Product designers — and, let’s face it — all of us often make the mistake of thinking that the more features something has, the better it must be. Whether we’re shopping for a new lawnmower, sound system, vehicle, or even a backyard playset for our kids, we tend to think the more options it has, the more it will deliver.

As we sometimes learn the hard way, more features don’t automatically add to a superior product design or user experience. This is critical for product developers to understand. When it comes to designing, engineering, and manufacturing a new product, less is almost always more. But finding the sweet spot of simplicity can be more challenging than it might appear.

At Pivot International, we bring nearly fifty years of experience and a proven track record of helping companies worldwide bring innovative products to market. The products we’ve played a key role in creating have received prestigious design awards, drawn international acclaim, and been wildly successful in industrial and consumer markets.

Pivot’s one-source model integrates and streamlines the many complex product development phases, including conception, prototyping, design (including DFM), engineering, manufacture, and distribution. Our teams comprise some of the world’s top design, engineering, and user experience talent. These teams work collaboratively with our clients to turn good products into great products by reaching simplicity on the other side of complexity.

As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” But achieving this kind of simplicity in product development requires two critical competencies.

A to B

1. An ability to question and redefine the problem your product is intended to solve:

In 1966, a collection of manufacturing articles appeared, titled “The Manufacturing Manager’s Skills.” In this collection, a quote was included from an unnamed professor at the Industrial Engineering Department of Yale University, which said, “If I had only one hour to solve a problem, I would spend up to two-thirds of that hour in attempting to define what the problem is.”

The ability to question and redefine the problem your product is intended to solve is of paramount importance. It is also one of the most underappreciated aspects of the product design and innovation process.

Too many companies assume that they clearly understand the problem their product is trying to solve because they’ve conducted market research. While market research is essential, on its own, it can never be enough. Facts and stats can’t substitute for the ability to conceive a problem in an entirely new way — a way that shifts the focus from how to solve a problem to how to deliver the experience or outcome that is the reason for solving the problem in the first place.

2. Discerning what features to omit and which to keep:

Product development teams can easily fall prey to the temptation to create brilliant technical solutions that impress their peers and managers but are out of touch with customers’ actual needs and user experience. Design and engineering professionals who have not learned to think outside their disciplinary boxes can become fascinated with “bells and whistles” that they miss the forest for the trees.

The most talented design and engineering teams understand that knowing which features to omit is every bit as important as determining which ones to include. Both omissions and additions need to be approached in a highly strategic fashion. It’s one thing to omit a feature to cut costs or because a project is running behind. It’s another thing to consider the complexity of the big picture (user-experience, supply chain, market trends, financials, and so forth) and make strategic decisions about what features — or lack thereof — will result in a truly superior and competitive product.

When approaching this design challenge, product development teams need to think synergistically, taking a whole-systems approach. The omission or addition of even one feature has the potential to impact multiple, seemingly non-related features. It can even significantly alter the problem’s parameters as it has been defined, thus changing the product’s nature and functionality altogether. (For better or for worse.)

Instead of working from the perspective that an ideal product design has been achieved when as many features as possible have been added, challenge yourself and your team to work from the opposite perspective: The more features that can be eliminated in the service of optimizing user-experience while maximizing ROI, the closer to perfection the product will be.

Are you looking for a proven partner to help you bring a new product to market? We’d love to be part of the process. We deliver a seamless end-to-end product development process backed by multiple IEC and ISO certifications, FDA registration, UL listing, and CSA approval. Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of a partnership with Pivot and how we can help you grow your business.