Solving the Simplicity vs. Complexity Dilemma in Product Development

Where do you fall on the simplicity vs. complexity scale? Do you know how to balance out the two? Or are you keen on oversimplifying everything to the point of scarcity? Or you veer towards the other extreme – you’re in the “the more complicated – the better!” team? In product development it all comes down to what is best for your customer.

[Source: Pixabay]

But figuring out what’s best for your customer is a tedious process. After all, discovering when less leads to more and how to make actually simple and highly complex products – it’s not that easy. Here are some tips on managing the simplicity vs. complexity debate in product development.

Unpacking Simplicity and Complexity

Before we take a deeper dive we need to make a couple of things clear. One, simplicity and complexity are not mutually exclusive. Two, in the industry, these two terms are not used to merely describe the end state of a product. Rather, they are used to describe the whole product development process.

In other words, product developers should learn, through trial and error and experience, how to arrive at the end state – a fully developed and functioning product. The path to practical knowledge of balancing complexity and simplicity means focusing on switching between simplification and complexity processes as needed.

Golden Rules for Balancing Out Simplicity and Complexity While Focusing on the End-User

Here are some surefire ways which can help you and your team deduce how to approach a product and how many features it should have.

Keep the Focus Narrow

We all love 3-in-1 products and similar ones. Truth is, we want to use a product that does one thing very well rather than a product that does multiple things on a mediocre level.

That means that product developers should aim for a narrow focus that starts with a crystal-clear product vision that concentrates on solving a particular issue and need a customer may have. You may feel tempted to start solving other problems you may spot along the way. But that can often disperse your focus and thus lead you to an underdeveloped product.

What does all of this mean in product development terms? Instead of developing for any potential prospect, we’re developing for one specific prospect. True, we then have to turn down a lot of prospects who aren’t a good fit, but it’s worth it.

It also means achieving greater results with fewer resources.

Provide Simplicity Through Customer Service

The importance of customer service is almost equal to that of the product itself.

[Source: Pixabay]

There are three ways to show your support for simplicity:

  • By making it simple to contact customer service
  • By allowing customers to contact support in a variety of ways
  • By providing prompt and thoughtful responses

You can provide customer support through website live chat support, which can be moderated by an actual knowledgeable employee or by an AI bot.

You can also take the time to provide more thoughtful, in-depth responses via email or phone, which usually resolve the issue on the first response.

More Tips for Balancing Out Simplicity and Complexity

To strike the right tone and offer a product with the right amount of features, you need to keep a few things more in check. Experts who work in product design and development consultancy are a great address for solving additional simplicity vs. complexity issues and dilemmas you might have.

Tap Into Empathy

Your customer is far more complex than a one-dimensional stereotype. They are real people with real issues, and they require your assistance. Empathize with them to better understand their aspirations, needs, and wishes. You can make better decisions about what will add the most value if you have a good understanding of who is using your product. Then you’ll be able to determine whether the time and effort required to do so, as well as the impact that additional functionality will have on the rest of your product is worthwhile.

Make Sure Your Departments are Cooperating

The structure of the team affects the end state of your product. Thus, the structure of your team affects whether you are overdoing it with simplicity or complexity. Your company can divide product development teams into groups based on technology, product functionality, or a defined user journey. That puts various people working on various aspects of the product. As a result, you may encounter friction points. Ensure that teams communicate frequently and that the overarching product roadmap prioritizes the needs of customers rather than how the product is built.

Go Down the Incremental Route

Should you develop a completely new product or take advantage of a current one? As a product matures, it’s common for developers to slow down and focus their efforts on fewer (but larger) updates. However, you may make a mistake, forcing customers to wait. Rather than going all-in at once, approach a large problem in stages. Because of the speed with which software is developed, most SaaS teams can constantly improve their products. That allows you to improve based on real-world usage and feedback.

Go Back and Reevaluate in Favor of Simplicity

Doing the bare minimum can sound like a bad tactic, but not when it comes to product development. Saving resources, staying budget-friendly, avoiding the dreaded “crunches” and overtime, not creating needless waste… That is something product managers should focus on while letting customers have a say in the process and ask for more.

Final Word

Complexity is not necessarily bad. It just requires finesse to identify when it is needed. And simplicity isn’t necessarily “doing the bare minimum.” You just need to spot when you need to scale back. All in all, you can’t have simplicity without the complex – contrast is a necessity. So whichever route you decide to walk on during product development, you’ll need to sprinkle your process with contrast. All while keeping the end-user in mind.