blog post: "Good Enough" Is the Bare Minimum

originally published on ReadWriteWeb.com, written for aplus.net.com

Senior Wired Magazine editor Robert Capps penned an article titled “The Good Enough Revolution” for Wired’s September 2009 edition. The print edition included the daring (and perhaps intentionally provocative) subtitle “Why lo-fi tech will rule the world.”

This rings of an absolutism, and such rings set off our antennae.

Capps does make solid points. He holds up netbooks, Amazon’s Kindle, and the Flip video recorder as examples of things that supplant traditional alternatives, thanks to a combination of ease of use, wider availability and lower cost.

The best example, the Flip video, “nail(s) all three of those… traits.” But not every product does. Take the computer market. Sure, netbooks sell like hotcakes while most of the rest of the market takes a beating. But there’s a fly in the ointment: Apple.

Apple hasn’t lowered its prices or jumped on the netbook bandwagon… yet (we’ll keep our ears open for any announcements on that). Yet the company’s fortunes continue to soar in the face of deplorable market conditions, which Capps asserts should make lo-fi tech spread faster.

New York Times columnist David Pogue gave a convincing talk on this subject, which he called “Simplicity Sells,” and between rousing musical numbers he returned several times to the things Apple does right.

Pogue also mentioned a discussion he had with a “tap counter” while visiting a Palm facility in the 1990s. According to Pogue, this person counted taps for each feature that Palm put into its PDA. If a process took more than three taps, it had to be redesigned.

On this point, Pogue and Capps largely agree. Pogue, however, wisely sidesteps the land mines of “lo-fi,” “price,” and any other down-market connotation.

That’s because “good enough” in technology means “accessible” and “easy to use.” “Cheaper” is a nice bonus, but millions of people continue to prove that they will pay a higher initial cost to make sure that what they get is good enough. Capps stumbled only in neglecting this price-elasticity counter-argument.

Read his excellent article anyway (and check out David Pogue at TED) and get inspired. In any case, whatever you offer:

  • Make it easy to use,
  • Make it accessible,
  • And above all, make sure it satisfies the needs of your clientele.

Do all of this, and higher prices might not bother potential customers as much as you fear.

Does this logic apply to your business? Let us know. We’d love to hear your opinion.

Leave a Reply