I do not want to use your product
We rely on multitudes of tools and various products to help us live our lives. However, it is easy to forget that it is not the tools that matter, but the result and outcome of using them.
What is the difference between these two sentences:
I want to wash clothes.
I want clean clothes.
No one wants to wash clothes. No one. If someone tells you that they want to wash clothes, they do not know what they are saying. What they really mean is I want clean clothes.
And while we are on topic of washing machines, it seems that only recently manufacturers figured out that people do not want to poke at the buttons of a washing machine, twist knobs, open slots or mess around the damned thing.
People just want to throw dirty clothes somewhere, and get clean clothes out.
People do not want to use blender. They want liquified food.
People do not want to use tooth brush. They want clean teeth.
People do not want to use phone. They want to communicate.
People do not want to use computers. They want to get stuff done.
While making a product, especially a digital product like a web site or mobile phone app, developers and designers often switch into this mental mode where they start making the product with premise that people will use the product, instead of looking for ways to simplify getting to the results.
Using the product
There are a couple of scenarios when you would just want to use the product.
When you buy a new thing you just want to play with it. Right? When you got that new version of your favorite smartphone you were just unlocking it and flicking it around in your hand and playing with it for basically no reason other than to play with it. Bought a new fancy kitchen knife? Yeah, let’s peel and chop that onion just because.
But the novelty of even the greatest products wears out rather fast and eventually they become just a tool to get to the result.
Computer games would be another good example. Yes, yes, you play games to achieve some result, adrenaline rush, have a few good laughs, but I was a gamer. I know that sometimes you just sit there and play the game for playing’s sake.
You all know this game. It was designed by Game Designer:
And this is how Super Mario would look like if it was designed by a Product Designer (or any problem-solving Designer):
But these are just exceptions to the rule.
The future of washing machines
Let’s say the year is 3013, and there were huge advances made in the Washing Machine department. What would the ideal washing machine look like by then, presuming our clothes will still be able to get dirty and not magically just repel dirt?
It would be invisible. There would be a hole somewhere in your house, where you throw stuff in, and in some time this stuff appears clean and ironed on the shelf. The whole process would be totally invisible to you and there would be lots of sensors and machinery doing the magic.
The best product is the one that is [almost]invisible yet it achieves desired results and helps us reach the goal.
And this is why simplicity is hard to do, because what is invisible to the user always in the background has an army of complex electronics, software, hardware, sensors, levers and knobs…
That thing you are working on right now? Rethink the aspects of it in which the person has to use your product. Remove those elements and find a way to make them invisible while still achieving the result.
Remember, I do not want to use your product.
I want results.
A fellow designer Aral Balkan held a great speech in 2012, parts of which are saying the exact same thing regarding achieving results having the washing machine as an example. The coincidence comes from both of us working in the same area for many years, coming to the same conclusions. No harm or theft was ever meant to be done.