The Screwdriver Principle

September 16 2008 – 10:27pm

Many web applications suffer from feature bloat. Their Product Development teams fall victim to thinking that just because one, or even two, or even three users suggest a feature, that it should be implemented. The result is a more complex application that requires more development time, more stuff that can go wrong, more maintenance. How do you prevent this problem?I like to call it The Screwdriver Principle. Just like a screwdriver, there are likely many things in your application that can be used in more than one way. You can scratch lottery tickets, open locks, pry off a paint can lid, clean dirt from under your fingernails, and, yes – screw.

basecamp todo item

The to-do items in the popular Project Management application, Basecamp, are a great example of the screwdriver principle at work in a user interface. There are so many characteristics that users must request to be added to this – “I want a due date”, “what about dependencies?” “I want them to be numbered” – yet they just keep it simple. If you really want those features, you can just type a due date, or a dependency, or a number, into the open field there is. Those who don’t want those features keep their usable interface, and those who do can just…be a little more creative.

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Screwdriver photo from Djenan

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This post is filed under Design, Social Media, Technology.