Feature ridden complexity not the way of the future / by Cory

thumb220x275-images794007.jpgConsumers are becoming aware that the more features a product has, the less easy it is to use. They have demanded feature ridden products without understanding the impact on usability. Technology companies in competition have been compelled to meet these demands...cramming as many features and functionality as possible so that their products can be everything to everyone. These products do a thousand things poorly, and nothing great. The success of the iPod is a perfect example of a product that does one thing extremely well...and is a good indicator of things to come. I believe that we'll start to see more products like the iPod...instead of 1 product that does a thousand things, we'll see 5 or 10 products that meet specific needs.

The CEO of Phillips, Paul Zeven, recently made some enlightening comments on this topic and shared some results from a study they performed:

"Clearly, the American consumer believes that we are still cramming features and functions into our products simply because we think they will sell or in response to fierce industry competition.

We need to change that. As makers of tomorrow's gadgets and gizmos, we need to take a lesson from the success of Google. It rescued users from complexity by presenting the simplest Internet search interface possible. Another Web site, Craigslist, has done the same to maintain simplicity and to-the-point information at users' fingertips.

The fact that some products have been able to deliver this should have raised the bar for all technology products. My industry needs to better understand the impact technology is having on our lives and find ways to simplify the overall consumer experience. And consumers should demand that we deliver this, always. After all, what is the purpose of designing a product for consumers if they are not able to use it?"

Study Results:

  • more than half of Americans believe manufacturers are trying to satisfy perceived consumer needs that may not be real.
  • two out of three Americans have lost interest in a technology product because it seemed too complex to set up or operate
  • Only 13 percent of Americans believe technology products in general are easy to use.
  • only one in four consumers reports using the full range of features on most new technology products.