Better software, less support

A few months ago “Ars carried a story”:http://arstechnica.com/journals/apple.ars/2008/10/09/slowing-economy-impacts-apple-call-center-in-colorado about Apple canceling a call center in Colorado. This part stuck out to me:

“Somewhat surprisingly, the iPhone 2.1 update was also named as one of the reasons for the cancellation. The software update has apparently been so successful at resolving iPhone 3G problems that its release has caused a noticeable drop in support calls.”

In this case it was just bug fixes, but it reminded me of “Getting Real”:https://gettingreal.37signals.com/. Make software easy to use and simple and then there are fewer things that can break and users are less confused. I have been obsessed with following this advice lately. Some of the limitations I’ve put in a couple recent projects:

  • No preferences (for Mac, no prefs window; for web, no options or settings screen).

  • Single toolbar (no status bar or need to look in multiple places, e.g. both the top and bottom of the window).

  • Minimal toolbar buttons (only the absolute basics are exposed outside of menus).

  • Opinionated defaults (no customization, similar to others above).

On a few occasions this has hurt my ability to add features, but on others it forces me to see a user interface problem from a new angle, something I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t had these limits to work in.

Limiting features in an app does not come naturally to me, but the more I embrace it, the more value I see in it. I “tweeted a bonus side effect”:http://twitter.com/manton/status/1177252437 to this approach last week: “Maybe another reason why simple software succeeds: customers see in it all the possible features to come, implemented just right for them.”