Would you pay a premium for simple & flexible?


I would. It is hard to find things that combine simple and flexible these days.  There are plenty of “single purpose” web services and apps these days, but they sacrifice flexibility. And anyone that’s used Ebay lately will tell you that the other end of the spectrum is the only thing worse.

Recently it was hard to find what I would define as a “simple” wordpress theme and most applications I see aren’t simple and flexible enough.  Yes, the two can go together.

I spent a lot of time on  http://themeforest.net/ and countless other sites looking for something like this blog theme.  I would have paid $50 to $100 for something even simpler instead of the $20 I paid for this theme.  Yes… I would have paid more for less done really well in a flexible way that would enable me to do something like this. 

I classified 90% of the themes I found as unusable. Everything was image heavy, rounded,  3d scrolling , cufon font having, etc.  Let me translate these “features” for you into what they mean: 

  • image heavy = not easily flexible.
  • Rounded = Poor browser support
  • 3D Scrolling = Bad Performance. 
  • Cufon Fonts = Bad Performance and sacrificed simplicity

The other day someone left a 2-star review of GoodDay on iTunes that read:

“This is about as simplistic of an app as you’ll ever find.  For what it does it should be free.  There are other apps that are free or cost $1 that have way more features…”

I took this as a compliment. The goal was to create a flexible app that was so simple I could open it up, rate my day, and close it in < 30 seconds with as little need to forward, back, click, or swipe as possible.  Adding a bunch of features that the competitive apps he mentioned contain would have made it take more than 30 seconds to rate your day. This person was clearly not someone that believes what I believe and, if I could, I would get him his $1 back in iTunes.

How about you… would you pay a premium for simple and flexible?

What Do You Believe?

I believe there is value in the identification of ones beliefs. Knowing what you believe helps you find others that share your beliefs and it helps you crystalize what’s important to you in life. So here is portion of beliefs that have been cruising around my head lately.

Trends swing like a pendulum that slowly moves the center.

We are currently in the middle of a megatrend towards the simplification of software and in the infancy of defining a set of more natural user interfaces that will slowly replace existing software over the next 20 years. Gabe is only 9 months old and can’t fathom that a screen exists he can’t touch directly to play with.

Right now the pendulum is still swinging towards larger social networks and more connections between users, but it will swing back towards a set of more personalized “niche networks” that cut through the noise to help you focus on what is important to you at the moment. However the larger network will always be there for you to pull from.

Users will demand a more personalized experience with the software that runs on their most personal devices.

I can tell your there is absolutely a skill mismatch between employers and job candidates today. Interviewing these people makes me always think about the famous Seinfeld declaration that “90% of the world is un-datable”. And when Elaine asks how all these people get together… “they settle”.

Our work and personal lives will see a huge upshift in the number of geo-disperse connections and experiences. You will share goals and challenges with team members around the world and you’ll watch movies on your couch with your family across the country.

Waterfall development of any product is dead. Every aspect of product design, development, and packaging will be iterative and be directly connected to your customers.

We are going to expect and demand more transparency from our friends, co-workers, bosses, corporations, and government than at any time in the past. Facebook is already known as “the truth machine” amongst our friend group. This transparency will lead to more efficiency and collaboration than we’ve ever seen before. The best big business are asking themselves how they can create less private data.

Moore’s law for individual excellence has reached an end. The new “moore’s law” measures the number of connections and improved collaboration between software, devices, and people. This number is going to double each year and lead us to a more connected, efficient lifestyle. The win is in enabling seamless loose ties and tighter connections with smaller teams.

Product testing is ripe for reinvention.

We’ll have access to more data and statistics about our health, lives, and competitions than we’ll know what to do with. Solutions that cut through the noise to show us the important numbers will quickly become a dependency. Before Gabe was born we had access to more data about his development than had ever been collected about my own health throughout my entire life.

Being first is a good feature… just not the most important one… ask Microsoft.

The transparency and data available will serve to motivate individuals and teams to compete and evolve over time.

Amazon is setting the standard that is to be expected for a personalized application (kindle) to work seamlessly across devices and follow you everywhere with the combined knowledge of other readers. (popular highlights)

People can change and evolve themselves over time… But it takes determination to constantly challenge your comfort levels and reinvent oneself. Not doing this will lead to your eventual inability to do the things you love for a living.

Design for Mobile first and Full Screen Second

image This isn’t a rant about the proliferation of mobile devices and how they are going to do everything except change your cat’s litter box in the future. It’s simply about improving your design chops.

I’ve decided that new feature work should start with a design for a mobile device first.  We’ve been working on mobile stuff for a while now and I’ve realized there is power in the constraints.

  1. You have an easy excuse to cut all those “extra requirements” & the “wouldn’t it be easy/cool if features”… screen size.
  2. You focus on what’s core to the experience in the content column… face it, most of your users aren’t going to read all the crap you put in the sidebar of your sites. They’ve been trained that’s where ads live.
  3. It makes you think twice as hard about any imagery on the page.  The buttons have to be obvious so the user knows what they are going to get and you don’t have room to explain it with text.
  4. Even with wifi and 3g you don’t take page size and bandwidth for granted. Even with wifi the browsers on these devices aren’t as fast as their desktop, native javascript running, counterparts. Minimalistic FTW!
  5. You’ll be done faster and able to communicate the core experience more quickly to others to get feedback about what’s really important.
  6. If you give someone a HUGE blank canvas they freeze with the thought of everything they could do with the space.  Give them a post it note and they can focus on one part at a time.