Why are dish washers, laundry machines, microwave ovens and lots of other similar products so complex? Why do they include programs and settings you never use? One reason, oddly enough, is PR. What product would you be more impressed by; a laundry machine with 10 programs, including one that you can fully customize, drying programs, extra rinse, variable spin speed, delayed start etc.? Or a machine with three programs for 40, 60 and 90 degrees and that’s it? Actually, your answer to that question doesn’t matter. What matters is that the producers of those products believe that the product will be easier to sell if it has lots of advanced features. I once asked a sales manager at a home appliances store why every product had so many unnecessary features and settings. His answer was that they were mainly there as a PR tool. “It’s harder to sell a product with 9 features compared to one with 10”.
Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the most advanced product is also the best one. Maybe it is the best, but not necessarily for you and your needs. But: “If it can do all of that, surely it can fulfill my needs!” Well, that’s often true, but the most optimal product for you has just enough features to complete your task. If you’ve never customized your washing programs or set your own spin speed, then you probably never will in the future either. Instead, those features are just in the way of your interaction with the washing machine, stealing attention from the task at hand.
I wonder what would happen if a company decided to take a leap and design a super simple washing machine. I would argue that it would actually gain PR advantages over other machines, not despite, but BECAUSE of its simplicity. It would stand out and offer something that no other washing machine could; a clean user interface and a pleasant user experience. In other words, it would do your laundry without adding any confusion. The question is; would you buy such a washing machine? I know I would.
So why is it that so many have this conviction of “more is better”? Maybe it started in the early days of the industrial revolution, when this statement was probably a lot more true than it is today for the simple reason of technological limitations. We simply couldn’t produce all the features we wanted the product to have. But today we are not restricted by technology to the same extent, so the problem is not to get all the features we want, but rather to delimit the scope based on the users’ needs. And as we all know, not many companies make a lot of effort in getting to know their users. But it is becoming more and more apparent that this is a luxury that (hopefully) no one will afford in the future.