Fighting The Tyranny of Too Much: Radical Simplicity

There’s something interesting about most “web 2.0” services.

Most of them, like Basecamp and delicious are not about more options/features/capabilities. They’re actually about less. And that’s exactly why they’re successful.

I was reminded of that when I saw this article by Blackfriars (a branding firm) about Too Much Stuff™.

How much? Too much:

Need proof? Let’s just look at the statistics around that trip to the grocery store. In The Paradox Of Choice, sociology professor Barry Schwartz takes his readers on a trip to a small supermarket and finds that shoppers there must select from 285 varieties of cookies, 85 flavors and brands of juices, and 95 varieties of chips. They face 230 soup offerings, 120 different pasta sauces, 275 varieties of cereal, and 175 types of tea bags. Supermarkets today carry more than 30,000 items, and 20,000 new products are introduced each year — and almost all of them fail.

And yet this plethora of choice doesn’t make us any happier. In fact, exactly the opposite:

In one experiment, when researchers asked subjects to compare chocolate chip cookies from a jar of 10 cookies and a jar of two cookies, the subjects rated the cookie from the smaller jar better than the one from the larger jar. And the cookie wasn’t just better. It was rated more valuable, more desirable to eat in the future, and more attractive as a consumer item, despite the fact the cookies were identical. More choice made the subjects feel that their sample was less desirable.

The authors of the article go on to talk about radical simplicity being the solution. They’re approaching it from the perspective of marketers and brand managers.

I’m wondering about it from the point of view of my own life. The only problem? Simplicity is hard!