Designing in 2015: How to Avoid the Trap of the “Kitchen Sink”

We live in an incredibly exciting time for technology – so much so that it seems no surprise that 2015 was the year of the future in the popular 1985 movie Back to the Future. Indeed, I often look around and am marveled by all of today’s incredible technological advancements and all they mean for us as humans.

Companies across all industries – healthcare, technology, energy, finance – are embracing technology in full force to better achieve their goals. This is a wonderful thing. Across the world, technological advancements in hardware and software alike are allowing us to become smarter, more efficient, and even happier humans. It’s strengthening our economies and increasing our scientific breakthroughs.

But – as innovators are running at breakneck speed toward the promise and power of technology, many are falling into a common trap: the “kitchen sink” phenomenon, as I like to call it. The options of technology are virtually endless, which is a great thing…until it isn’t. How often have you encountered a piece of technology that seems to offer so much, but requires an incredible amount of brainpower to decipher? In these situations, consumers quickly decide the ROI isn’t worth it, and will turn to another, similar, more user-friendly offering.

We see this time and time again. The technology that wins out in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace is almost always the most user-friendly. Think of popular apps like Snapchat, home interfaces like Nest, or wearables like Fitbit – these are just a few examples of technological solutions that put the user experience first and did not fall into the trap of the kitchen sink. Instead, they kept it focused and simple – and are now reaping the benefits.

At ReSound, we develop Smart Hearing solutions, and in the development of both our hardware and software, we are committed to this type of design: an integration of form and function that provides the most seamless, intuitive experience as possible. However, we are constantly aware of how easy it is to fall into the trap of the kitchen sink. Therefore, in the design of the ReSound Smart™ app, which allows for user control of our Made for iPhone hearing aids, we aimed to abide by these three core rules of creating a user-friendly offering:


  1. Ditch the Instructions


According to recent research, attention spans last just eight seconds. If your app requires users to consult an extensive instruction manual to pick up the basics – forget it. In today’s hyper-fast world, it is a tough sell to convince someone to spend much time learning how to use something that is advertised to make their lives easier. Instead, design your app to rely on visual cues and intuitive designs (such as up-and-down toggles, buttons in right or left corners, and guiding arrows) to communicate with your user. Incorporating these elements into our ReSound Smart app makes it approachable and ready to use in minutes for users of all ages – all without an instruction manual.


  1. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify…then Simplify Some More


We have all heard the phrase, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Indeed, this is an apt comparison to the trap of the kitchen sink. Trying to fit too many functionalities into one app is often a recipe for failure. Instead, it is our philosophy to offer a focused number of features that offer the most value for our user. For example, in our ReSound Smart app, we offer a number of audio settings for adjustment, which allow for unprecedented personalization. But we were careful to limit the number of settings – such as allowing control over bass and treble, but not a full mixing board. We consider this the sweet spot of app design: giving users control over the settings that provide the most impact, without overwhelming them with too many options that don’t provide significant additional value.


  1. Go Where the Consumers Are


There is a phenomenon in the world of digital technology known as “me too-ism,” which refers to companies expanding to as many digital platforms as possible just because they see other companies, or competitors, doing so. To maximize your resources and focus on providing the best product or service, the better strategy is to stick to the platforms most used by your consumers. When designing a partnering software for our ReSound hearing aids, we opted for an app that our users could access easily on-the-go, rather than something accessible through a website or computer software. This allows the ReSound Smart app to be available on the technology that our users have on hand most hours of the day – from iPhones to Androids to Apple Watches.

Living in 2015, technology touches nearly every single point of our lives and provides us with immense value. It helps us to live easier and longer, connects us with our loved ones, and even helps us to complete our jobs with more ease. But, in order to fulfill these great promises, innovators must avoid the trap of the kitchen sink and stay focused on developing and designing technologies that are simple, intuitive, and provide value to the user. Without these elements, the promise and power of technology falls flat on its face.


Morten Hansen is Vice President of Partnerships & Connectivity with GN ReSound, a leading international developer and manufacturer of advanced and innovative hearing healthcare solutions. He is passionate about using cutting edge technology to set new standards in hearing healthcare and using innovative platforms to empower users to take control of their disabilities. Hansen is based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Morning Consult