By Gordon McNenney, Content and Communications Director

Whether you’re a gangster or an app developer, there’s some useful business insight in the 1983 flick “Scarface”.

“Don’t get high on your own supply” is advice that Al Pacino’s drug kingpin character, Tony Montana, ignores at his peril. While the app business is slightly less cutthroat than Miami in the 1980s, app developers can be similarly tempted to indulge in the huge ‘supply’ of potential app functions and capabilities. These features are intended to accommodate all user needs as well as take advantage of devices' native functionality. But the resulting complexity can seriously undermine the user experience.

A ZD Net columnist who beta tests apps described how he personally experienced the process of app bloat: “The developer had done his homework, and the early versions of this app were really good. Then, over time the urge to add functions set in, and every new version of the app got worse at performing the primary task. Feature after feature kept getting added, just in case they added perceived value, and with that the app got harder to use and in some cases failed to perform the primary function.”

Feature fatigue is easier to avoid on everyday tools, like spreadsheet software or TV remotes, but it comes on quickly with apps you only use occasionally. Neuropsychologist Susan Weinschenk applies cognitive psychology to make technology more usable. Here’s what she says about too much consumer choice: “Remember consumers will SAY they want lots of choices, and you will think that lots of choices is a good thing (because you like them too), but too many choices means they won’t buy at all.”

Keeping it simple isn’t easy when you’re trying to differentiate an app in a crowded marketplace. But as companies like Apple know, it pays to resist the temptation. Thinking simple can be the best kind of thinking different.

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