The discussion on the proliferation of Apps, and frequent announcements of ‘innovative’ solutions are almost clichéd. Few of us will openly admit that we are sometimes overloaded by technologies; least of all me.
As a technology reviewer, blogger and columnist, I love to try new Apps and technologies. I don’t shy away from innovations or new technologies, but I am extremely selective in adding to my list of frequently used tools. I sometimes feel like that kid in the candy store, but I am frequently underwhelmed by “new technologies.” I have learnt to quickly move on, unless I find a compelling reason to add yet another App or portal to my favorites.
There are only about a twenty Apps that I use most frequently and there are only about a dozen websites I repeatedly visit during the course a day. It seems like I am not alone. In a recent New York Times article “Apple Piles On the Features, and Users Say, ‘Enough!’,” Vindu Goel describes this trend among Apple users:
“With Apple adding fewer major features in recent years, customers have been slower to upgrade their devices. App developers are also pausing in what had been a race to embrace Apple’s latest innovations. Eliran Sapir, chief executive of Apptopia, an analytics firm, said that new apps were being introduced at half the rate they were a year ago.”
Apple Users are saying ‘Enough!,’ so why should Entrepreneurs take note?
Apple has been at the forefront of technology innovation and usability. Although Steve Jobs famously relied on his intuition and is quoted saying “Customers don’t know what they want,” he was also known for his fastidious focus on usability and user interface.
Users who are shying away from innovations coming out of giants like Apple and Facebook are bound to be more skeptical of Apps and solutions from smaller startups. If Apple’s users are beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed by the pace of innovation, startups and entrepreneurs should take note.
As an entrepreneur or a designer, here is what you should do:
- Do not rush to develop an application just because *you* feel there is a need. Users are already overwhelmed by the proliferation of tools and technologies out there and they are not going to be easily swayed by vaporware from yet another startup. Validate the marketability of your idea before you invest considerable time and effort.
- Focus on users and usability. After you have validated your idea and have developed an MVP that you plan to unleash, make sure you review extensive beta and alpha testing feedback on usability. Such feedback can make or break your product.
- Watch for feature overload – Years ago, Microsoft realized that users used less than 5-10% of the features in its stellar MS-Office suite. Facebook too is struggling to find the right balance between consistent innovation and maintaining the ease-of-use of existing features. Lessons for startups is KISS – Keep it Simple and focus on minimizing feature overload.
- Make common sense tradeoffs. If you had to choose between a backend feature that will be useful to lots of users versus a cool new change to the UI, go with the backend. What this means to you is simple: if your product is even mildly successful, you should focus on incremental updates and not drastic upgrades.
The title of this article makes it sound like users are shying away from all innovations. However, the fact is users are shying away from solutions that are not intuitive or easy to understand or use.
Steve Jobs built the Apple empire with a simple “it just works” philosophy of designing systems and applications that are intuitive to use. In a fast changing world, entrepreneurs should learn to step back and focus on the basics, and perhaps take a leaf out of the late Mr. Jobs’ playbook with a focus on usability and user interface.