I recently came across an article called “I hate MVPs. So do your customers. Make it SLC instead.” In it, Jason Cohen advocates for replacing the concept of Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) with the concept of Simple Lovable Complete (SLC) products.
Cohen’s gripe is summed up in one sentence:
MVPs are too M and almost never V. Customers see that, and hate it.
Instead of shipping the “minimum” thing, he says we ought to build something “simple” and “complete.” And customers should love using it too.
I’m writing about this because it’s a fascinating in-the-wild specimen of the Strawman Fallacy as well as example of New Clothes, two things that affect content designers all the time.
The strawman fallacy (not to be confused with a straw man proposal), is where you create a clunky caricature of the idea you are trying to refute and attack that instead. A preferred tactic in strawmanning is the uncharitable interpretation of terminology, seen here:
…Google Docs was simple, but also complete. This is decidedly different from the classic MVP, which by definition isn’t complete (and in fact is embarrassing). “Simple” is good, “incomplete” is not.
Cohen positions MVPs as flawed because they are “incomplete” (which makes them “unlovable” and therefore something customers hate to use). Yes, MVPs are not “complete” but critical to their nature is that they solve a problem pretty well.
Putting aside that Google kept adding to Google Docs (so it wasn’t “complete” as Cohen says it was), he’s deliberately misinterpreting “viable.”
The purpose of this maxim in the first place is to challenge teams to ship the smallest morsel of experience that delivers true value. That’s the hard part. Is figuring out what is viable.
New Clothes is where you take some concept that is being interpreted in a way you don’t like, and rather than challenge the interpretation (or identify an actual problem), you come up with a fresh label and declare the old concept a hot mess. (See most rebrands.)
With MVPs and SLCs, he seems to be doing this:
Instead of “Minimum” which sounds sad, let’s say “Simple.” Fine, I don’t mind this, but “minimum” never bothered me.
Next, instead of “viable” which Cohen is choosing to interpret really narrowly, lets split that into two concepts: lovable and complete.
As a content designer, this raises all sorts of alarm bells for me. Cohen is framing this as a terminology problem, but it’s really an interpretation problem. It’s not that MVPs are bad, it’s that badly made MVPs are bad.
I’d argue that in this case, we’re worse off.
The concept of MVP was about navigating the tension between two competing forces: the need to be small (minimum) and the desire to be useful (viable).
Now we have three terms to interpret. So you have to ask, is this complete, simple, and “lovable?” How is that easier? And is “lovability” easier to target than “viable”? (Brian De Haaff wrote a whole book on it and I was still a bit confused.)
In my humble opinion, this is reaching into the cabinet for New Clothes instead of solving the Real Problem.