Easy to use vs. feature packed

11 May 2010 - 7:17am
4 years ago
8 replies
819 reads
Brett Christenson
2008

I am looking for any studies that compare software applications in the same market space in regards to user purchase decisions. Specifically I am looking to understand the impact of adding features vs. making a product easy to use. Can anyone point me in the right direction?


Thanks,
-Brett

Comments

11 May 2010 - 12:25pm
Aneesh Karve
2010

Don Norman has two relevant articles:  Simplicity is Highly Overrated and Simplicity is Not the Answer. They don't contain much quantitative data, but you will find thoughts and examples on the tension between more features and less usability.

One tradeoff that designers have to manage is that customers prefer numerous features at the time of purchase, but simplicity at the time of use. Norman further makes the case that ease of use (not simplicity) and capability (not number of features) are the real design goals.

 

11 May 2010 - 3:00pm
Chauncey Wilson
2007

There was a Harvard Business Review article that summarized several studies about features versus usability.  Perhaps Norman cited that since it makes the point below that customer do buy based on features and they rate products on usability at use.

  I'll try to dig up the reference for the article.   Chauncey

On Tue, May 11, 2010 at 3:27 PM, Aneesh Karve wrote:

Don Norman has two relevant articles:  Simplicity is Highly Overrated [1] and Simplicity is Not the Answer [2]. They don't contain much quantitative data, but you will find thoughts and examples on the tension between more features and less usability.

One tradeoff that designers have to manage is that customers prefer numerous features at the time of purchase, but simplicity at the time of use. Norman further makes the case that ease of use (not simplicity) and capability (not number of features) are the real design goals.

 

(((Pleas
12 May 2010 - 12:03am
Aneesh Karve
2010

Doh. Is there an Edit Comment feature that you can use to delete my email address? Ideally, the system would automatically obfuscate email addresses in the header.

12 May 2010 - 3:20am
pjohnkeane
2008

Here's the link to that article: http://hbr.org/product/defeating-feature-fatigue/an/R0602E-PDF-ENGAnd here's some more discussion of the conflict from Luke Wroblewski: http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?433

The article itself is a paid ($6.50) download, but the summary from the link above is:

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW ARTICLE

Defeating Feature Fatigue

Consider a coffeemaker that offers 12 drink options, a car with more than 700 features on the dashboard, and a mouse pad that's also a clock, calculator, and FM radio. All are examples of "feature bloat," or "featuritis," the result of an almost irresistible temptation to load products with lots of bells and whistles. The problem is that the more features a product boasts, the harder it is to use. Manufacturers that increase a product's capability--the number of useful functions it can perform--at the expense of its usability are exposing their customers to feature fatigue. The authors have conducted three studies to gain a better understanding of how consumers weigh a product's capability relative to its usability. They found that even though consumers know that products with more features are harder to use, they initially choose high-feature models. They also pile on more features when given the chance to customize a product for their needs. Once consumers have actually worked with a product, however, usability starts to matter more to them than capability. For managers in consumer products companies, these findings present a dilemma: Should they maximize initial sales by designing high-feature models, which consumers consistently choose, or should they limit the number of features to enhance the lifetime value of their customers? The authors' analytical model guides companies toward a happy middle ground: maximizing the net present value of the typical customer's profit stream. The authors also advise companies to build simpler products, help consumers learn which products suit their needs, develop products that do one thing very well, and design market research in which consumers use actual products or prototypes.
On 11 May 2010 23:36, Chauncey Wilson  wrote:

There was a Harvard Business Review article that summarized several studies about features versus usability.  Perhaps Norman cited that since it makes the point below that customer do buy based on features and they rate products on usability at use.   I'll try to dig up the reference for the article.   Chauncey On Tue, May 11, 2010 at 3:27 PM, Aneesh Karve  wrote:
Don Norman has two relevant articles:  Simplicity is Highly Overrated [1] and Simplicity is Not the Answer [2]. They don't contain much quantitative data, but you will find thoughts and examples on the tension between more features and less usability.
One tradeoff that designers have to manage is that customers prefer numerous features at the time of purchase, but simplicity at the time of use. Norman further makes the case that ease of use (not simplicity) and capability (not number of features) are the real design goals.

 (((Pleas
(((Please leave all c
13 May 2010 - 2:00pm
Chauncey Wilson
2007

Thanks,   That is the article that I was referring to from the Harvard Business Review.   Chauncey

On Wed, May 12, 2010 at 6:22 AM, pjohnkeane <pjohnkeane@gmail.com> wrote:

Here's the link to that article: http://hbr.org/product/defeating-feature-fatigue/an/R0602E-PDF-ENG [1]

And here's some more discussion of the conflict from Luke Wroblewski: 
http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?433 [2]
The article itself is a paid ($6.50) download, but the summary from the link above is:
-------- HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW ARTICLE -------------------------------------

Defeating Feature Fatigue

by Roland T. Rust [3], Debora Viana Thompson [4], Rebecca W. Hamilton [5] 
12 pages.  Publication date: Feb 01, 2006. Prod. #: R0602E-PDF-ENG

