Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Making complexity simple (and cheap, too)

It was refreshing to see this blog post by Ken McHugh, a software architect at Cognitive Edge. Ken describes upgrading the operating system on his computer. Based on past experience, he expected the worst.

Instead, he was delighted. Even though the new system was a significant upgrade, it was cheap, installed quickly, did not crash, and even took up less space on his hard disk. The title of his post, Why Did It Work?, which speaks volumes about our expectations, and also about the value of delighting ones' users.

Feature creep on things like cameras, remote controls, software, and web sites makes many products less rather than more useful to normal users. Trying to navigate all the dials, buttons, and menus is sometimes a nightmare, when all you want to do is take a picture or write a quick note. This is starting to produce a backlash, as described by Wired in a recent article titled The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple is Just Fine.

Ken's experience shows that adding features and complexity can be made simple - and cheap, too - if the company behind it is focused on what users really care about.