Customers Don't Want More Features
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  1. #1
    DJTT Scribe Mod smiTTTen's Avatar
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    Default Customers Don't Want More Features

    My job involves managing software products. That means working to understand what the market needs, prioritizing what goes into the next release, and getting buyers and sellers to understand how (and if) the product solves their problems. Given the amount of discussion around Traktor 2.5 I thought people might find this short article (not written by me) of interest. The article is written with the product managers, designers and developers as the target audience.

    I have also been thinking about writing an article on product development. It won't be Traktor specific but it might help people on the outside (a.k.a the customers) get an idea of what a software company has to consider when setting out roadmaps and releasing products. Let me know if that's something you guys would be interested in reading about.

    Anyway, here's the link to the article and a paste of the bare text.

    http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/06/cust...ore_featu.html

    There is a common myth about product development: the more features we put into a product, the more customers will like it. Product-development teams seem to believe that adding features creates value for customers and subtracting them destroys it. This attitude explains why products are so complicated: Remote controls seem impossible to use, computers take hours to set up, cars have so many switches and knobs that they resemble airplane cockpits, and even the humble toaster now comes with a manual and LCD displays.

    Companies that challenge the belief that more is better create products that are elegant in their simplicity. Bang & Olufsen, the Danish manufacturer of audio products, televisions, and telephones, understands that customers don't necessarily want to fiddle with the equalizer, balance, and other controls to find the optimum combination of settings for listening to music. Its high-end speakers automatically make the adjustments needed to reproduce a song with as much fidelity to the original as possible. All that's left for users to select is the volume.

    Getting companies to buy into and implement the principle that less can be more is hard because it requires extra effort in two areas of product development:

    1. Defining the problem. Articulating the problem that developers will try to solve is the most underrated part of the innovation process. Too many companies devote far too little time to it. But this phase is important because it's where teams develop a clear understanding of what their goals are and generate hypotheses that can be tested and refined through experiments. The quality of a problem statement makes all the difference in a team's ability to focus on the few features that really matter.

    When Walt Disney was planning Disneyland, he didn't rush to add more features (rides, kinds of food, amount of parking) than other amusement parks had. Rather, he began by asking a much larger question: How could Disneyland provide visitors with a magical customer experience? Surely, the answer didn't come overnight; it required painstakingly detailed research, constant experimentation, and deep insights into what "magical" meant to Disney and its customers. IDEO and other companies have dedicated phases in which they completely immerse themselves in the context in which the envisioned product or service will be used. Their developers read everything of interest about the markets, observe and interview future users, research offerings that will compete with the new product, and synthesize everything that they have learned into pictures, models, and diagrams. The result is deep insights into customers that are tested, improved, or abandoned throughout the iterative development process.

    2. Determining what to hide or omit. Teams are often tempted to show off by producing brilliant technical solutions that amaze their peers and management. But often customers would prefer a product that just works effortlessly. From a customer's point of view, the best solutions solve a problem in the simplest way and hide the work that developers are so proud of.

    One company that has understood this is Apple. It is known for many things—innovative products, stylish designs, and savvy marketing—but perhaps its greatest strength is its ability to get to the heart of a problem. (See "The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs," by Walter Isaacson, in our April issue.) As the late Steve Jobs once explained, "When you start looking at a problem and it seems really simple, you don't really understand the complexity of the problem. And your solutions are way too oversimplified. Then you get into the problem, and you see it's really complicated. And you come up with all these convoluted solutions....That's where most people stop." Not Apple. It keeps on plugging away. "The really great person will keep on going," said Jobs, "and find...the key underlying principle of the problem and come up with a beautiful, elegant solution that works."

    Determining which features to omit is just as important as—and perhaps more important than—figuring out which ones to include. Unfortunately, many companies, in an effort to be innovative, throw in every possible bell and whistle without fully considering important factors such as the value to customers and ease of use. When such companies do omit some planned functionality, it's typically because they need to cut costs or have fallen behind schedule or because the team has failed in some other way.

