Deceptive Simplicity

ML Jun 13, 2006

People are continually taken aback by how simple HitTailing is. Well, it took a lot of work to get it that simple. Think back to when someone showed you Google for the first time… you know, when Portals roamed the Earth. In a time so enamored with feature creep destination sites, Google seemed counter-intuitive. We already had AltaVista, HotBot, Lycos, InfoSeek, and the rest of them. Who needed another search engine?

So, what made Google different? Why did simplicity work so well for Google? These are classic age-old questions in marketing. Sometimes doing one thing SO MUCH better than anyone else using a new approach works (Google). Sometimes, feature-laden products that eliminate the need for a diversity of other products works (Treo). There is not one single rule, and it often depends on the nature of the “pain” that your product is designed to ease.

The Treo addressed the need of being connected in a variety of ways, without a variety of things bulging in your pockets or to hunt for in your handbag. So in a way, even feature-laden products like the Treo are motivated for that desire for simplicity. For a superior product, once you’re done ogling its style (iPod) is often intended to fade into the background, and not be consciously thought of. It just delivers a benefit without you being too aware of the delivery vehicle (like driving a Car).

Get it? Whether it’s a complex feature-laden product, or a simple one-purpose device, style grabs you, then simplicity (the need to not think much) keeps you coming back. Habits form, and the product becomes part of the fabric of our everyday lives.

This worked so well for Google by focusing on just Search, at a time when Search was almost a bad word for Portals. Search encouraged users to LEAVE your site at a time when it was all about building destination sites. What they failed to see was that by Google giving such a positive search experience, their users would always COME BACK. And Google achieved this magic in great part with the insight that “link referrals” were an indicator of relevancy. HitTail has a precisely analogous insight that events in your specific click-stream are indicators are clues that must be brought to your attention. And the resulting “short list” under the To Do tab is as crazy-simple, yet profoundly meaningful as Google in its day.

We love analytics software, and continue to advocated its use, particularly in conjunction with HitTailing. But this is one area where analytics tends to fail. It so overwhelms you with data and features that it fails to step back and just tell you what to do to improve your site. I’m sure in time that it will. But competitiveness often means securing this benefit BEFORE everyone else has it.

And HitTail is designed to do exactly that. Yes, it’s simple–some would say deceptively so. It’s hard for some folks to believe that they don’t already get this out of their analytics software, and so they don’t bother listening to the simple HitTail message: if you write about these things, then they will come. HitTail takes a step back from the pedantic drill-down reports to look at the 1000-foot view, see the landscape and say: “you should take the following actions.”

With HitTail, we actually have a platform for much more clever and competitive features, and we fully plan on adding them with great care and deliberation. We’re not going to join the feature rat race. We’re going to do one single thing better than anyone else, do it with style that you can momentarily ogle, but then have the tool fade into the background. In this way, we plan to make HitTailing an essential, but joyful and unobtrusive part of your everyday marketing life.

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