The #FewerFeatures Movement


When the control panel on our dishwasher failed last month I found myself asking why our appliances and gadgets have so many useless features. Those features bring with them a greater chance that the device will break down and make them harder and more expensive to repair.

Take a look at our dishwasher’s control panel above. Never, in the years we’ve had this beast, have we ever used any of the wash cycle options except for “Normal.” What the hell is “Glass Xpress” or “Adaptive Wash” anyways? Via the power of Adobe Photoshop (itself a mirrored funhouse of features), I’ve redesigned the Whirlpool Quiet Partner III. Et, voila, #FewerFeatures:


Here’s our complex and Eurotrashy, combo-washer/dryer:


For the #FewerFeatures version, I’ve simplified the wash cycles to cold, warm and hot. I took out a few of the dryer’s options too (the dryer doesn’t work well anyways and we seldom use it). And I removed what I call the “feature signaling” verbiage stenciled on the lower left and right of the control panel that reads “TrueBalance Anti-Vibration System™” and “Smart Diagnosis™” (look closely and you’ll even see a drawing of a flip phone next to a plus sign!). Why?


Speaking of flip phones, this isn’t entirely fair, but I couldn’t resist a #FewerFeatures version of the iPhone.


No, my still functional Western Electric 500 does not play movies, music, function as a timer or keep track of my steps, but it sure is a lot more handsome and less distracting:


Incidentally, rumor has it that a lot of high-powered Silicon Valley execs use flip phones, a.k.a. “dumb phones” precisely because they have #FewerFeatures.

Some companies have long been hip to #FewerFeatures and actually sell less features for a premium. Take a look at the beautiful Leica M10. Leica places an emphasis on high quality optics and ease of use. The M10 will set you back $6,500.

Update: In Twitter, Adrien Berridge @berridAC points out that the ultimate #FewerFeatures Leica is the M-D-a digital camera with no screen! I updated the photo so show this remarkable and pricey camera. Thank you Adrien!

I suspect that devices with too many features come from companies where the marketing department has too much say in the design. We’re going to change this! Tell us about your #FewerFeatures journey. Bust out the Photoshop, use the hashtag in social media and let’s simplify our tools!



Leave a comment


  1. My only comment is, my opinion, that these multitude of features have lead us to be a world with ADD.

  2. I’m in. I’m refusing to “upgrade” my washer for this reason. Yes, it uses water less efficiently, but it’s a workhorse and won’t need replacing for years to come (the cost of building of replacement machines and parts, externalized as it is, must be huge).

  3. I totally agree.

    Among the other overly-complex things in our house, is a heating control that comes with a sizeable user manual. It allows you – no, FORCES you – to set up four separate programs for each day of the week. Each program requires you to set a start time, an end time and a temperature. Once set up, the only way you can change anything is to step through all the other settings until you get to the one you want to change, then change it and hope that you have not messed anything else up while doing so and have to start all over again.

    All we really need to do is to be able to set a temperature of 70F when we are in the house and awake, and a temperature of 60F when we are out of the house or asleep. We also need to be able to change these temperatures temporarily if we feel too cold or too hot.

    All this can be done with a simple thermostat which can be manually set. Get up in the morning and turn it up to 70F. Go to bed in the evening, clean your teeth and turn it down to 60F. Feel too cold? Turn it up. Feel too hot? Turn it down. If you forget to change it, you may feel too hot or too cold until you remember. If you don’t, no harm done!

    Eventually, we will get around to replacing the complex heating control with a simple analog or digital thermostat, which can be purchased cheaply at any hardware store.

    Devices should be designed with these three principles in mind:

    (1) Anything the the USER thinks is simple or is done often must be obvious and easy to do. No manual should be required.

    (2) Anything that the USER accepts as complex and is done infrequently must be as simple as possible, but a minimum level of complexity may be acceptable.

    (3) Do not mix up (1) and (2). Keep the complex features away from the easy features and preferably hidden until requested.

  4. We have a similar dishwasher and use the glass xpress setting every load because it is faster, uses less water, and cleans the dishes just as well as the normal setting.

