Users love restricted Product Design

Published at 2015/10/10

Most of wannabe or actual entrepreneurs I've met wanted to build maximally universal products.

CMSes that allow You to build all kinds of websites - from simple personal blogs to complex shops with auction systems and ability to create advertising campaigns on the moon, CRMs that enables You to manage company, family or even food supplies of Your neighbour's dog - You name it.

But most of them was not really (or maybe - yet) successful. Comparing them to their greatest competitors and most successful companies I noticed a pattern:

They launched a product with some clear limitations, and people loved it.

In this note, I will analyze a couple of them.

Twitter

I think this is the most famous app with restrictions which users love :)

140 characters per message is not an impressive number. Substract from it some characters left to e.g. url to something interesting and You'll see that it's REALLY not an impressive number :)

Instagram

A.k.a. twitter for photos :)

Ok, let's face it - instragram was one of the first this kind of apps on the market. But currently we have many instagram-clone apps with more filters (or other options) available.

Some apps offer You to take photos with custom size. Others allow You to integrate Your photos with third-party services. Instagram have couple set of filters and limits users to take only square photos. People loved that idea.

(a little time ago instagram introduced landscape photos and movies, but I'm analyzing here the early days of the product)

Vine

"Instagram for video" - that was my first thought when I heard about it. From the beginnings of the Vine its users can create (looped) videos, whose length is limited to 6 seconds max.

Oh, did I mention that they're in square format too? :)

Snapchat

I think this is the weirdest thing on the Internet today.

Personally I don't understand the popularity of this app.

The main purpose of the app is sharing with self-made content. The tricky part is that the content will be permanently deleted after set amount of time - and that's all about it :)

Nasza-Klasa (a.k.a. nk.pl)

"Nasza-Klasa" was for Poland what Facebook is for the rest of the world :)

The main purpose of this portal, was to keep school friendships lasts.

It was first such popular social service in Poland. Thanks to NK, many Polish elders started to learn how use the Internet.

Many people stopped to use it, when facebook came to Poland, and NK started to clone some of the facebook's features (such as games, surveys, videos, the fb timeline etc.) - they used to like the service as a simple, clean app without any additional distractions.

Rough rules of commenting on the blog

Couple days ago I've finished reading a book written by one of the most famous polish blogger - Tomasz Tomczyk a.k.a. Kominek a.k.a. Jason Hunt "Blogger and Social Media".

In one of the chapters he wrote about his concerns about tightening the rules for commenting on his blog (he was tired with haters etc.) - in the end, he noticed the increase of the (quality and amount) comments on the blog.

http://jasonhunt.pl

4chan

It there anyone who haven't heard about 4chan? It is one of the largest community in the modern Internet.

Originally it was developed to discuss about manga, anime or Japan culture - nowadays it is… a bit different place (many Internet drama was born there).

The main restriction of the 4chan is that the old threads disappears when enough new ones will appear (or amount of posts in thread will exceed the maximum).

So why people like restrictions?

I have two theories here.

1. Restrictions keeps the quality of the product (and sometimes defines it)

Let's take commenting rules as an example - if the website struggle with low quality comments, then this can be a solution of raising it. People don't want to see primitive comments below the great articles.

2. Restrictions forces creativity

Have You seen what people can do with square photo format? Or how interesting story they can tell in 6 seconds of video material? Do you know how many interesting thoughts can be passed just with 140 letters?

Those restrictions forces users to be creative. And creativity is sexy/trendy/desired today.

4chan, twitter, instagram, vine or snapchat product designers are extraordinary people - creating such business concepts is not just a good product/business modeling but also great understanding laws and needs of the Internet communities.

I hope one day I'll wake up with similar blink of greatness and create something new, something with restrictions, something that people will love and use every day.

-- ł.