The IT Industry’s 95% Problem

Chris O’Brien wrote an article entitled “Evernote’s 5% problem offers a cautionary lesson to tech companies” in which he explored how it came to light that people were only using 5 percent of Evernote’s features. In a post for the Gartner Blog Network, Brian Prentice flips this perspective into what might really amount to a 95 percent problem, and it could apply to all of IT industry.

Too Usable?

In an interview with Evernote CEO Phil Libin, it came to light that people were only using 5 percent of Evernote’s features because they were unaware of what else it was capable of. The thing though is that everyone is using a different 5 percent. Evernote essentially released a product that had too many features. If you look at this from Evernote’s perspective this is a 5 percent problem, but from the user’s view, this is a 95 percent problem because another 95 percent of the features created value.

If a program is not having the majority of its features used by its users, that is a huge problem. This is not an issue that is facing Evernote solely, and it is something that needs to be addressed by the industry as a whole. Over-engineering products is a concern that will happen, and it creates a lacking core experience for the user. Another issue is that “perpetual functional expansion necessitates [perpetual] UI remediation.”

When new software is initially released, it is naturally assumed that most of its features will be used. However, as time wears on, the list of the software’s used features may diminish. Is this simply the nature of software and a normalcy that needs to be accepted? Of course not! However, in order to change this, product managers will need to alter their perspectives about what user satisfaction really means.

People are happy when they receive the product they need, not necessarily the features they asked for. Everyone may use different features, but this opens the door to the creation of varied products that can deliver for the different needs of different people.

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