  5. yup. paid a good chunk of money last year for a #fewerfeatures “Freewrite” device for my ds for some of his writing homework. it truly sucks for parents that it’s so ridiculously difficult to have a netsafe device for kids. the only thing the Freewrite does is write. zero options for distraction. (which is why adults who write a lot are also wanting it – so they can actually just get the writing done). i’m not affiliated with them or paid to say any of this, but dang it’s nice to have something where i don’t have to feel like hovering to stave off distractions, and it truly just has the basic features a person needs to write using a keyboard device.

    Erik – you haven’t mentioned Kelly’s awesome wee hand crank sewing machine 😉 I bought a restored one from the same folk who repaired hers. mine was made in the early 50s in Scotland by Singer. Front and back straight stitch only. Love. It. It’s quiet, portable, off grid, durable materials and #fewerfeatures spectaculous.

  6. Designers should follow the gold rule: keep it simple. In real life, the new digital world can do more and the sale department love it.

    People pay more for features they don’t use or don’t need. Plus there are more components which decrease reliability.

  7. our refrigerator is over 30 years old, no features, no digital, and has been a champ for all this time. Energy star appliances suck because they use smaller motors to make them more energy efficient, yet don’t really get the work done, and because of the small motors, stress the machine to failure. Add in the fact that these machines are mostly Chinese made, which likely have counterfeit parts (ball bearings, cheap plastics, etc..)and we now have a trillion dollar problem world-wide. Thanks to our corporate overlords and paid-for politicos!

  8. I’m on board ! Trying to find a basic washing machine with no extra settings was not possible. When our dishwasher broke about 15 years ago, we didn’t fix or replace it. Have washed dishes by hand ever since and it’s fine. Ditto with the clothes dryer, we just line dry everything except for when it rains and I drop the wet laundry off at a laundromat while doing other errands. Somehow none of this seems like extra work. Maybe it’s a bit passive-aggressive, but it works for me!

  9. My husband is good at fixing things so our appliance can usually have a long life.
    Our 19 year old stove died last year and we could not get parts, so we had to buy a new one…..they are all garbage out there. We bought the one with the least features….which still has too many for my liking.
    Our TV remote control will no longer turn on the TV. I refuse to buy a new one as it took me months to figure this one out. So we turn on the TV manually….it the new normal now

    • We had a similar problem. When we moved into our house, the previous owner left an amazingly complicated electric stove that we never really understood. When an oven seal broke, we managed to find a source online, but it cost more than $50. The ridiculously complex control panel was at the back of the stove, which meant that you had to reach over boiling pots to use it, which seemed very dangerous to us.

      Eventually, we found an excellent replacement at Although designed for off-grid use with propane, we had it converted to natural gas. It is built like a tank out of heavy gauge sheet steel and cast iron. There are only five controls: one for each burner and one for the oven. Each control is a simple rotating knob that controls ignition and temperature. That’s all there is to it! Exactly what we wanted: easy and obvious to use and no unwanted features.

  10. I have complete satisfaction with the simple Speed Queen, US made, clothes washing machine we bought a few years ago. No bells or whistles. 4 cycles knob. Water level knob. Water temperature knob. No push buttons. Extra rinse option. Stainless steel. This washer has everything you need and nothing you don’t. Yes, it cost the same amount of a “fancy” washer, but so what? I line dry all our clothes. Got rid of the clothes dryer years ago. We live in So. California so have endless great drying weather. We hand wash dishes. Don’t have central air/heating, still use a key to turn on the heater. Keeping things simple makes eye brows fly up when people become aware of how we live, but then they envy the peaceful life we live.

  11. I watched a video by “Dave the Good”, he’s moved his family to South America and he said that they don’t have appliances down there for a reason. Apparently the companies who build them send the high end well made to wealthy countries and big money buyers, the 2nd’s to North America (U.S.A)showrooms and the bottom of the bucket 3rd’s to South America. He said they are so bad that paying to get them fixed cost more than the purchase price. I have a client that spent $7 thousand on counter top coffee machine and it broke down all the time, crazy nut bought another 7 grand machine to use while the other one had to be shipped for fixing. They go back and forth all the time. I asked him “Couldn’t you just go to the hardware store and buy a $39 dollar stainless 12-cup percolator and a $10 dollar coffee grinder?” He looked at me like I was crazy!

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