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Focus

The “remove” strategy is about removing distractions to bring focus to your project:

  • Focus on what’s valuable to users. This means concentrating on features that deliver the users’ core experience. It also means delivering features that eliminate users’ frustrations and ease their sense of anxiety.
  • Focus your resources on delivering value by removing lame features, irrelevant extras, and bribes.
  • Focus on meeting users’ goals. Agonizing over the process will get you bogged down in detail.
  • Remove the distractions of tiny speed bumps that add to the load on the user: error messages, irrelevant text, unnecessary choices, and visual clutter.

With patience and the data to back you up, you can bring focus to most projects. If your problem is political, you can overcome it by building on small successes or by using evidence from tests. If your problem is out-of-date technology or incompatible systems, these too can change (slowly) over time. However, there are a couple of exceptions.

Sometimes there is an unavoidable legal requirement to include particular wording or information. Financial services and medical regulations often require that specific wording is used, not because it makes sense to the public, but because it makes sense to lawmakers. Laws can be changed, too. David Sless in Australia has had some success in getting lawmakers to focus on whether consumers understand labels, rather than requiring long and confusing instructions.

Sometimes you can’t remove because your design is part of a larger system. That’s the case with the DVD remote. For instance, there are millions of DVDs in circulation that make use of the numeric keypad on the remote. If you removed it, you would risk breaking the user experience for anyone who already owned such a DVD.

While you’re waiting for the world to change, however, there are other ways of simplifying that are less radical, but quicker to implement.

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