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Do Less Better

Everybody wants more.

At least that’s what they say.

We can be led astray by this, of course, because we can prove almost any point when we go to consumers and ask them “what if we also gave you this?”

They will almost always say “yes.”

This is true of new features to our products and new choices in our portfolios.

We say we want a zillion choices then become so paralyzed by these choices that we very often opt out of the decision to choose altogether in favor of something simpler and more familiar.

This, for example, is a big advantage of traditional radio which, for all its sins and insufficiencies, is anything but complicated and unfamiliar. It’s also why so many electronic gadgets are returned to the store – not because they are broken but because making them work is so confusing they are as good as broken.

It’s why every radio listener asks for more variety – then actually listens to the station with only 250 songs.

It’s why surveys with a particular agenda indicate that folks want radio chips in their mobile phones, even as those folks fail to shop for phones that contain FM chips and generally fail to use them when they’re built in.

Meanwhile, consumers rarely tell us what we should take away. “It’s good for somebody, I’m sure,” they reason, “even if not for me.” So keep that ever-so-brief newscast in your morning show even though I go someplace else for news, will you?

From the book Simple


John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design and a longtime student of simplicity, points out that most people are wired to want more. “More is safety,” he says. When a consumer is making purchasing choices, the product with more features may seem appealing—but that appeal doesn’t necessarily endure after the purchase has been made. ‘At the point of desire you want more,’ Maeda has observed, ‘but at the point of daily use, you want less.’

That last point is critical: At the point of desire you want more, but at the point of daily use, you want less.

Your opportunity is to do less better.

Your opportunity is also to find ways to organize more variety such that every consumer gets the “less” that he or she most wants.

This is one of the major problems with directory services – laundry lists of podcasts or radio stations or songs or whatever. It’s not about being vast and comprehensive, it’s about being organized for simplicity. Personally, I find many of these services are anything but. Hence the value of Google’s search page – whatever you want is one search term away.

Focus not on giving listeners or consumers more, focus instead on making that more “less” and making it ever-easier to access, consume, and enjoy.

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