Cut Design Features & Make Users Happy

Article by David Preiss
2 minutes 45 seconds read

Though tempting, adding features and functionality doesn’t always help users.

In fact, restricting choice can be much more powerful than trying to be everything to everyone. User experience designers should try a maneuver called: “cut the crap and improve what’s left over.” In the spirit of streamlining, I’ll coin a shorter label for this idea: restrictive design.

Restrictive Design For Sparking Innovation

Vine video is a good example of how to take a long time “norm” and strip it down to a simpler core idea. Their approach led to a massive increase in popularity to the tune of 13 million users within 1 year of launch. Even with all their success, Vine didn’t put YouTube out of business. They can co-exist just fine. And while it’s arguable whether Vine really improved the concept of the mobile video, their success is indisputable.

Vine restricts users to lower-quality six-second video, swaps full editing features for a simple “start/stop”  method and thereby achieves some kind of sick social media nirvana. Now users are creating content within these new boundaries in innovative ways that would have been impossible under the old video player paradigm.

Evolution of the remote

Cutting features for better usability

Apple, of course, has long been a master of making more out of less. Comparing the Apple TV remote to a DirecTV remote – it’s clear that Jony Ive takes his minimalism seriously.

But in this case, why? For each of the visuals shown here, imagine trying to change a channel or lower the volume without looking down at your hand. There is your answer.

Clearing clutter to remove barriers

Hipmunk, a favorite destination for airfare comparison, is blisteringly simple compared to Travelocity’s Times Square approach. I do not have metrics to show why Hipmunk is better. But I’d wager that the specific promotions creating clutter on Travelocity are relevant to only a fraction of users. So, all that junk is just there to bother the rest of us who want to get in and out of there with a low priced flight. As an experiment, I suggest we all just look at the two home page interfaces side by side and ask ourselves a simple common sense question: on which site would I rather book a flight?

On Travelocity, “What I care about” is buried under a mountain of promotion.

Don’t get me wrong. Less is not always “more”. The design decision to scale up or down depends on what users are trying to accomplish. For UI or ID, the quantity of features also depends on the subject’s core competencies. The point made here is that designers should consider both ends of the scale when upgrading a design. We are free to improve experiences by doing more, but should always explore innovations built upon restraint.

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