Consider a coffeemaker that offers 12 drink options, a car with more than 700 features on the dashboard, and a mouse pad that's also a clock, calculator, and FM radio. All are examples of "feature bloat," or "featuritis," the result of an almost irresistible temptation to load products with lots of bells and whistles. The problem is that the more features a product boasts, the harder it is to use. Manufacturers that increase a product's capability--the number of useful functions it can perform--at the expense of its usability are exposing their customers to feature fatigue. The authors have conducted three studies to gain a better understanding of how consumers weigh a product's capability relative to its usability. They found that even though consumers know that products with more features are harder to use, they initially choose high-feature models. They also pile on more features when given the chance to customize a product for their needs. Once consumers have actually worked with a product, however, usability starts to matter more to them than capability. For managers in consumer products companies, these findings present a dilemma: Should they maximize initial sales by designing high-feature models, which consumers consistently choose, or should they limit the number of features to enhance the lifetime value of their customers? The authors' analytical model guides companies toward a happy middle ground: maximizing the net present value of the typical customer's profit stream. The authors also advise companies to build simpler products, help consumers learn which products suit their needs, develop products that do one thing very well, and design market research in which consumers use actual products or prototypes. On 11 May 2010 23:36, Chauncey Wilson  wrote:
There was a Harvard Business Review article that summarized several studies about features versus usability.  Perhaps Norman cited that since it makes the point below that customer do buy based on features and they rate products on usability at use.   I'll try to dig up the reference for the article.   Chauncey On Tue, May 11, 2010 at 3:27 PM, Aneesh Karve  wrote:

Don Norman has two relevant articles:  Simplicity is Highly Overrated [1] and Simplicity is Not the Answer [2]. They don't contain much quantitative data, but you will find thoughts and examples on the tension between more features and less usability.

One tradeoff that designers have to manage is that customers prefer numerous features at the time of purchase, but simplicity at the time of use. Norman further makes the case that ease of use (not simplicity) and capability (not number of features) are the real design goals.

 (((Pleas

(((Please leave all c

(((Please leave all cont
13 May 2010 - 9:00am
Brian Sullivan
2009

I think there is a great example in the Inmates Are Running the Aslyum (geez, I hope it is that book), where you have a customer start to describe the feaures of a product:

  • Gas-powered engine
  • Steering wheel
  • Comfortable seat
  • Accelerator pedal
  • Brake

Usability is very much tied to the context of usage. If we take the above features and consider usage, we get very different product:

  • Need to drive to work = automobile, motorcycle, truck, bus
  • Need to mow the yard = lawn mower
  • Need to harvest crops = tractor
  • Need to fly to a space station = rocket, space shuttle

For me, the designer must understand their audience (driver, mower, farmer, astronaut) to know what are the major considerations at purchase and during usage.

I think relevant and fun features are important to the user experience. When they create obstacles to a goal, you have a usability problem.

I hope that makes sense.

From: ixdaor@host.ixda.org on behalf of Chauncey Wilson Sent: Tue 5/11/2010 3:48 PM To: Sullivan, Brian Subject: Re: [IxDA] Easy to use vs. feature packed

There was a Harvard Business Review article that summarized several studies about features versus usability. Perhaps Norman cited that since it makes the point below that customer do buy based on features and they rate products on usability at use. I'll try to dig up the reference for the article.
Chauncey On Tue, May 11, 2010 at 3:27 PM, Aneesh Karve wrote: >Don Norman has two relevant articles: Simplicity is Highly Overrated >[1] and Simplicity is Not the Answer [2]. They don't contain much >quantitative data, but you will find thoughts and examples on the tension >between more features and less usability. >One tradeoff that designers have to manage is that customers prefer numerous >features at the time of purchase, but simplicity at the time of use. Norman >further makes the case that ease of use (not simplicity) and capability (not >number of features) are the real design goals. > > (((Pleas

11 May 2010 - 3:32pm
Brett Christenson
2008

Chauncey I would greatly apprecaite it if you can find that article.

I don't know why Don Norman did not come to mind right away when I started thinking about this.

11 May 2010 - 11:03pm
C K Vijay Bhaskar
2009

There is a blog on features V usability here: http://robert.accettura.com/blog/2005/09/04/features-vs-usability/.

But the bigger question here is the business behind the features. If it makes business sense to cover many personas in one product, then there could be many features. But the ultimate decision will have to be taken by subjecting the decision to a formal process like Decision Analysis and Resolution (DAR) or something like a Balance Score Card (BSC). These will help in making the right decision. In many cases, depending on the monopoly in the market and the depending on the psychology of the target group, some products are 'designed' to be user unfriendly or not so economically viable, but still do the rounds due to the monopoly or the psychology/emotional needs. The best example her of course is the monopoly of Microsoft Products in many ways though they may not always be usable.

There is also the aspect of what processes are to be adhered to by the application/product that impact the way a product's features are decided.

Hope this helps.

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