…Again and again, the history of the Web shows us the value of relinquishing control. Amazon’s customer comments were originally thought foolish by those who believed negative reviews would hurt sales. Instead, they increased trust, which drove more transactions. eBay’s open marketplace eschews centralized control of buyers and sellers, instead favoring a distributed management system where individuals rate one another. Not coincidentally, Google, Amazon, and eBay have all made available their Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) so that others can leverage their information in unforeseen and innovative ways.
Many designers find it remarkably difficult to relinquish control. As Jeff found out when judging an interactive design competition, designers will go to great lengths to control the user’s experience – popping up windows or resizing them, placing everything within Flash, cueing music. They get so caught up in controlling the superficial form of the product that they neglect to appreciate the context of the experience.
The Web’s lesson is that we have to let go, to exert as little control as necessary. What are the fewest necessary rules that we can provide to shape the experience? Where do people, tools, and content come together? How do we let go in a way that’s meaningful and relevant to our business?
…Relinquishing control is a scary prospect because it diminishes certainty. With control comes predictable outcomes that you can bank on. But in this increasingly complex, messy, and option-filled world, we must acknowledge that our customers hold the reins. Attempts to control their experience will lead to abandonment for the less onerous alternative. What we can do is provide the best tools and content that they can fit into their lives, and their ways.