Product Reduction

by Dan Walsh

“Reduce. Reduce. Reduce til you’re left with the essence – the bare truth.”
-Jay Mohr as Christopher Walken

My brother has been developing an iPhone app over the last 12 months or so. It’s been fun to watch the progress, and I feel lucky when I get to contribute. The app is called Hash Text and it’s like mail-merge for text messages. It’s insanely useful for party invites, holiday well-wishing and other events like that. He’s about to release a new version and asked if I could help create the on-boarding screens. Of course I said yes. I have admittedly never made on-boarding screens so it was a learning experience for me. It wasn’t a technical challenge, but it was a conceptual challenge. On-boarding screens are an interesting exercise in whittling down a product to core features and ease of understanding. Hash Text is pretty straight-forward, but it still took me some time to reduce everything into a 4-page flow.

Startups love to create elevator pitches, and in a way on-boarding screens are a similar exercise in reduction. But where elevator pitches usually explain the what and why of a product, on-boarding screens explain the how and how-to. Check out the Hash Text screens for an example.

Hash_Text_iPhone_App_On_Boarding_0

Hash_Text_iPhone_App_On_Boarding_1

Hash_Text_iPhone_App_On_Boarding_2

Hash_Text_iPhone_App_On_Boarding_2

I will keep this process in mind as I develop products in the future. It’s possible that the inability to succinctly reduce the how-to of a product into only a few screens is useful warning. Either the product isn’t straightforward enough, or the messaging needs work. Even a complex product like Photoshop is reducible to a handful of screens.

The opening quote comes from a hilarious skit by Jay Mohr. Check it out and have a laugh. There is wisdom in comedy.