On product design

Good design is as little design as possible.
-Dieter Rams

The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.
John Maeda

Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.
–Caterina Fake

You spend so much more time to make it less conspicuous, less obvious. And if you think about it, so many of the products we're surrounded by, they want you to be very aware of just how clever the solution was.
-Jonathan Ive

Can we do the job of those 6 parts as one?
–Jonathan Ive.

A very important turning point for me was the term 'obsessive sketch' by Takama Kyoshi, the haiku master. When the poet's sentiments are overly visible, the audience may become uncomfortable. By writing simply and only about what is there, the audience is drawn into the poet's world. Their imagination is stimulated, and a silent connection is established. I believe this is where the most important aspect of the Japanese sense of beauty lies.
-Naoto Fukasawa

If I had to summarize our learnings in three words: "simple trumps complete."
Neil Hunt on Netflix A-B testing

I don’t need every customer. I’m primarily in the business of selling a product for money. How much effort do I really want to devote to satisfying people who are unable or extremely unlikely to pay for anything?…
Marco Arment, Instapaper

Some people argue software should be agnostic. They say it's arrogant for developers to limit features or ignore feature requests. They say software should always be as flexible as possible.

We think that's bullshit. The best software has a vision. The best software takes sides. When someone uses software, they're not just looking for features, they're looking for an approach. They're looking for a vision. Decide what your vision is and run with it.
Jason Fried, Getting Real

When you build an app always look out for the non-essential features. Make sure they don’t make it into your v1.0. They slow down your release, they dilute your focus, they require resources that pull you away from perfecting the core of your app, and they open the door to more bugs at launch.
Jason Fried

The best designers and the best programmers aren’t the ones with the best skills, or the nimblest fingers, or the ones who can rock and roll with photoshop or vim, they are the ones that can determine what just doesn’t matter. That’s where the real gains are made.

Most of the time you spend is wasted time on things that just don’t matter. If you can cut out the work and thinking that just doesn’t matter you’ll achieve productivity you’ve never imagined. It’s there if you just don’t pay attention to the things that don’t matter.
Jason Fried

“Minimum Viable Product”. MVP, if you aren’t familiar, is an idea from the Lean Startup scene. In a nutshell, it means to do as little as possible so you can learn if you did the right thing or not.
Jason Fried

How do you know when it's done? The question is: when is it good enough?
Good enough, for those that seek perfection, is what we call it when it's sufficient to surpass the standards we've set. Anything beyond good enough is called stalling and a waste of time.

If you don't like your definition of 'good enough', then feel free to change that, but the goal before shipping is merely that. Not perfect.
Seth Godin

"Good design, when done well, should be invisible."
Jared Spool

"So much complexity in software comes from trying to make one thing do two things."
Ryan Singer

"When the form changes, so does the underlying business model, which of course changes the function as well. … The question that gets asked about technology, the one that is almost always precisely the wrong question is, "How does this advance help our business?" The correct question is, "how does this advance undermine our business model and require us/enable us to build a new one?" … When a change in form comes to your industry, the first thing to discover is how it will change the function."
Seth Godin on how to react to change

"When discussing any product, technology, or idea, it’s easy to focus only on its value, what problem it is trying to solve for the user. This is a good start, and has historically been the only consideration. Recently however, people have started to realize that it also has to be well designed; it can’t be painful to use.

What’s most important is their relationship: as long as value is greater than pain, you’ll be ok.

Just because value > pain doesn’t mean that you’re done, it just means that it’s good enough to ship.

As pain goes down, people will use a product more often for less valuable tasks. Value is still > pain but now it takes much less value to trigger usage. … [R]educing pain, not improving the value of a product in any way, can significantly affect usage."
Scott Jenson on Mobile Apps and value versus pain

"Making something obvious has a cost. You can’t make everything obvious because you have limited resources. I’m not talking money–although that may be part of it too. I’m primarily talking screen real estate, attention span, comprehension, etc.

Making something obvious is expensive because it often means you have to make a whole bunch of other things less obvious. Obvious dominates and only one thing can truly dominate at a time. It may be worth it to make that one thing completely obvious, but it’s still expensive.

Obvious is all about always. The thing(s) people do all the time, the always stuff, should be obvious. The core, the epicenter, the essence of the product should be obvious."
Jason Fried on designing The Obvious, the Easy, and the Possible

"If we limit ourselves to what we envision at the outset, we'll miss opportunity. If we had stopped at what the Wright Brothers could envision, we wouldn't have gotten very far."

(In 1910, Wilbur Wright didn't believe planes would be able to carry large numbers of people as trains did, or would be ever able to carry freight. The first air cargo was in 1913.)
–Brock Rumor

I think there’s a benefit to being one of six people that no one knew. No VCs would return our calls and we were broke and bootstrapping it and operating under the radar so we could focus on the most important things: the product, the users, what we were building. There’s all this noise, the tech-crunch, which you have to tune out if you want to build a good product. None of that stuff is additive; it all takes away from building a product.
-Caterina Fake on developing in obscurity.

If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.
-Reid Hoffman, quoted in Mark Goldenson’s 10 lessons from a failed startup, found via svn.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius–and a lot of courage–to move in the opposite direction.
Albert Einstein

Designers prune.

Left to its own devices, the mob will augment, accessorize, spam, degrade and noisify whatever they have access to, until it loses beauty and function and becomes something else.

The tragedy of the design commons.


It seems democratic and non-elitist to set it and forget it and let the users take over. But the tools we use (Wikipedia) and the brands we covet (Nike or Ducati) resolutely refuse to become democracies.
-Seth Godin

The easiest way to get people to do what you want them to do is to start with people who want what you want.

Identify, organize and excite people who are already predisposed to achieve what you had in mind and you're much more likely to have the outcome you seek. It's far easier (but less compelling) than turning strangers or enemies into customers/voters/supporters/colleagues. Over time, an engaged and motivated base of followers is the single best way to earn more followers.

You used to be stuck with whoever walked in the door or opened your mail. Today, you change minds indirectly, by building a tribe that influences via connections to others.

-Seth Godin