Complexity, there and back again

I found this interesting quote about complexity on the Bits weblog at the NY Times. The article looks into how the attempt by Microsoft to offer shopping rebates for using its search engine is unlikely to work:

Ultimately, he said, most customers didn’t find it worth the complexity and time needed to earn a few percent off their shopping.

“People don’t want to deal with something that says ‘Buy from this place and you will get money back from that place,’” he said. “Search is about how fast can I get someplace: Google’s ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button is a great experience.”

What is interesting here is the reintroduction of complexity in the online shopping experience, something which has succeeded it eschews complexity. You only need to look at Amazon to see just how much they complexity they have taken out of shopping online, a homogenous storefront, a simple (too simple?) payment method (one-click).

We as consumers want simplicity in our lived, not complexity. Another great example from Microsoft is the points system they use to sell music for the Zune. Why points? Why this extra step? Why a weird number of points for a song? Last time I looked dollars were a perfectly acceptable currency, and one dollar for a song work just fine.


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