I recently presented an idea that basically claims that gratuitous features lead to low customer satisfaction. Certainly not rocket science, but with the proliferation of useless features on so many of the tools upon which our modern lives are built, I felt someone had to speak up.
I presented a couple of products that had eschewed gratuitous features in order to create a satisfying customer experience: The Flip camera and Google’s “classic” search were my examples. Speaking of Google, I recently read a good article on the development of Chrome. In it they mention how the development team had attempted to strip away any unnecessary features:
When deciding what buttons and features to include, the team began with the mental exercise of eliminating everything, then figuring out what to restore. The back button? No-brainer. The forward button? Less essential, but it survived. But if you’re a big fan of the browser status bar â€” that meter that tells you what percent of a page has loaded â€” you’re out of luck with Chrome.
The trade-off: less features, but more speed. That’s a no-brainer. Anyone is going to opt for speed. Customers will be far happier with a super-fast browser with less (hardly used) features, than with an average-speed browser with a bunch of (extraneous) features.
So…Google clearly gets this relationship.
You know who doesn’t? Microsoft.
They continue to attempt to woo customers away from the Siren-like call of the iPod by adding new features to the Zune. I’ll make no snarky Zune comments. Instead, I just have to wonder why they don’t look for some lacking core competency of the iPod – they do exist – and come up with a solution and hammer the hell out of it.
For example, if they stripped away a lot of Zune features that – if sales are any measure – no one cares about, and instead offer an mp3 player with, say, absolutely killer battery life. Or an mp3 player with stunning audio fidelity. Or an mp3 player with a scratch-resistant surface. Or an mp3 player with a self-serve replaceable battery. Or an mp3 player with killer a replacement/repair policy.
All of the above are things I hear iPod users complaining about all the time. You know what I don’t hear them complaining about? Precisely the features that Zune will be introducing: being able to buy what you hear from FM radio, etc.
Do it, Microsoft! Do it! Strip away all the unnecessary features. Stop trying to compete with the innovative genius that is Apple (who will be launching a new iteration of the iPod tomorrow, that will likely take any of the worthwhile features that Zune is introducing and present them in a far superior way), and instead focus on a select feature (or two) and just kill it.
To present my “law” in a more positive way: Less features presented in an extraordinary manner leads to greater customer satisfaction.