How to ensure idea purity: The secrets of WhatsApp & Google

How to ensure idea purity: The secrets of WhatsApp & Google

The enduring appeal of simplicity makes it a powerful weapon in a startup’s armoury.

Simple is more beautiful. More pleasing. More accessible and more usable. In fact, 38% of us are even willing to pay more for those simpler experiences.

But simplicity is difficult. Complicated is easy.

So how can you maintain idea and product purity?



By experiencing the world as your customers do

You won’t find 2009 models of Nokia mobile phones in the pockets of many founders. But Jan Koum and Brian Acton are different. The WhatsApp duo know they’ll only continue to grow if they understand the next billion people who will come online and avoid feature-creep. How can they do that? By using the same phones they do.

By developing your own ‘28’ rule

An anonymous customer would keep the early team at Google on their toes. Every so often they would receive emails containing nothing but single numbers. First it was 33. Then came 53. Then 66. Before long it dawned on them it was a protest against their increasing number of words on the homepage. Larry and Sergey responded by enforcing a 28-word limit– a rule that has protected the striking simplicity of the most iconic page on the web ever since.

With a visual reminder of the fight you’re fighting

What do you stand for or against? Is it abundantly clear? For charity: water it’s simple: to bring clean drinking water to one billion people in the world. To keep true to this mission the charity has successfully adopted the Jerry Can as a permanent symbol of the water crisis and their hope to solve it. It’s made an appearance in everything they’ve done over the last 10 years from donor campaigns and catwalk shows to recruitment and merchandise. I now never fail to think of them when I see one.

Stuart Goulden