Functionality Versus Practicality: Where Do You Draw The Line?

There seems to be a trend with many inventors today to put “everything, but the kitchen sink” into their inventions. When it comes to products, however, less is sometimes (and oftentimes) more. You want your product to be as user-friendly and as streamlined as possible, and you want it to catch the consumer’s eye as something they need – without tons of features that they don’t. Every item does not need to be a Swiss Army knife.
Not only does simplicity enhance usability, but it also makes your product more marketable. Many inventors don’t realize that cost is a huge factor to succeeding in the marketplace, and the more elements you add, the higher the cost of production and the higher the cost of the product. If you’re thinking of adding additional features, start by asking yourself if it will really enhances the product and if it will be useful. For instance, if you create a vacuum cleaner that is only going to be used in homes, does it really need to also work underwater?

The more parts you add also increases the risk of a part failing, which may render the product useless. A great example is the TV/DVD combo. This is a great item… until one of them breaks. If you need to take it in for repair, you are now out of both items. If you decide to purchase a new one instead of having it repaired, aren’t you throwing out one of them that was working just fine? Just because two products are great separately does not mean they will be great together.

When it comes to creating your product, you should think about the end-user first. Just because you can invent something doesn’t mean there is a market for it. Ninety-five percent of patented items never make it to market because “patentable does not equal marketable.” What good is a product if it’s a hassle to own? For example, if purchasing a hand-operated can opener, most people keep it in a drawer in the kitchen. If it’s so large that it can’t fit into a drawer, will they still purchase it?

Rather than adding features to your initial product, consider creating a line of accessories to go with it instead. This way you are allowing the user to tailor the product to their needs, instead of forcing them to take everything that comes with. The same tactic applies when submitting your idea/product to a potential licensor; show them your product in its most “basic model,” followed by what could be sold separately or used to create a premium model.

Inventing a product is meant to be a creative process, but it’s important to remember that the number one goal is to serve the consumer. To be successful, follow the “less is more” principle and be willing to accept change and adapt as needed. Don’t get stuck in the It’s my way or the highway mentality – unless you want to be on the highway a lot.

Leave a Reply


captcha *