It’s time to help your users do less, not more

We’ve just about reached the tipping point. The major technology companies of tomorrow won’t be focused on allowing users to do more — rather, they will allow us to do the same number of things but require much less work.

The internet gave rise to monster first-generation companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and a slew of gaming and coupon businesses. These companies allowed people to do things and they could never do before, like keep in contact with all of their friends, stay up to the minute with global news, and farm little multiplayer digital worlds no matter where they were. These companies are all about doing more.

But there is a limit to how much we as humans can do in a single day. It was easy for these companies to acquire user’s attention when the Internet was still young — simply because there wasn’t that much competition. Now, we are running out of new things that people want to do digitally.

Yet many entrepreneurs are still focused on adding one more thing to people’s daily routines. They want their users to log their activities, check a new app’s messages, routinely log into a new website. They see that daily smartphone usage is almost obscenely high, and they want their new service to take a piece of the pie.

But the next generation of big internet companies is not going to find some new thing people want to do. Rather, the key will be allowing people to continue doing the same amount of things, but with much less work.

If I want to see what my friends are up to at this moment in time, I need to:

  1. Pull my phone out of my pocket
  2. Unlock my phone
  3. Navigate to Facebook
  4. Wait for it to refresh
  5. Scroll through the updates

And that’s just for Facebook. If you want to check Twitter next — or Instagram, or Vine — you’ll need to start over the entire process from step three each time.

That might not seem like a lot of work, but that’s only because we’re accustomed to this behavior and we haven’t found a better way.

If you wanted to listen to new music before the internet, you’d need to get in your car and drive to the local Sam Goody or Best Buy. You’d browse CDs, find one that looked interesting, and buy it. Then you’d drive home (if only your car had a CD player!) and pop the album into your stereo.

The internet changed all that. Thanks to services like iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora, you can click a single button on your computer and listen to almost any song imaginable.

The user’s goal is still the same: listen to new music. But there are now fewer steps, thanks to the internet.

The major companies of tomorrow will continue to allow people to do the things they want, like follow their friends and play group games. But users will be able to carry out the same number of tasks with much fewer steps. The technologies of future will be dedicated to cutting out more and more steps.

Smartphones are a transitional technology. Although they allow us to do so many things, they still require attention. If you want to build the next Google or Facebook, you need to find a way to help your users accomplish their goals by doing less, not more.

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