More isn’t better

August 10, 2020

If you've followed my work for some time, you know I enjoy discovering new products and surgically inspecting how they work, what features they have, and how they've decided to solve some of the common UX problems. To be honest, this is one of the ways I learn and develop a lot of my skills - by reviewing and understanding what others do.

Losing focus

For some time though, some of my favorite tools doesn't feel as magical anymore. It's not because the excitement has worn off, but because they've started serving even more customers, a larger audience, and by adding more features. From a financial perspective, I totally get it. Hell, even from a purely human perspective I get it. Coming up with new features has to be much more exciting that just iterating on existing ones, right?

Some examples I've found

For years, I've used GoSquared instead of Google Analytics to track users on my website. I keep track of what articles have the most reads (it's AI Ethics - A New Skill for Designers), who's tweeting my about my site, and where my visitors are coming from (about 60% are from the US). As much as I still love the team behind GoSquared, my website now only runs Fathom. Here's my problem... You see, during the last years GoSquared has focused more on automations, identifying users, and being able to communicate with them - so more Intercom than Google Analytics. With Fathom, I can run privacy-focused analytics and get almost the same amount information. After all, most metrics are really only vanity metrics anyway.

If you're subscribed to my newsletter, you'll know that I've tried my fair share of tools - Mailchimp, Drip, Convertkit, Buttondown, Mailerlite... and now I'm back on Mailchimp. I still feel like they are doing way too many things, but unlike with analytics, I haven't found a great alternative. Most email marketing tools are either solely focused on automations, transactions, and e-commerce or trying to be a full-fledged CRM. Me, I just want to be able to email my list every other week and tell them about what I've been thinking about lately. I don't need all the complexity.

I was reading Derek Sivers' new book Hell Yeah or No the other day and the chapter Subtract stood out:

Life can be improved by adding, or by subtracting. The world pushes us to add, because that benefits them. But the secret is to focus on subtracting. The adding mindset is deeply ingrained. 
It’s easy to think I need something else. It’s hard to look instead at what to remove.

The least successful people I know run in conflicting directions, are drawn to distractions, say yes to almost everything, and are chained to emotional obstacles. The most successful people I know have a narrow focus, protect themselves against time-wasters, say no to almost everything, and have let go of old limiting beliefs. More people die from eating too much than from eating too little. Most of us have too much baggage, too many commitments, and too many priorities. Subtracting reminds me that what I need to change is something already here, not out there.Derek Sivers - Subtract

I'm curious as to how much of the same thinking would be applicable to the products we create. A lot of the products I once truly enjoyed using outgrew me and added more and more features until I couldn't identify their core service anymore. Dropbox added Paper, Showcase, and even an App Center instead of just continuing to be the best-in-class file-syncing service they once were.

If you're curious about what tools I'm currently using the run my business, I've just updated my list.

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