    Instead, managers should focus on figuring out whether the deletion of any proposed feature might improve a particular product and allow the team to concentrate on things that truly heighten the overall customer experience. This can be determined by treating each alleged requirement as a hypothesis and testing it in small, quick experiments with prospective customers.

    Development teams often assume that their products are done when no more features can be added. Perhaps their logic should be the reverse: Products get closer to perfection when no more features can be eliminated. As Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
    Beats By Dre is like audio flu for your balls.

  2. #2
    Tech Guru VanGogo's Avatar
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    Default

    Could you forward that article to NI's developement team please.

  3. #3
    Tech Mentor The Mighty FV's Avatar
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    Default

    Really interesting article, thanks for the share man.
    13" Macbook Pro i7/8gb/750gb :: Traktor S4 + F1 + Pro 2 :: Allen & Heath DB4 :: Allen & Heath K2 :: Midi Fighter Classic :: Midi Fighter Pro (BM) :: Midi Fighter 3D :: Pioneer RMX1000 :: DJM800 :: 2 xCDJ1000mk3 :: Beats Pro + Beats Studio

  4. #4
    Tech Guru mostapha's Avatar
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    I like what you're trying to do here, and I generally agree with you. The article, however, was obviously written by a business manager of some kind or someone who teaches them. His examples are terrible, for example:

    Quote Originally Posted by smittten View Post
    This attitude explains why products are so complicated: Remote controls seem impossible to use, computers take hours to set up, cars have so many switches and knobs that they resemble airplane cockpits, and even the humble toaster now comes with a manual and LCD displays.
    Really? Really?

    Apparently, he and I don't live in the same world. The only one that's even half valid is the airplane cockpit comment, and AFIAK, that's only viable with GPS units (which fail every UI/UX analysis possible) or the BPM iDrive system that they consider a complete disaster.

    Quote Originally Posted by smittten View Post
    Companies that challenge the belief that more is better create products that are elegant in their simplicity. Bang & Olufsen, the Danish manufacturer of audio products, televisions, and telephones, understands that customers don't necessarily want to fiddle with …controls….All that's left for users to select is the volume.
    Again…really? A luxury good manufacturer who's primary product is their price tag (and the ability to be seen having paid that much for something normal) is his best example of well-designed consumer products.

    Quote Originally Posted by smittten View Post
    Getting companies to buy into and implement the principle that less can be more is hard because it requires extra effort in two areas of product development: … Defining the problem…[and] Determining what to hide or omit.
    BS.

    It's hard to get companies to buy into the philosophy and implement it as a design principle because it's hard to sell.

    Which is easier to get across to laypeople, a feature list or the results of in-depth use case studies? There are comparatively few "minimalist" designs out there, and the one thing they all have in common is that they're more expensive than their competitors. Apple computers just are more expensive than comparable PCs……not a lot, but they are more expensive. Apple does sell its stuff as "it just works," but it's made a lot more sales off its products being status symbols. And by exposing the Genius Bar to its prospective customers in Apple stores, the "it just works" side kind of disappears.

    There's also the fact that Apple computers are not simpler than PCs. If anything, a straight out the box Apple comes with more options than a straight out the box wintel PC……they just don't advertize it. It's not like bash and developer tools are undocumented, but they're not publicized the same way as everything else.

    Quote Originally Posted by smittten View Post
    Unfortunately, many companies, in an effort to be innovative, throw in every possible bell and whistle without fully considering important factors such as the value to customers and ease of use. When such companies do omit some planned functionality, it's typically because they need to cut costs or have fallen behind schedule or because the team has failed in some other way.
    The author leaves himself an out, but I don't think this applies to NI. It took a while for sample decks to get key lock. Maschine still doesn't do time stretching, and the only planned time stretching is offline. NI is perfectly fine making users wait for features.

    Quote Originally Posted by smittten View Post
    Instead, managers should focus on figuring out whether the deletion of any proposed feature might improve a particular product and allow the team to concentrate on things that truly heighten the overall customer experience.

