Sometimes it pays to keep things simple. Literally.
Watching a great presentation from David Heinemeier Hansson, the genius behind Ruby on Rails and partner in 37signals, on creating a profitable startup, one of the key themes is around realising that an idea can be very simple. You don’t need to shoot to be the next Facebook, but by finding gaps and meeting the needs the thousands of small businesses that require solutions to their everyday tasks, the odds are a whole lot better you can be very successful. Innovation doesn’t always have to be radical, and the value in the business model and execution can turn a simple idea into a very popular and profitable business.
A piece of Tupperware that holds cupcakes? Who would have thought it. Such a simple concept addressing a need to be able to transport cupcakes, making Jennifer Gunn a fortune.
The same applies to the user experience. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest functionality, the latest website, a new Adobe Air application, or Silverlight microsite, but forgetting the technology, it’s got to meet the objectives of it’s users. Myhome.com.au packs a punch in AJAX functionality, but it’s slow and unfamiliar, given the same volume of listings as realestate.com.au, my bet is 99% would still choose the realestate functionaility. The search is simple, fast and again familiar (see SEEK, CarSales). This isn’t to say the technology behind it needs to be simple, it can be quite the opposite if you’re trying to produce the most relevant results possible, but the user doesn’t need to know this.
These vertical leaders need to continue to adapt to meet user demands and expectations, continue to innovate in technology to be simpler, more powerful, but they’re not about to introduce radical change to their core functionality anytime soon. The search & listings structure has been upheld in the various forms on these sites for 5+ years, and we need to remember this is how a majority of people are finding jobs, cars and property every day.
It's a useful reminder for myself in production of an upcoming site Big Electric, focus on meeting user's objectives and keep it simple.