Why features don’t matter anymore: The new laws of digital technology

“The iPod was never sold on the grounds of its technical merits: Apple hit a gold-mine by marketing a cool new way of integrating music in your life. Even when Apple announced the iPod with video, it presented it not as the best multi-media player in the universe, but as a cool new way of watching “Desperate Housewives” and other TV shows,” Andreas Pfeiffer writes for Ubiquity. “In the seemingly never-ending debate about Apple’s successes, announcements, new products and predicted-but-unannounced über-gadgets, features and technical specifications often seem to dominate the debate. Yet if there’s one lesson to be learned from the company’s recent successes, it is a very simple one: features don’t matter any more.”

“As computing and digital devices move more and more into the consumer space, features and functionalities will increasingly take the back-seat as motivators for technology adoption: as the iPod abundantly shows, user experience (along with a strong brand, and clever marketing) is much more important for the success of a device then technical specifications. Web designers have grasped the importance of good user experience a long time ago; now it is time the big technology providers to understand where the industry is headed,” Pfeiffer writes.

Pfeiffer’s 10 fundamental rules for the age of user experience technology:
1) More features isn’t better, it’s worse.
2) You can’t make things easier by adding to them.
3) Confusion is the ultimate deal-breaker.
4) Style matters
5) Only features that provide a good user experience will be used.
6) Any feature that requires learning will only be adopted by a small fraction of users.
7) Unused features are not only useless, they can slow you down and diminish ease of use.
8) Users do not want to think about technology: what really counts is what it does for them.
9) Forget about the killer feature. Welcome to the age of the killer user-experience.
10) Less is difficult, that’s why less is more

Full article with explanations of the 10 rules cited above here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Kennytosh” for the heads up.]

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48 Comments

  1. >> 3) Confusion is the ultimate deal-breaker.

    Then why does Dell sell orders of magnitude more machines than Apple?

    >> 4) Style matters

    See above.

    >> 5) Only features that provide a good user experience will be used.

    Why does Windows have 85+% market share?

    P.S. First?

  2. Hmm. In computers, I disagree, but in portable devices such as the iPod, I fully agree.
    After all, that’s Microsoft’s problem and “Origami” is being infected with it. Microsoft is known for bundling 10,000 features into one little box, screaming about it, and then trying to aim it at a customer who’s only going to use about 1 or 2 of those features.
    Simplicity wins. Escalator over stairs. Scissors over pocket knife. Sure, the pocket knife can do a lot of different things that scissors can’t, but scissors do one thing and do it well.
    That’s why sporks suck.
    Wait, unrelated.

  3. Voyager, I’d imagine that it’s because people are tied down to using Windows moreso than they think it’s a better machine. Dell came to rise when Apple wasn’t following the criteria above, and now Apple is working on reversing that order.

    Ask us that in 10 years.

    Windows has 85% market share because the MacOS was stagnant when it came to rise.

    Now, I’d imagine a higher percentage of people are satisfied with their Macs than they are with their Dells- by a significant margin. Food for thought on future trends.

  4. What really set things off was iTunes, the original, pre-iPod, non-iTMS version.

    Here was a program that you could finally be your own DJ, rip the songs and manage them to play like you wish. This gave the original Mac users tremendous power to shape the content that came to their ears, instead of having to blindly listen though a whole cd and all the filler songs.

    Being able to take that with you of course was the next mission, thus the iPod.

    Now the fever was on, people were ripping music from their cd collections and playing it on this white brick device.

    Then came iTMS and better iPods.

    And to tell you a secret, Apple didn’t invent the iPod, some unattached engineer did and was rejected by other hardware makers before showing up at Apple and being hired on.

    That’s why the first two generation iPods look the same, the guy who created the iPod was running the show then, then he was canned and Johnathan Ives redesigned it.

    Another thing, the iTunes visuals wasn’t created by Apple either.

    But we all know the iPod HiFi was, don’t we kiddies. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  5. Voyager, I think Windows and PCs have done well because for most people they are the only available options. Most computer store sales-staff don’t have Apple to sell, don’t know much about Macs and would promise a world of compatibility with every PC sale.

    Anyway, outside of the PC market-share example I think the ten rules are valid. I see the Nintendo DS’ strong sales compared to those of the PSP as proof of the simpler is better concept. It’s also Tivo, rather than the more complicated Media Centre PCs that is simpler and more widely used.

  6. voyager,

    yea this chicks not that bright. the point of technology is it’s supposed to be a tool. it’s not an end, and it’s not hard to use.

    of course more features is bad, BECAUSE more features usually means convergence.

    unless it’s software, which means a malleable interface. but she’s not smart enough to figure that one out. she’ll just keep on trucking with the ‘the ipod sucks’ line.. *shrug

    and for the record, PEOPLE don’t use Dell, PEOPLE don’t evangelize Dell, BUSINESSES buy Dells.

    Since the person footing the bill is different from the one actually using the damn thing (the begrudging employees) these rules, or any rules, don’t apply. It’s a commodity.

  7. Rubish – mobile phones have crap interfaces and more features than you can think of but sell by the million.

    “Web designers have grasped the importance of good user experience a long time ago”

    Try telling that to MDN and its migrane inducing colour scheme…

  8. Pfeiffer’s 10 rules make perfect sense when it comes to designing a great product. But that doesn’t mean that all popular products have obeyed the rules, not all popular products are great.

    The key rule is #5, where he talks about the user experience. That is the absolute key rule. If the user experience is bad, the product will feel wrong. The iPod did well because of iTunes and iTMS working with it to create a great user experience.

    Apple have long worked in a way that’s compatible with those rules, you can see the same principles in the original 1984 Mac . The basic premise behind Apple designing something is to first of all identify what people are wanting to do with it, then how that need can be served in the simplest way possible. All unnecessary features and clutter are stripped away and what remains is then refined to the highest possible degree.

    Any fool can add features, but it takes a genius to identify what’s really important and eliminate everything else.

  9. Voyager…

    >> 3) Confusion is the ultimate deal-breaker.

    Then why does Dell sell orders of magnitude more machines than Apple?

    —The article is about the iPod vs other mp3 players, not personal computers. Can you say: “Dell DJ” ?

    >> 4) Style matters

    See above.

    —See my above

    >> 5) Only features that provide a good user experience will be used.

    Why does Windows have 85+% market share?

    —Why does Apple have a similar market share for mp3 players?

    P.S. First?

    —No… third.

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