The Return of Simplicity?

Phone designers have raced for many years to come up with more and more features, connecting with just about anything that emits…  These features are designed to differentiate one product from another, but are they?  They likely confuse more than anything else.  When was the last time you used NFC on your phone?

Feature Bloat

“Tacking features on to products makes them harder to use” say Roland T. Rust, Debora Viana Thompson and Rebecca Hamilton (Harvard Business Review), in part because we have to learn and remember where to find and how to use these features.   To me, the traditional KitchenAid stand mixer (see photo) is the ultimate response to “feature bloat”.  The current mixer was designed in 1949 and has not changed much since.  It has only two main controls (lock or lift and speed) and a few attachments. In 1997 the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art selected it as an icon of American design.

Uplifting the Brand

In a 2013 article entitled “The Secret to Successful Product Design? Simplicity.”, Debra Kaye articulates why simple products can be successful:

  • Clean, simple silhouettes with fewer bells and whistles reduce the message to an idea that is both immediate and clear
  • Icons that embody the prime characteristics of a brand or product are memorable and instantly identifiable on the shelf or online.
  • We are both culturally and biologically programmed to gravitate toward those things that we recognize. They give us a feeling of comfort and security.

Capability versus Usability

Developers and engineers (I am one of them) are still pushing for products and services with more capabilities when we really need greater usability.  Hopefully, marketing-savvy executives will learn from Kitchenaid’s success and happily return to more simplicity…

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