Saturday, October 13, 2007

Is it really the number of features that matter?

Finding the balance between features and simplicity ...

"Do you really think is the lack of features what makes a software better, or is it the “illusion” of simplicity (hiding the less used features, and emphasizing the common ones).

I don’t think the number of features is what makes software better or worse. One more or one less isn’t really the issue.

What matters is the editing. Software needs an editor like a writer needs an editor or a museum needs a curator. Someone with a critical eye and the ability to say “No, that doesn’t belong” or “There’s a better way to say this.” Physical constraints create natural limits for books and museums. Books have pages and museums have wall space. Software, on the other hand, is virtual, boundless. Anything is possible. When anything is possible someone inevitably tries to make something do everything. And the more something does the harder it becomes to understand, grasp, and use. So the key is deciding what makes it and what doesn’t. This applies both globally (the entire inventory of features) and locally (what someone can do on the current screen they’re looking at).

It’s not about ten features versus seven, it’s about the right four versus the wrong eight (or the right eight versus the wrong four). It’s also about the right place and the right time to reveal the right features. Every feature, widget, or interface control competes. Loading up the screen with stuff that is used 10% of the time means the stuff that’s used 90% of the time has to fight for attention. That’s not a good experience. The experience should be light, flowing, and comfortable, not heavy, clunky, and frustrating.

Software is a recipe: Too much of any ingredient can throw off the balance. The wrong ingredients can spoil a dish. Great software is perfectly seasoned—just enough salt, just enough pepper. Too much of any one thing, or not enough of another, and you’ll send it back.

When we talk about Less Software we’re really talking about balance. We’re talking about finding that sweet spot that solves most of the problem with the simplest solution."    (Continued via Ask 37signals)    [Usability Resources]

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