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[Customer experience]

I have started a hardware startup with one of my techie friend. Couple of days back we had an argument over adding two or more functionality or feature in our product.

As a user experience designer I always think that customer doesn't want something which has a lot of functionality or features in single product. I always think that adding more feature neither full fills the customers' needs or business requirement.

His argument: What if some company started selling a device which can two jobs - for example: Imagine there is a device which can take temperature and blood pressure both with just one device, wouldn't it make device more sell-able? Combining two different device into one can cut the cost and provide two solution almost as the price of one.

My argument: I said," would you buy a home appliance which can do more than one job." (He said yes) Then I gave him one example - what if there is a device which will have microwave oven + washing machine, would this make device more sell-able?

Later, I realize that my example has two devices from two different domains where as his example had two device from one domain so I changed my example to this - Imagine there is device which can work as juicer + microwave oven would you buy it?

I wasn't able to convince him that the approach he is taking is wrong and I am fairly confident about my approach.

I would like to take some comments about

  1. If I am really correct or wrong then why?
  2. If he is correct or wrong then why?
  3. If I am correct then how should I approach to make him realize that his approach is wrong.

Please let me know if you want any edit or more information.

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    It's going to depend entirely on the users needs. Would you want full size screwdriver and saw or a 21-tool swiss army pocket knife? Well it depends if you're a carpenter or hiker. – DasBeasto Sep 1 '16 at 12:33
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    Your second paragraph is, I think, back to front. If there is a business need, customers will want the feature added, and it's right to do so. It's wrong to add a feature if there's no business need to do so (i.e. just to get marketing tick-boxes). – TripeHound Sep 1 '16 at 13:03
  • For the case of combined temperature/blood-pressure unit, this is probably more a commercial decision than anything -- it might be better (=more profitable) to sell them two things instead of one. It might be more convenient for the customer to have two in one (but it would mean they couldn't take one person's temperature and measure another's BP at the same time), and often two dedicated units can do better jobs than one more general purpose unit. – TripeHound Sep 1 '16 at 13:15
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It really depends on a lot of things and its not easy to say which way will be better.

Sometimes users would want lots of features in 1 product, for example smartphones, other times they would prefer single dedicated device which will have 1 functionality but do it very well. An example for this could be processors with video cards. Gamers would prefer separate processor and video card because of the better performance, but regular users would prefer single chip with CPU and GPU in it due to the better price.

Therefore, we cannot give you valid answer because we don't know your niche, target users, the above mentioned functionalities etc.

I advise you to find target customers and interview them, survey them. You can even do a diary study to get better understanding of the hardware is used for longer periods of time. Definitely spend resources on researching this because most of the projects fail because of incomplete or inadequate user requirements.

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There are too many variables in this discussion to come to a reasonable conclusion.

If the goal is profit maximization for a company, then it's purely revenue minus costs. If the goal is to please customers, then it's only about delighting them. Much of the time you can achieve both, but in some cases you'll need to decide between one goal versus the other and importantly, the timelines behind them may change.

Having one device that serves two purposes may delight a customer, but it can increase the marginal unit cost to produce and spread internal resources thin.

On the other hand, if the company already produces two separate devices, it could reduce the overall bottom line to the company by consolidating to one production line. However, this leaves the product open to a competitor who may focus all their resources on bettering just one device.

A more compelling example in your friend's favor would be a combination washing machine and dryer. Some customers would love the fact that they wouldn't need to move their clothes from one device to another. This of course would mean that the combination device functions just as good or better than the washer and dryer they own separately. (And better than competing washer and dryer devices on the market.)

The lean startup concept is all about providing only those features that are absolutely vital to the product based on customer need. If the needs show that customers would want a combination device and they are willing to pay for it, then you have your answer.

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It's all a matter of perception. Under 3 features are easy to understand but from sales standpoint, 1 and very clear is the way to go.

There is a big difference between purpose and feature. Your example is random appliances one next to the other, it's apples and oranges. He was suggesting big apples and small apples. That can work too.

I think it's more a matter of perception than anything else Look here. It's a very good example of UX perception and how it happens

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You and your co-founder are having an ideological debate. Unfortunately, there is no right ideology, only the one you believe in. Fortunately, your ideological viewpoints on feature bloat will be rendered moot if the voice of your prospective customers can be included in this conversation. I would recommend doing customer research around this point and using this data to decide what should be done next.

  • Hey! Thanks for the reply and I would never make decision without doing any user research. I came up with my argument because of my past experience. Before, I worked for a startup where we were building a personal content aggregator app. The startup survived almost 2 years until we started loading it up with one or the other new feature that our CEO came up. I felt that if you ask any customer to buy 5in1 product then they would certainly say yes but after sometime they would start complaining about this thing is they aren't able to do or that thing they don't understand. things like that. – ΛBHINΛV Sep 2 '16 at 5:58
  • @Ryder I see. I think your former CEO needed this productstrategymeanssayingno.com/#question-2. But I don't think your'e going to get the right type of feedback from customers by proposing features. Asking whether or not they would buy a 5-in-1 product is the wrong question. Your research should focus on the problems your customers want to solve, and the features you build as a result should address these. – Andre Dickson Sep 2 '16 at 6:15
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I only can speak of myself in that regard, because I didn't make much research apart from asking my friends and family.

I and some other who I know: 1 product, 1 function, with small exceptions like the fridge with a freezer in it and the like.

I cringe when I see those "Smart"phones which can do it all at once, but everything is slow as hell, because the developer didn't equip enough processing power to actually handle "all at once".

The same with programs that have a gazillion features and options but so overloaded that i prefer the small programs. For example: Notepad vs any other Text-Program. Reasoning: If I want crazy formatting God-like power I just use Latex.

BUT, the other persons, which are probably 50% too like those "all-in-one" Devices and Programs, mostly because of convenience.

And one last notion:

I probably will never buy a Screwdriver which can't also drill holes in a wall. But even there i can understand if some Computer-fixing company has exactly those. Reasoning: they don't drill holes in walls.

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Before deciding what to build it makes sense to look at what the market has to offer. If the market has products that are mediocre at function A and mediocre at function B a device that's specialized at function A.

On the other hand if there are specialized devices on the market for A and for B but there are no devices on the market that do both and you can produce a product that can do both relatively well, that product might have commercial success because there's a class of people who prefers the combined product.

Your product doesn't have to appear to everybody, it just has to be better for a specific class of customers than the existing products.

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