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The Power of the Simple Startup

The Simple StartupThe lean startup is all the rage because it purportedly “transforming how new products are built and launched”. In many ways, it makes sense for startups looking for ways to connect with customers in a fast-moving, fickle and competitive marketplace.

But I think there is too much faith or enthusiasm about the lean philosophy, and the idea that a steady series of improvements or mini-pivots is the formula for success.

Instead, a better and more realistic approach is the simple startup.

These are startups that provide a user-friendly, intuitive and valuable product that clicks with users because it performs elegantly and efficiently.

These products can be feature-rich and multi-faceted but they are designed in a way that much of the complexity has been eliminated or hidden behind a simple user interface.

When someone uses a simple startup’s products, it performs effectively, easily and flows in a way that people don’t have to think too much. If people do run into problems or obstacles, the solutions are obvious and easily navigated around.

In a recent blog post, Neil Patel listed simple products as one of the things he wished he had known before starting his first company. He makes a great point that most people abandon complicated products “even if they do solve great problems”.

Truth be told, most people don’t have the time or patience to use products that aren’t simple. We live in an instant gratification world, which means a complicated product comes across as too much work.

For startups, developing something that isn’t simple is a recipe for disaster. 

Simple doesn’t mean no-frills or dumbed down that just meets basic needs. It is about creating a product that does the job – big or small – by appearing to be simple in how it works, looks and feels. People think it’s simple even if it’s complicated, which is a huge challenge that most companies fail to tackle.

What side of the fence do you sit on: fence vs. lean? And, if like me, you’re an advocate of simple, what are the attributes that makes a product simple?

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  • http://whoyoucallingajesse.com/ Jesse Rodgers

    I found that if you start with something simple there is a lot of pressure from people to get more complicated. That leaves you with some scenarios: ignore and it sells anyway, ignore and no one buys it, add/change things and people buy it, add/change things and no one buys it. What I think the real trick is to build something that appears simple but is actually complicated. Remove the thinking from the complicated tasks and you get a killer product.

    • http://www.markevans.ca/ Mark Evans

      Jesse: Completely agree with you that complicated can be simple if the product/service is designed well. The problem with many online services is the more stuff they add, the less user-friendly it becomes, which makes the new features irrelevant or, at least, attractive to many users. Thanks for the comment. Mark

  • Pingback: Simple Startups » Andy McIlwain (andymci)

  • http://www.facebook.com/samweinberg Sam Weinberg

    I think you as a startup have hit the spot when you make your customer happy. When you strike a cord in them that evokes positive emotions, they will fall head over heels for your brand. As you mentioned, you can create this sense of genuine happiness when you keeps things simple – everything from the product itself, to the design, the marketing, and the branding of your startup.

  • http://abdallahalhakim.tumblr.com/ Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I love simple products with simple intuitive interface that can still accomplish a complex task. Dropbox is still one of my favourite example for how a simple product can be easily adopted by the users.