Simplicity Sells

The assumption that, in order to make a product 'better', one has to add more features and complexity is common in the software industry. This is despite the many, many times you hear developers and marketers ridicule Microsoft's decade-long descent into bloatware production. In marketing, where the driver is to tick as many boxes as possible, this approach often makes even a straightforward product seem needlessly complex.

There are of course always features that you must add (from the development perspective) and advertise (from the marketing perspective) in order to fulfil a specific customer need but adding simplicity is perhaps one of the most profitable routes to improving your product and the all important initial reaction to it.

Buried as we are in familiarity with our product, we all occasionally fail to notice that incremental feature enhancements (a small change to a known feature set from our perspective), often lead to bigger barriers for new prospects approaching the product for the first time. Regular outsider-led examinations of the product are therefore essential to re-connect with the prospects view.

These may lead to re-examining assumptions about how users wish to interact with the product, hard to do given that we all have preconceived and often passionately held opinions about how our products ought to be used.

They may lead, if you can identify specific constituencies within your target market, to cannibalising your offering into several different products with a more logical flow which make them more suitable for simplification.

But the important thing to note here is that simplification is not the same as simple. Complex tasks can be achieved with a simple design approach just as simple tasks can be done in an unnecessarily complex way.