by Jonathan Jaeger
Everything is moving to simple. The Internet is barely an adult, but despite having more and more experience online every year we all gravitate toward the simple. Simple means products that create value in the most user-friendly and intuitive ways. Clean design and utilitarian beats out complexity and feature creep any day.
What made the iPod and iPhone so popular? Of course viral commercials helped a lot, they were a pop culture phenomenon, but it was the easy-to-use interface and storage capabilities of the iPod that started the most recent digital revolution. Solving a real need in the simplest way possible. Steve Jobs did everything he could to take away features, not tack them on. You want an extra USB port on your computer? Sorry. You want a bigger keyboard on your iPhone? Sorry. Not. Going. To. Happen.
The new online era follows the same philosophy. Pareto’s Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, dictates that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This means, for example, that 20% of your product’s features account for 80% of the time spent using that product (or 80% of the value of the product, or any other metric that you deem important). The fact of the matter is that companies like Apple are not successful for adding more and more features, instead they highlight the features that dictate 80% of the customer’s needs.
One problem that arises is separating the majority of people from the individual. If you try to appease everyone by fulfilling every individual’s request, you’ll end up satisfying no one. You’ll end up with a laundry list of things that you need to change and ultimately hurt the user experience. This is as true for a technology company like Apple as it is for a touring artist. You can’t give every fan what they want. You can give them your undivided attention, perhaps, but you can’t always give them what they want. Whether you’re designing a website to highlight yourself as an artist, planning how you will turn music into a business, or building a tech product, know that everyone wants something simple. Bite the bullet and get rid of “that one more thing” you wanted to add because you thought it was necessary. Most people probably won’t need it or want it.
Focus on the 20% of the things that will take you 80% of the way. The rest you can focus on after you nailed that first 20%. And if doing extra in some way hurts what you accomplished with that first 20%, then forget about it.