The basis of my blog is this interesting article I read in the McKinsey Journal, from which I quote an excerpt below;
“Consumer electronics gets back to basics
For years, consumer electronics companies have competed primarily through technology, by cramming ever more features into products in a race to offer consumers the latest and greatest. But most people don’t use advanced—and expensive—new features. An attractive market is emerging for easy-to-use consumer electronics products, with features that reflect user demand, priced 30 to 50 percent lower than standard offerings.”
This rings so true when I think of my experience in this regard. How many times have we been drawn to products which have much lesser features but appeal to us because of their ease of use? There are (and have always been) products in the market, which are superior in functionality than the iPod or the iPhone. But why is it that even then iPods or iPhone far outsell any other similar product in the market – just in the last quarter Apple sold upward of 5 million iPhones! Well, many reasons, but one of main reasons is the ease of use of its devices. Even a 3 year old kid knows how to browse for photos on the iPhone (not sure if that’s an advantage!), but could one say that of any other device?
Another parallel one could draw to is our very own field of software applications. There has been a major drive towards usability in the last few years. And usability is more about simple, crisp, easy to use functionality, than just nice looking screens. Nice looking screens are important too, but even that coupled with too much functionality is a usability killer. Thus I think this article offers a lesson in almost every industry, and that is, that one has to find a fine balance between functionality and usability in any product or service up for offering. Because after a certain point, adding more functionality not only adds cost without bringing more demand, but can also be a value destroyer in turning away potential customers due to perceived complexity.
I’d like to end this blog by quoting an interesting experience from early days in consulting. We were implementing a CRM Mobile solution for a customer to replace an in-house solution they had been using. The new solution offered everything that the legacy solution had, and much more in terms of features and functionality. But the Sales Head of the customer insisted that we implement a very thin layer of the functionality offered by the solution, giving the Sales Reps only one instead of multiple options for doing their each of their tasks. As a young consultant I could not understand, why someone would want to use so little of what is possible with the solution. But some years later I understood the wisdom in the approach – offering too much just confuses people, creates more errors and reduces productivity. Very often, as far as usability and value to price is concerned, ‘Less is More’.