Does simplifying your tech feel scary?

I work with tech founders launching brilliant products into the world. They all struggle with one thing: simplifying their technology.

We all know simple is better. Apple effectively taught that to the entire world through their products, packaging and marketing.

And yet, as a founder of a complex technical product, you might feel freaked out over the concept of simplifying — or over-simplifying — your technology.

It’s natural for founders to be scared of simplifying their product.

You’re comfortable inside the weeds of your technology. You’ve been living there for months, maybe years. You know exactly how game-changing and powerful it is, and you don’t want any of that getting lost or F’ed up.

I totally get it. So I wanted to share two truths that will ease your mind.

1. Technical features don’t differentiate your product anyway

Having this feature versus that feature won’t differentiate your product. It’s just not immediately apparent to the outside world. When you try to differentiate on features, you’re assuming people have the right context of what those features could mean for them. And they rarely have that context.

Plus, building your differentiation on features leaves you vulnerable. It’s only a matter of time until someone copies your feature. So you’re better off differentiating by telling a story about your customer and how they’ll change for the better with the help of your product.

2. Simple is relatable, not dumbed down

Simplifying your technology is not about dumbing it down or explaining APIs in layman’s terms.

Simplifying your technology is about making it easy to relate to. Instead of explaining how it works, you show how it fits into their current world. You translate the technical stuff into how they’re going to be using it.

One of my favorite examples comes from Simple, a wonderful online bank based in my hometown of Portland, OR.

True to their name, here’s how they describe their budgeting app:

“Make smart spending decisions on the spot. Our budgeting tool does the ‘can-I-buy-this?’ math for you, setting aside enough money each month to cover your expenses and goals.”

Simple could have mentioned analytics or algorithms or whatever — instead, they say it does the “can-I-buy-this?’ math for you. It solves a pain point customers recognize.

Simple is scary, but complex is even scarier

Making the complex simple isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity. Complexity makes prospects leave demos feeling confused and dumb. Complexity says to potential customers “this isn’t for you.” Complexity slows adoption and growth.

So consider going simple. Your beautiful, complicated product deserves it.

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