    And when NI's done this in the past, it lost users (or, at least people planned to leave on forums). Mostly, it's been support for legacy hardware, and I think I remember some mapping options. The point is that either they suck at deciding which features to delete, or it doesn't work for Traktor.

    Quote Originally Posted by smittten View Post
    Development teams often assume that their products are done when no more features can be added. Perhaps their logic should be the reverse: Products get closer to perfection when no more features can be eliminated. As Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."[/I]
    Yay for software that's very efficient at doing nothing.

    To me, this just sounds like another attempt by mid-level managers to pretend they know what coders do and what customers want. No offense to the OP, but the more I read about business strategy, the more I wonder how businesses ever make money.

  5. #5

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    To play devils advocate, how does this apply to 2.5? Is the whole concept of the remix deck is too complicated? People want that kind of functionality, but people want to use it however they please, not only with the F1. DJing in general is a complicated hobby. The simple and elegant solutions of DJing are CDJs and TTs. Beyond that, its a rabbit hole of software and midi. Which I'm fine with. Just need to learn how to navigate the waters.
    Ableton Live 9, Traktor, VCI-400, APC40, QuNeo, Lemur iOS

  6. #6
    Tech Guru pilmat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NotSoSiniSter View Post
    To play devils advocate, how does this apply to 2.5?
    The main point of the article is the KISS principle. IF AND ONLY IF the product is bulletproof stable should the designers consider adding features, and only ones that benefit the user and not just showcase the effort required to implement it.

    NI did this beautifully when they introduced the chained effects. The effort to get the individual effects "just right" (gain structure, resonance, tactile feel of the effect, etc.) must have been tremendous, but to the end user you simply get something that works and is very useful.

    An example of NI getting something wrong is to mess up the auto beatgrid engine. It was much better in TP1 than it is now, requiring more back ground set-up effort as opposed to time that can be spent playing with different ways to mix the new songs with your library.

    All just my opinion though...
    MBP 10.6; Itch 2.2; Novation Twitch; TP 2.x; MF Classic; Ultrasone DJ1 Pro
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  7. #7
    Tech Guru deevey's Avatar
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    The NI Midi recording in Traktor 3 was a million times more practical than the silly Wav recording - bring it back.

    I don't think the issue is so much with cutting or slimming down on features, but moreso in coming up with an elegant solution which makes everything SEEM simple and elegant, like apple have done without sacrificing features for the power users.

    Where it comes to DJ software though, I don't think theres much you could really leave out of Traktor 2.5, sure the remix decks are not for me but they can be turned off easily so no big deal - IMHO its almost the perfect balance between function and ease for novices and customizability/power for Tweakers.

    Midi learn needs to be worked on though - take a leaf from Torq or VDJ's handbook.

    Now Ableton on the other hand.

    I do feel that they need to start targeting DJ's/Remixers better with a slimmed down version OR a Launch "Live" version of .... Well Live LOL, Which has the basics for DJ/Remix purposes but without the bloat of synths/views and turn some of the silly stuff off like spacebar set as a "Stop / Start" while I'm playing live - srly ?

    Anyhow I'm getting OT

    And by exposing the Genius Bar to its prospective customers in Apple stores, the "it just works" side kind of disappears.
    I think the name "Genius Bar" is a bit tounge and cheek on Apples part, with the exception of actual hardware issues I'm sure there are more people that come away from that Bar feeling like idiots because they didn't realize certain things were so easy to do - not much easier than the windows counterpart, but just "different" and more intuitive IMHO of course ....and my moms, and my sis, and my dad, and my best mate and ...... the others I've managed to convert over the past 10 years

  8. #8
    Tech Guru mostapha's Avatar
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    Why would anyone go to a genius bar for something that isn't a hardware issue?

  9. #9
    Tech Guru deevey's Avatar
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    Why would anyone go to a genius bar for something that isn't a hardware issue?
    How do I set up my iPad, how do I activate my phone, how do I transfer my photos from my camera ...

  10. #10
    Tech Guru synthet1c's Avatar
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    how do I learn to RTFM!
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