Ah, the flashing 12:00 on the VCR. A symbol of the complexities of technology that is now fading into history. Were VCR clocks really that hard to program? For some, sure. However, for most, it was just a case that the reward of vanquishing the flashing LED’s was not worth the effort of re-learning the process all over again each time the power went out. So, techies of the world were called upon by friends and relatives to end the taunt of the blinking electric glow. Those without a Geek-911 line just resigned themselves to their fate.

Yes, I am geek. However, I have come to realize that I too have been bent to the yoke of those one or two extra steps — little parts of an overall task that make it not worth your while despite the pay-off. Believe it or not, I had this little revelation thanks to the coming together of my first iPhone and a MagicBullet — blender and infomercial rival to the Snuggie and Slapchop. Who knew these two devices had so much in common.

The iPhone’s Little Things

A few years ago, I bought an iPhone because I needed a specific app for work. Before my decision was made for me by one app I needed, I was looking at all the major smartphones. I considered keyboards, battery life, connectivity options, available apps and, oh yeah, call quality. What I didn’t count on when I finally purchased Apple’s latest and greatest product (the iPad wasn’t out yet) was all the little things that can make a phone and a media player so usable that we take for granted today, but was a revelation then.

With the iPhone, your music stops playing when you remove the headset jack. Likewise, the screen goes off when you hold it to your ear. For me though, the unexpected killer feature pertains to podcasts — which I really like. Prior to getting an iPhone I used a great little Samsung MP3 player. If I wanted to listen to a podcast, I just downloaded one, saved it as a file, hooked up my Samsung and copied the file over. I only did this in spurts though downloading a bunch of episodes every several weeks. With my iPhone, I subscribed to podcasts in iTunes and then all I had to do was plug the phone in and my episodes synced away on their own. Immediately, I started listening more often. Little did I know that I was just getting started. Next, I got a bedroom dock for the phone with a sleep timer. Now, I listen to podcasts instead of turning on the TV. Finally, I realized that with a WiFi connection, I do not have to worry about bandwidth, and I can just stream episodes — no syncing required. That I can do this, I do not consider profound. That removing a couple of small steps from something that I did not consider difficult in the first place would make such a difference on my behaviour, I find significant.

The Little Blender That Could

I would not have really thought about the power of one less step though if it weren’t also for the MagicBullet. As you probably know, the MagicBullet is a small blender with two significant differences from the typical design. First, it comes with multiple tumbler-sized blender pitchers instead of one big one. Secondly, these attach upside-down to a blade attachment rather than there being the three parts of blade-base, pitcher and lid. These two little changes mean you can drink a smoothie straight from the pitcher, and they make clean-up a little bit easier. Oh, the MagicBullet is also smaller and easy to leave on your kitchen counter. I have a regular blender and I rarely use it. However, since getting the MagicBullet, I have had a smoothie every day. Again, a small change has dramatically increased usability.

What Does It Mean for Businesses?

Before the latest Android phones came along, it was reported that the average iPhone user consumed five times as much data bandwidth as other smart phone users. While iPhone users are probably more techie than all those Blackberry users at the time — most using email, I have to believe that little usability improvements have also contributed significantly to this behavioural difference. Indeed making a product just slightly easier to use can likely turn a dud into a hit.

I believe this One Step Less thinking can be applied to a range of businesses. I am fundraising consultant, and I have seen how much easier it is to recruit volunteers when I simplify the task. Furthermore, just look at the success of texting donations to Haiti — making it more it more immediate a little bit easier to donate, opened up new floodgates of giving.

Thanks to a phone and a blender, I will be looking for ways to make things one step less for my customers. Imagine if Microsoft really figured this out. How do you see one step less affecting your behaviour? How could you use one step less to change your customers’ behaviour?

What does it Mean for You?

Sometimes technology is just one or two steps too difficult.  When it is, it can mean that it is not worth your time using it. However, solve that problem and the tech can be highly valuable to you. GeekCoaches specializes in making technology easier for you.  Often, we are able to show you solutions that can make new technologies indispensable to you.  Our goal is to take tech you never use, and make it a part of your everyday life.