Simplicity

10 Dec ’04

Recently a friend asked me to help her choose a home fax machine.  We went through the options and she made her choice.  A few days later she called and told me she wanted a second one – for the cottage.  "But you already have one at the cottage …".  "Yes, but it works differently and I don’t want to remember how to use 2 different fax machines."

As we were discussing it, I remembered that the same friend had asked me, years ago, to help her buy a new TV and VCR.  At the time, the technology had evolved quite a bit from her equipment, and the new VCR was, well, complicated.  And now, instead of just starting a tape on the VCR, one had to change a setting on the TV and the VCR to watch.  Recording was a whole new problem, and the manual, of course, was a nightmare ("to make to record, must you press 2 buttons top and start with red").  Months later she told me she had stopped watching movies at home – too complicated …..

And that’s when it hit me.

There is a market – a growing market, based on demographics – of people who have limited time and personal energy for the accelerating complexity of modern life.  And they have money.  Money they would gladly spend to make life …. simpler.  And with few exceptions, nobody is paying any attention.

Best Buy and Future Shop have started providing tech support services because so much of their wireless networking equipment is being returned – too complicated.  The digital photo companies are scrambling to design easy print systems because it’s all too … complicated.  Ad infinitum.  But these are very small steps.  Gadgets get smaller, lighter, more feature laden, more powerful, always, new, new, NEW!  But never easier, simpler, plainer.  That’s not the way to get noticed.

Really?

Doesn’t this suggest that there is an opportunity for someone ready to radically rethink how this type of product is designed?

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