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Simplicity isn't Simple

In life, it is usually easier to say no than yes. But in product development the opposite is more likely true -- it's hard to turn down a major customer asking you to add more features to your product.

Resist the temptation. Feature creep adds back-end complexity, reduces usability, and introduces mediocrity. Simplicity adds value, because so few companies do it well.

Simplicity isn't Simple

Just look at the rowboats pictured above to get a feeling of the grace and utility that simple design brings.

"The worst thing a CEO or the head of engineering can do is to overreact whenever a customer, even an important customer, demands a new feature or insists on a new service -- especially if that new feature or service risks cluttering the simplicity of the offering." So says business author and entrepreneur William C. Taylor, in a new Harvard Business Online post, The Simple Secrets of ING Direct and
ING Direct is the fastest-growing bank in the United States. And it has reached that status by offering less, not more. "The bank offers a few savings accounts, a handful of certificates of deposit, maybe ten different mutual funds. And that's it. Credit cards? No way. Online brokerage? Perish the thought."

His second example of simple soul is 37Signals, creator of Web-based business productivity tools. Taylor quotes the company's founder, Jason Fried, who says that if you try to make everyone happy with your products, you end up with mediocrity. "Our company has opinions, and we build products based on those opinions. We need more opinionated companies."

The 1960s pop band Three Dog Night sang a song called "Easy to be Hard." In today's business world, it's better (but not easy) to be simple. What's your favorite simple product or service? Where has bloatware run amok?

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