Takeaway — Beauty in constraint (Pandora, Snapchat)

There has been a lot of thought about the phenomenon of the “paradox of choice” or how more is not actually better. As the the 2006 HBR article cited,

“In 2000, psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper published a remarkable study. On one day, shoppers at an upscale food market saw a display table with 24 varieties of gourmet jam. Those who sampled the spreads received a coupon for $1 off any jam. On another day, shoppers saw a similar table, except that only six varieties of the jam were on display. The large display attracted more interest than the small one. But when the time came to purchase, people who saw the large display were one-tenth as likely to buy as people who saw the small display.”

This leads us to believe that guiding a person and giving them just enough choice is sufficient and more beneficial to the business.

Many successful companies have a constraint built into their product strategy. Not allowing a user to do something actually pushes their product further. Pandora, the streaming music service, does not let you actively choose the next song that is going to play. To some that might seem like a constraint, however their target market would not be that persona. Their market would be people that like to passively listen to a certain type of music. Based on the chart below we see that usage per listener is actually increasing.

Snapchat does not allow the receiver of the image to save the picture and does not, by default, save the picture you took. One would think that such a simple feature would be standard. I mean, how hard could it be to save the picture automatically saved to the phone. But Snapchat knows that if it lowers a person’s inhibitions to take a picture, they will be more likely to do so. In the graph below we see that Snapchat is the largest photo sharing application on the internet.

Twitter is limited to 140 characters. Cofounder Evan Williams formerly founded Blogger, the first blogging platform. Blogging does not have a text size limit, but there is an unspoken rule that a blog post must be a few paragraphs. This deterred a lot of people from consistently blogging. However, anyone can compose some that is at most 140 characters. In addition, because of this constraint, it forced people to write more concisely.

Lastly, Vine, the video social network, lets users shoot a 6 second video. That is all they get. Six seconds. People might feel inhibited to shoot a video because they don’t think they will have enough interesting content, but anyone can fill 6 seconds. Twitter realized the power of video constraint and acquired them in October 2012.



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