Often, when I hear entrepreneurs speak about their products, they relish in the fact that it’s complex, or in the very least, proprietary. Unless you want to achieve a record-breaking Weissman Score for file compression, complexity isn’t sexy. Not to customers, not to investors, and not to the market.
I think about the smartphones we use. A prime example would be between Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. I won’t debate semantics even though I’m a proponent of Android.
Android in all its charm is inherently complex. For me, I like to have a rooted phone, an optimized operating system, WiFi tethering, and a stringent hosts list. For me, I want to experience minimal ads, minimal resource hogs, and increased privacy of my phone. The great thing about Android is that anything truly is possible if you put enough time and research into it. And the hacker community is quite resourceful and innovative.
Apple on the other hand, works without sophisticated customization. I’ve slowly adjusted my view of iOS to be a positive one. When I “left” iOS at the time of the iPhone 4, it was because Apple became quite aggressive toward the hacker community by patching jailbreak after jailbreak. In hindsight, it might have been for the better since they have proven they are willing to go toe-to-toe with the federal government to preserve their users’ privacy and security. When I left iOS, I felt the operating system was too simple for my needs. At the time, memory management wasn’t the greatest, so the phone required periodic reboots to function well. After major updates to iOS, the phone felt slower and slower. That was when I switched to Android.
Today, iOS is much better. Most notably, the cameras in the iPhone lead the industry. So much so, it leaves its rivaling Android devices in the dust. iOS has introduced content blocking capabilities in Safari to address my need for ad-blocking and increased privacy. It supports VPNs without too much hassle, and the overall performance has improved so I can have a rich user experience without the need to reboot frequently.
The apps and notifications behave much better than before. The Control Center at the bottom (which I’d say they stole from the jailbreak community) are convenient. The messaging features are fully integrated. The APIs that enable or restrict apps from accessing your location, photos, or other sensitive information are excellent. The areas that were valuable to me have Apple addressed with a series of enhancements in the iOS platform.
Recently, I’ve become a user of an iPhone 5s for work. I’ve become ambidextrous when it comes to Android and iOS, and I’ve found to accomplish my desired outcomes, I can do it faster and more consistently on iOS. I didn’t have to learn it or hop on the XDA Developer Forums to uncover how to change a setting. The designers have designed iOS to be intuitive for everyday uses, and I enjoy that.
Consumers don’t want to root, hack, or otherwise spend substantial amounts of energy to have a phone fit into their lives. Entrepreneurs who love the complexity of their solution seem to lack empathy for their customers. The entrepreneurs who succeed are the ones who confidently understand their customer’s needs, address those needs, and presents them in a clear and concise way.
When consumers make purchasing decisions, it doesn’t come down to technical stats. Maybe the analysts and savvy insiders care, but outcomes matter more. When considering an electric vehicle, knowing how many Amp Hours a battery contains is less important than knowing how many miles a consumer can drive before they need to recharge. This factor comes into play when consumers compare the Chevy Bolt to Tesla Model 3 to a BMW i3. Consumers evaluate how they need to adjust their lives to make the product fit.
With some innovations, complexity is a necessity. Engineers must account for all the variables and constants and that is relatively challenging. But the marketing and messaging of those outcomes toward consumers must be simple. I’m not saying that you should hide the technical data, but it shouldn’t be front and center, either. Put your best foot forward with simple, direct, and relevant messaging and user experience. Once intrigued, consumers will dig in further.
Apple has done an excellent job of balancing end-user benefits, features, and technical specifications of their products. Arguably, they’re the industry leader at balancing simplicity and capability. Android has nailed innovation at the expense of user experience, but they have shown significant improvements over the years.
In the end, money talks and the simpler, easier to use product earns it.