Say NO by default

by Derek Sivers

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Say no by default - in design, business, and even life.

Simple is beautiful.

Instead of doing something "because you can", consider thinking "only if necessary".

Today I read this article about a 35-year-old guy in New York City that decided to live for 10 days without using any technology not in use in 1954. What struck me the most is how addicted this guy was to silly unnecessary technologies that don't really improve his life. He complains about...
- not being able to book his movie ticket online, having to go to the movie theater early to get a ticket.
- having to use the phone without a headset
- not having caller ID to screen his calls : having to pick up when it rings, without knowing who it is.

Yesterday we were talking at work about whether CD Baby should expand into offices around the world, and we finally stopped to ask, "is it necessary?"

Yesterday I read Jason Kottke's article called "How Not to Buy Happiness" where he said, "I rarely buy a "better" version of something I already have...I'm a very suspicious upgrader, even when it comes to software."

Say no by default - in design, business, and even life.

In June of 2003, Steve Jobs gave a small private presentation about the iTunes Music Store to some independent record label people. (Read my notes, here.). My favorite line of the day was when people kept raising their hand saying, "Does it do ___(x)___?", "Do you plan to add ___(y)___?". Finally Jobs said, "Wait wait - put your hands down. Listen: I know you have a thousand ideas for all the cool features iTunes *could* have. So do we. But we don't want a thousand features. That would be ugly. Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It's about saying NO to all but the most crucial features."

CD Baby gets a dozen offers a day from companies that want to partner, people that want a job, and entirely new businessess that people say we should get into.

As a business, you have to say no to anything that is not
(1) enjoyable
(2) profitable
(3) possible for your business to be the best in the world at
(For more on this, read the Hedgehog Concept from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins.)

As a designer (of software, websites, products, whatever) - you have to say no to all but the few most needed features.
(Though a great example of giving tons of features, while keeping them hidden, is Mozilla's about:config option. Making the inner guts easily tweakable by that 1% of users that cares enough to go tweaking.)

As a person, you have to say no to everything you don't need.
(yeah it's debatable but you get the point)

The most beautifully-designed products have very few features.

The most beautifully-designed businesses specialize in being the best in the world at something.

The most beautifully-designed people... uh... you can finish that joke yourself.