Make That Device Simple

For some odd reason, technology industry refuses to learn the lesson of simplicity. Instead, they try and cram as many features into a device, be it a mobile phone, a MP3 player, a media center or a computer.

I fail to understand why it is hard for the industry to learn from the success of Blackberry, iPod, and TiVo. (Okay, TiVo hasn’t been that successful financially, but it is still a simple and easy experience.) Nicholas Carr, recently lamented, “Even Google, Amazon, and Yahoo, not to mention all the Web 2.0 mini businesses, seem intent on waging feature wars that mean a whole lot to a very few and nothing at all to everyone else. At this point, the whole tired affair seems to point not to an overabundance of creativity but to a lack of imagination.” Jason

University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business researchers Roland Rust and Rebecca Hamilton just finished a study on a phenomenon they describe as “feature fatigue — the frustration that occurs when consumers are overwhelmed and confused by the number of features on their electronic devices and other gadgets.” As part of their research, the duo found that though initially consumers attracted to feature packed products, they are soon confused by it all, and this can lead to dissatisfaction with the product and the company that manufactures it. Or as Jason Fried likes to say, “less is more dude.”

“Simpler is better – despite popular wisdom and a marketplace ingrained in the creation of products that are ever smaller, faster and more feature laden,” said Roland Rust, “Our research showed that consumers will be initially attracted to the mobile phone that ‘does everything’ for example, but once they get it home they become frustrated,” Rust said. “Companies can actually make more money in the long run by making products that are simpler than what customers think they want. The smarter strategy is to design simple, dedicated devices like the iPod, that do one thing very well, to build long-term satisfaction and profitable customer relationships.”

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