Path of least resistance

by abhirama

I fractured my leg and Pavitra wanted to send the x-ray to my brother in law who is a doctor. He insisted on her not e-mailing but sending it through WhatsApp. I do not use WhatsApp because I do not have a smartphone(sic, sic) but almost all of my friends are on WhatsApp these days. What is the differentiator between these new day instant messengers versus the dinosaurs(Google, Yahoo!, MSN, etc)? I would says it is the path of least resistance. On boarding is quick and easy, they do not suffer from feature bloat, using them is a child’s play, you need not be a tech guru to figure out “How do I do this?”.

Path of least resistance is a tenant everyone in a product company should live by. Take for example a signup form. Given a sign up form with two fields versus one that takes gazillion of fields, which do you think will appeal more to your users? Now you may say my product needs a phone number field to send sms. Ask yourself this, do I need to take this field during sign up or can I ask the user to enter their phone number during the course of usage? When you sign up users, do you really need the confirm password field? Or, for that matter, do you really need users to sign up to use the product? A few days back, I was carrying out comparative analysis of a product on a couple of e-com sites. I had different sites open, one of them allowed me to sign up using gmail while the other required a custom sign up. I did not even bother with the one that asked for the custom sign up and went on with the one that allowed me to login through gmail.

Can a product compete in a deeply entrenched market with the only differentiator being it’s simplicity? I would say so. Take a look at the mobile instant messenger market.The new kids on the block have successfully waged a battle against the Goliaths and have emerged on the winning side. They have done this by being laser focused on simplicity.

When we are part of a product, use it day in and day out, we become so entwined with it that we can use it with our eyes closed. But our customers are not on the same boat, some usage patterns which might seem obvious to us might feel like navigating through a maze to our customers. It is extremely important that we keep reminding ourselves of this each and every day.

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