Crossing the Threshold of Easy

For years, I read about Skype, and enjoyed the concept, though I didn’t use it. Didn’t have the need for free point-to-point Voice-over-IP, given my calling patterns and calling plans. It meant a little bit of trouble – hooking up a mic/headset, calling through my computer – not hard, but it was a few steps I didn’t feel like taking.

The quality of VOIP kept improving, however, and many people signed up for Skype accounts. Then they added video. Now that’s interesting – but again, it meant hooking up a webcam, doing an initial setup, taking some steps to use it – a change in workflow. Nah.

easyAfter managing to spill some coffee on my laptop keyboard, I had to buy a replacement Dell, and this model had something new to me – a built-in webcam and a built-in mic/audio system of reasonable quality. Finally, I re-considered Skype, because it had crossed the Threshold of Easy – a quick download, and it just worked. Plus it gave me something new: on-demand and free video calls.

I’m not tech-shy, but I’m not a first-adopter – I don’t chase gadgetry and spend lots of time doing configuration and troubleshooting. I want stuff to offer me some kind of benefit and at the same time, delight me with ease of use. That’s why I was so relieved to get rid of my cell phone and become an iPhone fan – it not only works, it leaps over the threshold of easy. By and large, the Tivo experience has been that way as well.

Over the years, I’ve had a chance to use, and sell, lots of products. Most suffered from a distinct lack of ease of use. Software interfaces designed by engineers who care only about functionality have been a particular grief. If you’re making my life harder instead of easier, you’ve already failed. Go back to the drawing board, and include a creative usability person in the ground-level design process.

If you’re going to create a product or service, put an awful lot of effort into crossing that threshold. It may well be the difference between something that garners a few percentage points, and something that’s a smash hit. Make it, not just able to do things, but EASY.

What are you a fan of that crossed the threshold of easy for you?

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

7 Responses to Crossing the Threshold of Easy

  1. Ann Handley says:

    iPhone: Agreed. Skype: Agreed. TiVo: Agreed.

    I’d add: TomTom (GPS). WordPress. Twitter. The Wii.

    You and I have similar sensibilities, it seems. I avoid things that are too complicated/require too much setup/require me to read a manual. I’m far too impatient, and I get too frustrated.

  2. I love Skype… precisely because it is easy. A decade ago I tried every type of VOIP I could find (e.g., NetMeeting, MSN Messenger, etc.). All required knowledge of ports, NAT, routers, etc. But working in a highly-distributed company made eliminating phone bills very appealing so I figured it out.

    Then some years ago I tried Skype and it “just worked” and it has just worked on every computer I’ve tried it on since. It has been at the “easy” state for a long time–I started using Skype when there were typically 5000 users online, right now there are 16.5 million.

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