Product Features When is too Many too Much
Last week, Editorially, a browser-based collaborative writing tool, announced they were closing their doors. I love(d) using the text editor -- it was a tool I used on a nearly daily basis. Their announcement stated "Editorially has failed to attract enough users to be sustainable" which is an unfortunate, yet understandable, situation.
I was saddened to hear about the tool's end, and apparently I wasn't the only one. Editorially had an incredibly loyal fanbase that was satisfied with the product because it presented a wonderful solution to an otherwise complex problem (collaborative writing). The seamless bridging of two worlds -- writing and editing -- was made possible due to a simple workflow with uncomplicated components. It was one of their greatest strengths: finding the balance of features required for the process.
Less is Often More
Many products and services offer too much; there is a notion that addition equates to satisfaction: "The customer is happy with what we have, therefore if we add more, their happiness will also be more!" It's crude but common.
But customer satisfaction does not fluctuate congruently; bells and whistles do not a happy customer make. There is a certain point where an overabundance of features will be ineffective, where no amount of order and organization will rescue it. Options, especially if not presented in a properly designed manner, can quickly overwhelm customers and cause confusion and discontent.
Offer Something of Service, Nothing More
Products and services should offer a set of features that facilitate a certain process, and nothing more. "You can't be everything to everyone" is advice usually given on a personal level, but it is also true for products. This is why we do audience research, persona development, and user experience design: to identify specific groups of people with targeted pain points and formulate solutions that can alleviate these problems. The best tools and services we use on a daily basis are the ones that solve something for us, whether it's better, faster, easier, or more useful. (Of course, it can go the other way as well: a surplus of specificity will not be useful to a large enough population.)
Editorially hit that sweet spot of being feature-rich, but not too complex. Their dedication to a single dilemma was distinct, intended, and, most importantly, it worked. As such the service was a beacon of proper design. Design is not about providing something pretty, but something useful.
When thinking about your clients and customers, take a step back and note the things you can strip away instead of the ones you can add. Yes, less is more.
(Note: this article refers to Editorially in the past tense -- was, had, etc. -- yet it is still operational until May 30. You can read more about the service in their blog post: Goodbye.)