One of the biggest mistakes I see high-tech companies make is to over feature their products with the thought that more is better. I am here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth! More features usually result in more clutter, confusion and frustration.
When’s the last time you tried to use your universal remote control? Did it leave you feeling good and saying “wow, what a great interface?” Or did it leave you raging mad, and ready to take the remote and throw it at your TV? I know I have come real close on more than one occasion. I bet you have too.
What you and I really need and want are products that are simple and intuitive focusing on the important jobs that we need to get done, and using technology to make is so darn simple, that even my pappy can figure it out (see: grandpa’s remote ). Don’t you think your customers have the same desire?
Why do tech companies over feature products?
There are a lot of reasons tech companies over feature products. Part of the problem is the developers get too close to the design and interfaces, and forget that they aren’t the end users. What seems now obvious to the developers, is totally a mystery to end users, especially new end users. It’s the curse-of-knowledge. Once we get it, we forget others don’t share our knowledge perspective.
This “curse-of-knowledge leads developers to make a false assumption that more is better.
“Why won’t our customer’s want this real cool feature? It’s easy for us to include and we just know there will be some customers who will want this – at least we do and we use our products; ergo, let’s do it.”
More often than not, what results is an over featured solution, trying to be all things to all customers, and not do anything real well for anyone. There’s no “wow” factor gained by including features and functions customers don’t want.
In fact it’s a waste. A waste from the customer’s perspective because she has to figure out how to navigate through the clutter and spend more time learning how to use the product . All she really wanted to do is get a simple job done to make her life easier and happier. Learning curves and a thick manual wasn’t what she wanted. She’s not happy and longs for a better product that makes her life simpler and more fun.
Features for the sake of features is a waste
Any feature and function that customers don’t want or need is a form of waste for the developer as well. All the time spent on adding the feature, and all the time it will require to support the feature in the field – including answering customer support questions on how to use the product is a waste.
A counter intuitive truth: LESS IS MORE.
When it comes to feature sets, less is more. That might seem crazy to some developers, but it’s a proven fact companies like Apple have exploited to create amazingly powerful brands that are designed to make it easy and delightful for customers to get important jobs done by keeping the product simple and eloquent.
A root cause why companies add too many features to their products is that they don’t really understand what important outcomes customers are trying to achieve doing a job. Nor how to differentiate from one job-executor group to the next.
When we look at the full spectrum of people trying to get a specific jobs done, we discover people struggle differently when executing their jobs. Using opportunity scores to analyze outcomes and constraints, we uncover natural segments within the data set by clustering opportunities scores into logical subsets.
These subsets represent unique product opportunities for us to innovate and create viable new products. We choose the subsets we believe represent best opportunity where we can develop and launch superior solutions (i.e. beat the pants off the competition). These become our target markets.
Each target group will have its own set of unique desired outcomes that we use to define the product requirements the development team can innovate around. The resulting product will be a well-honed product with the right set of features and functions, that when presented to the targeted group, will be embraced and “hired.”
Knowing what’s different and what’s the same across the targeted groups allows us to create a flexible platform that provides a market driven roadmap we use to efficiently capture greater market share by rolling out tailored solutions for each target job segment. Apple’s iPod is an example of roadmap that is based on different job-executor groups. Each version addressed a different set of desired outcomes from one segment to the next. It allowed Apple to innovate and be confident that a marketed existed with plenty of pent up demand.
Steve Jobs got it right: simplicity and eloquence matter
Steve Jobs once said: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
It is hard work yes, but you don’t have to be Steve Jobs to figure it out. By using the tools and methods provided by the Jobs-To-Be-Done (J2BD) innovation framework, we can gain a deep understanding of what customers want, segment them into unique groups based on important outcomes shared within the group, and create solutions that bring satisfaction and maybe even joy to getting customer’s job done better than they could have ever imagined.
Less is more, don’t bloat your products with wasteful features!