In 1998, Google set out to achieve a large task: it aimed to become the top search engine in the world. They weren’t the first search engine around, though. Far from it.
In the years before Google had stepped on the scene, a number of other search engines had already been launched.
Despite their numerous competitors, Google became the leader in the industry. Users would talk about how easy it was to use Google. The front page design was so clean and simple, and it gave people exactly what they wanted.
Less Instead of More
At first glance, the design looks incredibly basic. It’s almost like a blank page with a search bar in the center. But underneath that simple design was a lot of planning, systems, and just saying “no.”
Google had to say no to numerous suggestions made by other people, including employees, users and customers. Engineers would frequently bring in ideas on how the front page could be improved. User surveys showed how people wanted to have more results per page.
But Google knew putting more options would bring up a number of negative consequences, such as longer load times and reduced user satisfaction. So Google decided to place tight restrictions on what could and couldn’t be added.
Whenever an engineer suggested a new feature, it would examined rigorously, be tested on the advanced search page and evaluated on ease of use. Google’s aim was to weed out any unnecessary complexity. Over a period of time, Google’s system gave them the knowledge and experience to make the best decisions for the company in the long run.
In a sea of competitors, Google stood out for giving its users less instead of more.
The Dilution Effect
We often believe that more is better. More functions, more features, more conveniences.
But we end up overcomplicating things. Instead of making something easier or more convenient, our need to add more ends up distracting us from the initial goal.
For instance, let’s say that you want to be a singer. You take vocal lessons, study music theory, and practice singing daily at home. Outside of music, you go to the gym and enjoy cooking healthy food. Although the latter activities aren’t directly singing-related, they help you work towards your singing goal because they keep your vocal cords in good shape.
But let’s say that you also like building tables and chairs. You read carpentry books and attend workshops, besides spending free time on building furniture. On top of carpentry and singing, you want to learn Spanish. So you take Spanish lessons once a week and practice at home. All these activities push you in different directions, making your singing progress much slower.
This is what I call the Dilution Effect. It happens when we set out to achieve a specific outcome, but the addition of unnecessary elements dilutes the desired effect. Our focus is taken away from our top priorities. Since we have a finite amount of energy, we need to consider where we put our energy. When more activities call for our attention, we divide our energy and make less progress in one area.
How to Simplify and Get More
We tend to stack more activities into our lives because we think that more choices will make us happier. It feels safe. But it’s actually better for our long-term goals to focus on making things simple instead.
It’s not easy to reach simplicity. It takes effort to step back and think of what we don’t need. But when we put in the time to reflect on what is essential to reaching our goals, we can become more productive, more relaxed, and know that we’re spending time on the things that are the most important.
This concept applies to many parts of our lives, such as when we:
- Explain a concept. Simplifying our words and saying only what is needed gets our message across more clearly.
- Create a product: Limiting features to only the essential means that people will find a product easier to understand, which increases satisfaction.
- Decide what activities to do: Focusing only on activities that push you in the right direction will increase the likelihood you can get what you want.
While we have things we want to achieve that might conflict with each other, such as singing and carpentry, it’s possible to do both – just not at the same time. In Google’s case, they began by focusing solely on becoming the top search engine in the world. It wasn’t until six years later that they launched Gmail, their email system.
If you want to succeed, then focus on one area first. Once you’ve found success in that, then you can move on to something else. Simplifying means doing less to achieve the most.
Here Are Two Questions You Should Ask Yourself
When deciding what to do, ask yourself these two questions:
- What is your goal right now?
- What do you need to do to achieve this goal?
Yes, it’s that simple. It might not seem so at first, but when you take away non-essentials and distractions, you’ll find that you move faster towards your destination than ever before.