Smart TV, Dumb Features: How LG Almost Botched Their Product

What’s worse than cramming every feature under the sun into your product? Compensating management for doing so! Apparently that’s LG’s 21st century management technique – forego design, reward bloat, and alienate your design and engineering team when they want to do the right thing. It’s a sure fire way to torpedo a product launch – and LG almost did exactly that, according to Gigaom.

If you haven’t read the Gigaom article, here’s an excerpt:

“If Korea had had its way, webOS TVs would have had an additional menu gallery of vertically-scrolling cards, including one for personal media sharing, one for browser bookmarks and one for all installed apps. Altogether, the UI was to consist of close to a dozen such cards that consumers would have had to rotate through to find the apps or content they wanted.

The Silicon Valley team fought this interface tooth and nail, but LG moved forward with it — only to realize eventually that it had become too resource-intensive to run smoothly on its TV hardware. CES was approaching quickly, and LG’s engineers ran out of time trying to make their complicated interface work, so the decision was made to go with the webOS launcher instead in order to have anything up and running at all.”

A Failed Experiment: How LG Screwed Up Its WebOS Acquisition 

Take the Gigaom article for what it’s worth, but sadly, I see this philosophy in play way too often in our own business. The “brains” behind many product development projects are still fans of this tired 1990’s approach to functional design… an approach that leads to overly complicated user experience, contentious design disputes, way long product cycles, and of course, increased development costs.

The reality is that today, customers don’t care about how many features your product has. They aren’t going to read lengthy marketing material touting dozens of features. Modern consumers heavily base decisions on how well a product does the one or two things they need it to do, how well a product does those one or two things for others, and very little else.

A product that doesn’t excel through its essence will never excel through its features. And companies that fail to master this tenet will, well, ultimately fail.

So big companies, wake up! Your product design practices are dated and frankly your management practices are an embarrassment to me and, no doubt, to others. I have one of your products, a TV, but not your “smart” TV, and it’s a fine product. It displays great television. I also have a Samsung TV, and this one does claim to be “smart.” It also displays fine television. But guess what – that’s all I will ever ask either of them to do.