Presenting too many features to users is recognized as a problem in the age of the user experience. According to Adreas Pfeiffer in an article titled “Features Don’t Matter Anymore“, what users really want is simplicity, not features. This can be a real challenge for libraries seeking to design a better user experience because many of our resources are feature laden products that ultimately overwhelm and confuse the end user – a definite problem in the age of user experience.
In a new article by James Surowiecki, of wisdom of the crowd fame, he discusses what I would call the features conundrum. In an article titled “Feature Presentation” he explores the difficulties of meeting consumer expectations. The challenge is that “although consumers find overloaded gadgets unmanageable, they also find them attractive.” When given choices of varying products consumers will go for the ones with the most features. It appears they want to have their cake (features) and eat it too (simplicity).
But here’s something of interest for librarians who want to provide better user experiences. Surowiecki writes that “as buyers, users want all the bells and whistles, but as users they want something clear and simple.” So since we work with “users’ rather than “buyers” it may be that our focus should be on simplicity rather than the features. Or we may need to strategically identify features that have value that will be immediately obvious to users. Whatever we do and whatever balance we may try to create in developing a better library user experience, it just may be that “even when you give consumers what they want they can still end up hating you for it.”