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, we ought to instead 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, which I will get into in a moment, because it feels like something that affects 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:
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 work well, solve a well-scoped problem, and deliver value.
This is what is meant by “viable.” And it’s not easy finding the balance between minimum and viable. That’s the purpose of this maxim in the first place—to challenge teams to ship the smallest morsel of experience that delivers true value. That is a more charitable interpretation of MVPs.
Instead, we’re given a brainless Ray Bolger with SLCs as the solution. It’s not a fair criticism.
The raison d’etre of this article is New Clothes, and this brings the lesson for content designers. 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:
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.
Sure, adding a belt to a dress makes a “new” outfit, but it still doesn’t solve that you haven’t a thing to wear.
Sprinkling on new words doesn’t always solve the issue.
I’d argue that in this case, we’re worse off. The concept of MVP is about navigating the tension between two competing variables. Now we have three terms to interpret, and is “lovability” easier to define 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.