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The power of constraints

One of my favorite things about Twitter is the 140 character limit. It forces you to be brief and clear. It’s easy to create content and consume content on any device. Huge breakthrough. 

Tumblr has a constraint too. You can upload one and only one song a day. So users take their time to choose something they cherish. As a result the music curation and community is a thing of joy on Tumblr. 

The power of constraints is something I think about all the time. You can see the opposite in things like your cable providers remote control. Or Microsoft Office. Or some browsers have become so heavy that something light as Chrome becomes exactly what we want. There are a ton of other examples. 

Mobile apps have a constraint. Limited resolution (compared to a PC monitor), unpredictable bandwidth and users are on the go with limited time.

The best mobile apps are ones that take advantage of these things and deliver something excellent. Facebook is a powerhouse but I think their mobile app is heading in the wrong direction. Here’s their home screen. So many icons that it actually spills over to a second page.

Mobile apps that focus on constraints bring us a much better user experience. That’s why I fell hard for Instagram four weeks ago. Photos uploads are crazy fast and the application just tries to do a few things but it does them extremely well.  It’s focused and optimized for mobile. 

So when you build your app or service. Think about whether you are leaning towards a 140 character experience or leaning towards the MS Word ribbon bar.