At Quora, someone asked this question:
“Why is Dropbox more popular than other programs with similar functionality”
“There would be a folder. You’d put your stuff in it. It would sync. They built that”.
Then he paraphrases various product managers and service designer arguments that more features should be added, responding:
“No, shut up. People don’t use that crap. They just want a folder. A folder that syncs”.
The whole is extremely amusing and very to the point. And the point is this:
We are all accustomed to thinking in terms of putting stuff into products and services. We imagine that by doing so, we’re actually creating new value for customers.
Well, of course we are creating new value, but to whom to does that value accrue? I’d argue – controversially – that most of the value is gained by suppliers, who can charge higher prices. Customers, do they really want all this extra stuff?
There’s a lot to be said for creating value by taking things away. Taking-things-away value accrues to the customer. And not just in terms of price either.
Dropbox creates value because it is just so simple. Even my family, who have technology distortion fields that break anything on a computer that’s in the same room as them, use Dropbox. Because they can use Dropbox, while everything else has too much stuff for them to understand.
In government, and before that in banking, I spent days in meetings arguing about extra stuff. Everyone has a little thing they need to add to a system, service or product without which their particular interest group cannot function.
But Dropbox, and everything else like it which is simple proves a point: if you design something well enough, there are no special interest groups. The core functionality can be used by pretty much everyone without anything special.
I really think the future of product and service design is going to be more of this reductionism to the basic in the future. You want to do your one-big-thing exceptionally, just as DropBox does.
You also want to make it simple for customers to add your one-big-thing to other people’s one-big-things, of course. That way customers can customise for their own special interest groups, if they’re of a mind to do so.
As innovators, this is fertile territory, I think. And it is one that’s largely unexplored. When I look through the various ideas in idea management systems I’ve been responsible for, I see lots of ideas that add stuff. But I hardly ever see ideas that take stuff away, ideas that focus on being exceptional at the one-big-thing.
And I know the reason why. It’s because organisations don’t reward going basic. That’s seen as going downmarket, rather than improvement. It is this, I think, that needs to change in the future.