Dead Simple

Mass market consumers generally want a product to be as simple as possible. That's why defaults are so important, and why "the best" isn't necessarily the most widely adopted. Simplicity is also an important performance attribute for companies to improve on -- improving a product by making it simpler and simpler to use, often by removing unnecessary, unused features. This is an area where companies with established products often seem to go wrong: they add unused features or functionality and never strip this cruft away despite poor user adoption. Overserving, over-complex features or functionality leave the door open for entrants to introduce a simpler, better-designed, less expensive product that's more useful.

Certain questions seem especially relevant in assessing an incumbent's ability to avoid low end disruption while also creating dead simple products that create new markets:

  • Are the incumbent's formerly simple products becoming more complex and weighed down with unused features?
  • Is the incumbent trying to improve the simplicity of its products by removing unused features, even as it tries to add valued functionality?
  • Is an entrant having success with a simpler, less expensive product that only focuses on the essential? Is the incumbent ignoring this success or trying to compete with its own simplified offering?
  • Does the incumbent appear committed to creating simple, well-designed products that either compete in the low end or create entirely new markets, even if it cannabilizes existing products that are more complex?