We all want to keep our products simple and have a lot of capabilities at the same time, yet the two seem to contradict each other. To put some light on this matter read the quote below and guess who said it before going on reading the post:
Make it simple and people won't buy. Given a choice, they will take the item that does more. Features win over simplicity, even when people realize that it is accompanied by more complexity. You do it too, I bet. Haven't you ever compared two products side by side, comparing the features of each, preferring the one that did more? Why shame on you, you are behaving, well, behaving like a normal person.
When a friend shared this quote with me, my first guess was that this was some GE executive talking about washing machines or stereos. It turns out that this quote was from Don Norman, the author of The Design of Everyday Things, former vice president at Apple and the demigod of the design world.
Norman is one of the most prominent usability practitioners in the world, and he has made an entire career of helping people understand how to improve design. That is precisely why it's a bit surprising to hear him advocate for companies to make complex, feature heavy and hard to use products that promise a lot to their users. While it's easy to follow the logic of more features = more sales, don't most users want simplicity?
The Simplicity vs. Capability Contradiction
Let's dig a bit deeper into what Norman is trying to convey to us. People want more capability (i.e. more features). People also want ease of use (i.e. simplicity). These two statements contradict each other. How can we keep products simple and packed with features at the same time? What Norman is telling us is that extra capability does not require more features the same way ease of use does not require simplicity. What people really want is an easy way to use devices. That's all.
So When Should I Add Features?
As we mentioned before, if you're just starting to grow a product, adding more features will not necessarily create more revenue. You need to focus on the core features of your product. Here is a quote from Isaac Hall, founder of Recurly.com, which had the same functionality as Dropbox, but lost because it made the mistake of adding too many features early in the game.
Nintendo is yet another example of a company that focused on core competency with Wii early on and started adding features as the product matured.
In conclusion, there are two things we hope you'll remember from this post:
1. Simplicity works early on; adding features and capabilities is best done when the product is mature.
2. People don't care about simplicity or quantity of features too much. What they really want is usable products. Products that solve a problem for them and products that they can understand. Your job is to make every feature you add usable and understandable for your customers.