We’ve all heard the advice to simplify, simplify, simplify. Yet, many products are bloated and confused. Why does this happen? What’s the disconnect between the stated goal of a streamlined product and the reality of overstuffing it?

In a word, fear. The team is afraid of what might happen if they don’t offer X or Y. This leads to rationalizing the bloat.

Teams that don’t understand who they’re building for, and why, are prone to make bloated products. They can always imagine situations where someone might need a given option. Each possible product choice becomes a lengthy debate, and inevitably they cave to adding more. They can’t make the trade-offs.

It feels safer to keep as many options as possible; more options, they reason, equal more chances to be happy. Unfortunately this dilutes an otherwise good product. It foists all those additional options onto the customer, who ends up doing the hard work of editing the product for themselves.

It’s one thing to say you want a simple, uncluttered product and something entirely different to actually make one. When a team understands who they’re building for, they have a much better chance of delivering on that goal.

The choice to leave out an option is never an easy one to make, but it’s easier if your team shares common values. And what’s more, it’s your job. You need to make the hard choices for your customers. They’ll thank you for it.