Why Features Dont Matter Any More - Page 2

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10 fundamental rules for technology based on user experience:

1) More features isnt better, its worse. Feature overload is becoming a real issue. The last thing a customer wants is confusion—and whats more confusing than comparing technical specifications, unless you are an expert? Only nerds get a kick out of reading feature lists. (I know— Im one of them.)

2) You cant make things easier by adding to them. Simplicity means getting something done in a minimum number of simple steps. Practically anything could be made simpler— but you dont get there by adding features.

3) Confusion is the ultimate deal-breaker. Confuse a customer, and you lose him or her. And nothing confuses people more easily than complex features and unintuitive functionalities.

4) Style matters. Despite what nerds may think, style isnt fluff. On the grand scale of things, style is as important as features—if not more so. Style and elegance can contribute significantly to a good user experience. But style isnt just about looks, its a global approach. Fancy packaging isnt enough.

5) Only features that provide a good user experience will be used. Why did the iPod catch on? Because it was so self-explanatory, and it remains the market leader in terms of user experience. Sure, it may be excruciatingly difficult to make devices like digital media players or computers easy to use; but if a product is complex, intimidating or confusing, its chances for success are minimal.

6) Any feature that requires learning will only be adopted by a small fraction of users. Learning new features, even ones that a user might find interesting or intriguing, is a real problem: Nobody has time. Getting consumers to upgrade and adopt new features is one of the biggest challenges software publishers face these days.

7) Unused features are not only useless, they can slow you down and diminish ease of use. Over time products become convoluted and increasingly complex to use. The frustration of not finding the one feature you need in a flurry of stuff you dont need, want or even understand, can be considerable. (Ever heard of a program called Word?)

8) Users do not want to think about technology: What really counts is what it does for them. The best tool is the one you dont notice. Why do you think pen and paper remain vastly popular for brainstorming? Because you dont have to think about them. Pencils dont crash.

9) Forget about the killer feature. Welcome to the age of the killer user experience. When technology achieves something desirable without being in your face, when it knows how to integrate itself into your wishes and desires without distracting from them, thats when technology lives up to its potential. Unfortunately, its not that simple to get there.

10) Less is difficult; thats why less is more. Lets face it: its usually harder to do simple things exceedingly well than to just pile up features. The 80/20 rule applies here too: Do well what 80 percent of your users do all the time, and you create a good user experience.

Andreas Pfeiffer is founder of The Pfeiffer Report on Emerging Trends and Technologies. He can be reached at pfeiffer@pfeifferreport.com.


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