In college, I took courses on entrepreneurship. Each student had to come up with a business idea. Mine was “a simple content management system for creating personal websites – with all of the excess removed”. It would have a few prebuilt themes, beautiful font combinations, and an utterly simple and calming UI.
My professors hated that my differentiation was “that I removed features from existing solutions”.
Them: “So I would pay money for something that lets me do less?”
Me: “Somewhat. All of the important things are taken care of for you, and the things you didn’t need in the first place aren’t included.”
Them: “Down the road, think about creating widgets to add features.”
Me: “For the problem we’re trying to solve, I don’t feel this is necessary. We’re not trying to appeal to everyone – just to a specific set of people.”
No matter how I pitched the idea, my professors didn’t see the removal of features as a good way to differentiate a product. (One person even informed me, “Hey, Wix already does this, but they have more features.”)
But removal works
Things that are easy to use survive, regardless of what is fashionable, and people want to use them forever. But if things are created merely for a passing vogue and not for a purpose, people soon get bored with them and throw them away. The fundamental problem is that many products are created to be sold, not used.
When I held “corporate” jobs, every piece of business technology I used required a person to be trained and certified before they used it in a business context. Complicated technology was often buggy, it took a lot of time to learn, and it wasn’t fun to use.
We’re moving towards a world where businesses are finally beginning to understand that “additional features” aren’t always a good thing.
The blogging company Svbtle also capitalizes on removal – it creates a clean experience for both readers and writers to interact with blogs. Svbtle doesn’t have a learning curve, it doesn’t shout advertisements at me from the side of the page, and its blogs are delightful to read.
Even WordPress themes are starting to align with this philosophy. Nada from Paul Jarvis eliminates excess from your website by removing sidebars, comments, and meta information. It removes everything except the pure, intimate content between the writer and their readers.
Nada’s power comes from removal.
Byword’s power comes from removal.
Svbtle’s power comes from removal.
This site’s power comes from removal.
Creating a truly great product comes from simplicity. Simplicity allows us to focus on what actually matters and make it perfect.