Why Features Don't Matter Anymore

6) Any feature that requires learning will only be adopted by a small fraction of users.

Learning new features, even the ones that a user might find interesting or intriguing, is a real issue: nobody has time. Getting consumers to upgrade and adopt new features is one of the biggest problems software publishers face these days.

Why Features Don't Matter Anymore: The New Laws of Digital Technology [acm.org]

Read this article. Please go read this article.

The Internet is so filled with die hard geeks we seem to have forgotten that there is actually a whole world of users out there who don't give a shit about computers. Because the Internet allows us to connect to geeks around the world, it seems like computer literate people are all around us. It's an illusion.

Most people don't care about computers, they use a computer because they MUST, not because it's so fucking great to be using a computer all day. They use word processors and email to correspond about subjects completely unrelated to computers, the internet or technology. I know, its hard to fathom, but trust me on this.

These people don't care about your flexible, brilliant architecture. They don't wish to tweak settings. They don't want to spend more that 10 consecutive seconds confused. They just want simple, they want to get their task done and move on. They don't want to spend time learning anything because they know they'll probably just forget it long before they'll need to do it again anyway.

If you are selling to committees (i.e. expensive business software packages) then competing on features is somewhat effective. It's the checkbox game when there is a big committee, mostly because design aesthetic and usability are far too subjective to be discussed by committees. Instead, Brand X and Brand Y are pitted head to head on a big chart, and the one with the most checkboxes has the visible advantage.

People think "Well, it does have a SOAP api, in case we ever decide to go that way..." and never check to find out that the SOAP apis are buggy and barely useful because they aren't evaluating the software on the SOAP merits. But they feel better knowing something is there already in place, just in case. This is why so much enterprise software is barely usable crap, this is why your office phone has 100 features that you can't figure out how to use.

But when creating software for individuals, simplicity sells. Lots of features, especially the "powerful" features users need explained to them, do just the opposite and make people feel insignificant, stupid and most of all powerless. People just want to get a very specific thing done, and then MOVE ON. They don't want to learn anything, they aren't interested in catching the next wave of technology. It's not because they're dumb, it's not because they're lazy, it's because they have other interests that occupy the bulk of their thoughts, and they aren't computer related.

Now go read the article.

Bonus link: Why Johnny Can't Program

Posted February 28, 2006 1:37 PM