone, I have a lot of apps that I don’t use on a daily basis, such as Amazon. But I love using Amazon when I do. It’s fast. It’s efficient. And it works. But I don’t spend a whole lot of time buying things. Think also of the IKEA Place augmented reality app, which makes it possible for customers to envision how furniture will look in their homes before they make a purchase. How often is a customer going to use that app? Not very often. But when they do, the app provides a lovable experience. It’s fun to use and offers value. It also helps IKEA rack up more sales.

5 Task Success

This metric is all about helping people accomplish their goals. Task success is measured by factors like efficiency (how long it takes users to complete the task), effectiveness (percent of tasks completed), and error rate. This, of course, is a time-honored metric.

Many people think of “task success” as a purely functional, non-emotional measure. But task success has a very emotional component that you don’t notice until you experience task failure. When a product fails to do what it’s supposed to do, your lovability score plummets. When a product breaks, when user instructions are vague, or when a customer experiences poor customer service, then they get angry – and they let the world know.

I can easily measure task success with Headspace meditation app. The metric is how much time it takes for me to identify a theme on the app and actually use it, whether I’m looking for “Letting go of stress” or “appreciation.” How quickly and how often I select these types of meditations and use them tells the app whether I’m experiencing tasks success.

As we’ve applied the lovability framework, we’ve learned a number of lessons, such as:

  • You can use these attributes to not only design new products but add new features to existing products. For instance, what if Headspace wanted to create a virtual reality experience for the app using Google Cardboard? The Heart framework would provide a handy way to gauge the effectiveness of this experience. For Headspace, the VR experience might need to index high in happiness to ensure the immersive settings bring about feelings of calmness during and after meditating.
  • Consider the attributes to be like dials. Turn them up or down as you need to create the ideal minimum lovable product. As noted, we consider them all of equal weight.
  • Also as noted, use the attributes together, not in isolation.

The lovability framework is especially well suited for businesses that fund innovation with techniques such as metered funding, in which product developers need to prove their value by meeting achieving agreed-upon milestones at stages of development (more about that here). The lovability framework provides a guide for identifying those milestones. To learn how to get started innovating with product development, contact Moonshot. We have extensive experience with tools such as design sprints, metered funding, and the lovability framework.

Mike Edmonds

Mike Edmonds

Managing Director, VP Product