My post on the Coder/Manager dilemma got me thinking about the unintended consequences of feature additions to products (specifically web-based, but not exclusively). I’ve come up with a theorem that is very much a work in progress.
I hereby thus propose “George’s Law of the Inverse Relationship between Features and User Friendliness.” For every added feature above base functionality, user friendliness is reduced by .075 of the existent base unit total for user friendliness.
Let U = user-friendliness. Let F = features.
So, if we assume (for easy math), a base of 10; that is, you have a site/UI where the features (F) = 10 and the user friendliness (U) = 10, and you add a new feature, your features = 11, but your user friendliness = 9.25; another feature added: F = 12; U = 8.55. And so on.
Don’t get me wrong, new features are crucial, and can increase user friendliness, but only if the new feature(s) replace(s) an older feature. In this manner, your feature list doesn’t grow, and thus your user friendliness is not reduced.
The best example I can give of this doesn’t come from the web world. Rather, it’s the Flip Video Camera.
This camera strips away all the features that 99.9% of the video camera owners never use anyway, and takes a dead-simple approach. Customers love it. The NYT calls it “One of the most significant electronic products of the year.” It’s wildly successful. It succeeded because it focused on what the customers really wanted/needed, and worked to give those features to them in the best way possible. Axiomatically, the only way you can give these customers their most cared-about features in the best way possible is to eliminate ALL of the features they don’t care about. Flip’s challenge moving forward is to innovate, and, yes, add features without screwing up what makes their offering so great. This will mean not only adding features, but also subtracting older ones that are no longer relevant.