Simple Good, Complex bad… Or Vice-Versa?

In a recent article, Joel on software claims that simplicity is overrated, that users want more features, and the single thing his company does to drive more sales is to release a new version of an existing product with more features. What’s notable is that a week earlier, he wrote this well-circulated post lambasting Microsoft for having too much choice in the shutdown menu in Vista, and advocated for a simple, one-button shutdown solution.

I wonder if his users really want new features, or just a new release. It would be interesting to compare if the adoption of new releases is in any way related to the feature set of that new release — in the one extreme case, if you sold a new version of your software with just a new version number, would that alone drive sales up. (If only once…)

The other extreme case is also interesting — what if you silently added features to your product, but never explicitly made a new release. Web software-as-service is like this — what version of gmail do you use? None of the google services even display a version number (other than “beta”) anywhere, at least that I can find. They seem to do OK.

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One Response to Simple Good, Complex bad… Or Vice-Versa?

  1. The article is a little unfocused and my favorite part is buried about halfway through: Simplicity is not the same as lack of features. Creating a “simple” user experience can take a very complex system (witness the necessity of creating the iTunes Music Store just to make the experience of the iPod “simple”)

    On the other hand, being the proprietor of a resource-starved web site, I’m certainly not adverse to going for the easy first 20% :-)

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