(Second of three)
To be useful, new technology needs to meet three standards. It must be powerful, simple and cost-effective.
Nothing, absolutely nothing substitutes for simplicity in the use of technology; not money, not staff, not sophistication.
Only when technology is in its formative stages, when it’s still developing rapidly, short of a revolutionary pace but evolving very rapidly – when sales are made only to Moore’s innovators and early adopters, customers who are willing to make large personal investments in time and training – does simplicity not take first place.
Think back to the Motorola cell phone “bricks” of the 1980’s. They were a revolutionary advance over the “car phones” that they replaced, the hardwire-in, suitcase sized radio-telephones that required operator intervention for every call. But their audiences were limited to a select segment, much less than 1% of the whole. Then came two decades of variations of the flip phone, the most advanced of which had hidden keyboards and could send messages of various types. Then, the iPhone and everything we thought we knew about the technology and economics of mobile communications changed. Simplicity unchained, best demonstrated by the early discovery that the average iPhone user was comfortable with ten of that device’s functions, where people using the alternatives on average never mastered two. Simplicity.
Two other examples, cars and code, describe the principle and the conundrum. Have you looked at a car engine lately? Perhaps most of us can still identify to the major subsystems by sight, but not 1 in 1000 could service it beyond the most basic items, such as adding a quart of oil. Changed the points or paid for a tune-up lately? Not likely. The more powerful technology behind today’s automobiles has made their operation simpler, easier and (gasp!) even less expensive than even a generation ago. Last one: nearly every American between 2 and 90 uses HTML code every day but how many can write even a single line of this simplest of all programming languages, or even name it? Again, 1 in 1000, or less? Power breeds user simplicity ,which breeds ubiquity that drives massive markets.
Bringing the principle to our own experience, our users tell us that their first and foremost reason for using TheFormTool is… simplicity, the ability of ordinary users to use it instantly, to master it quickly. Users tell us that using TheFormTool is easier and faster, simpler (and lots more fun) than cut and paste. After that, TheFormTool’s advantages in terms of price and power are merely supporting actors.
There may be another principle at work here: If you don’t “get it” in ten minutes or less, whether it’s a new phone, camera, or a document assembly program, it may not be “gettable.”
To be useful, we believe that it’s essential that truly useful technology must have the power to be simple.™