6 factors consumers use to evaluate simplicity

Original author: Dave Rothschild
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Make it easier. Of course. But what does it mean?

You will often come across new product descriptions assuring that "This is the easiest way to make X."
But how should the product design be developed in order to increase the likelihood that the target group of consumers will perceive it as an easier way to do any work than the existing solution that they are currently using?

What does this mean?

I believe Dr. B.J. Fogg from Stanford greatly simplified the life of innovators by identifying 6 factors that consumers use to evaluate whether something is simple:

Time: If the targeted behavior takes time, which is not currently available, then the behavior is not simple.

Money: It is much easier to hire a gardener than to do the landscape yourself. But if you do not have money, it is not easy.

Physical effort:I need to transport the boxes from Ikea home and raise them to the floor. Delivery can handle this, but it needs money. I can buy a toilet at Home Depot, order home delivery and install. Or I can entrust all this to someone else and pay more. Simplicity depends on the person and the situation.

Thought processes: This is sometimes called cognitive loading. This item is quite voluminous. How much will I have to think, or can I just make a quick decision using my instinct / intuition? I want to download a new application that will allow me to buy products online.

The advertisement says it's "easy to use." But the first thing I'm thinking about: How much effort will it take to teach this program to do what I want? Fogg says: "In most cases, we overestimate how much an ordinary person wants to think." This does not mean that the need to engage in thought processes is always bad. I can buy a bike at a bicycle store, or I can buy it online and save $ 150. It takes more thought processes to figure it out, and time. Which is easier? It depends on ...

Social deviations: Does the decision run counter to generally accepted norms? Fogg calls it "... a violation of the rules of society." It might be easier to come to a party at the neighbors in a swimsuit, but people will ask you questions why you thought so.

Routine: Starbucks is located at the end of my street and offers ample parking space. Coffee is better at Philz, but it’s out of the way and it has terrible parking. I will go to Starbucks. I'll refuel across from Starbucks, even if it costs me more. A cheap gas station is 1 mile down the road that I don't drive very often.

Consumers can use different approaches and evaluate these factors in different situations. Therefore, your most scarce resource will depend on the situation and circumstances.

For example, I want to ride a bike in the park. It’s cheaper for me to rent my bike than to rent it in the park. But this implies more physical effort to push the bike into the car or tie it to it and take it to the park.

As an innovator, you cannot just say: we will make this the simplest solution. Use these factors to understand what you are talking about. Support your claim with these factors in a particular situation, and do not force designers and engineers to do unnecessary work.

How to apply it to tasks

We know that consumers are looking for solutions to accomplish a task. The task makes people gain something. And, after purchasing the first solution, some consumers switch to new solutions in order to better perform ongoing tasks.

These 6 factors of simplicity can play a role both in using the solution for any task, and in abandoning it. The current solution may be good, but as it is used in more situations, some simplicity factors can be more expensive.

If I use Safari to manage passwords on a Mac, it falls under the criteria of simplicity for most of these factors. But if after that I try to use passwords created on a Mac (for example, for online banking) to access a banking application on a smartphone (a new situation), Safari will not help me. Time and thought processes will begin to work in search of a way to make Safari passwords available in their respective mobile applications ... with the appropriate level of security. This is in view of the fact that I will not use “abc123” as a password on all devices to solve this problem.

The word “simplicity” and the phrase “make it simpler” can have a wide meaning and can become a mechanism for hiding the design bias and making decisions during development. Use this bias along with these 6 factors.

Check out these factors yourself. The next time you decide on a purchase in a particular situation, use these 6 factors to understand which of them you are mentally evaluating without even knowing about it.

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