Design by constraint and the meatloaf of irrelevance

During the season finale of Celebrity Apprentice, Trump asked the panel of recently fired contestants who they thought should win. Meatloaf responded with a prelude. Trump interrupted. He needed a simple answer. John or Marlee?

“I’ll get to that in a second,” Meatloaf responded. Trump didn’t have a second. He fired him again. And moved on to the next contestant.


Time is our most valuable resource. You can’t own it. Stop it. Or reclaim it once it passes.

Given the innumerable tasks we wedge into our days, we gravitate toward anything that gets something done in the least amount of time.

Think Red Box versus Blockbuster. ATM versus the bank. A text message versus a phone call. Facebook versus in-person communication.

You need look no further than your own Website analytics to see what people avoid to get what they need. An element. A page. Every second a user takes to dodge something they deem inessential is a valuable unit of their time you’re wasting.

Like Trump, users require brevity. Simple facts.

If you give them fluff, you get fired.

Here lies the Web. RIP.

Like you, I reach for my iPhone the second I wake up. Like you, I absorb the time, weather, news, social chatter and morning email in a matter of seconds.

I could get up and get it all from the 27″ iMac in my den. But like you, I don’t. It’s bigger. Not better.

These devices and the apps that run on them grant us control over our digital experience. We blaze through thousands of actions, source tons of information and push a zillion more communiques a day now that we are freed from the “Desktop Web”.

In Chris Anderson’s controversial Wired essay last year, The Web is Dead, Long Live the Internet, he writes:

One of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semi-closed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display. It’s a world Google can’t crawl, one where HTML doesn’t rule. And it’s the world that consumers are increasingly choosing, not because they’re rejecting the idea of the Web but because these dedicated platforms often just work better or fit better into their lives (the screen comes to them, they don’t have to go to the screen).

As a result, the semi-closed Internet experiences are changing our perception of the value of the Web.

Like this:

Yesterday, I discovered upon arrival at my hotel in Las Vegas that my reservation was somehow lost. A quick click on my iPhone’s SPG app confirmed that. Adding insult to injury, they had no availability. Using the app, I found and made a new reservation down the strip in less than two minutes.

Imagine trying to accomplish that with such ease, in haste, using a standard website.

That got me thinking…

Here lies your Website. RIP.

Relax, I’m not referring to your future Website. I’m targeting the one you need to ditch now. The one that contains a profusion of products, departments, services, claims and people that serve up a meatloaf of irrelevance to your impatient, Trump-like users.

This is the site you constructed prior to building your mobile site. The one you built prior to the proliferation of mobile apps that offer users one thing – the thing they want to get done.

It’s possible you are still stuck in this mode while others, borrowing wisely from the mobile paradigm, have moved here.

30% of Zillow’s traffic now comes from its mobile apps.’s apps have been downloaded by millions. Corcoran is witnessing a big return on its mobile investments.

This is the tip of the iceberg.

Design by constraint

What if you boiled your home page down to one element?

What if you boiled your marketing copy down to tweet-like simplicity?

What if you boiled your brand message down to one word?

We’re thinking through questions like this right now at 1000WATT as we architect and design digital assets for clients. The mindset of mobile applies across the board. In other words, we are creating brand touch points that are sympathetic to users’ needs and expectations.

Far less navigation. Succinct copy. Finger-friendly interfaces. Big calls to action.

You may believe that your corporate website needs to be deeper and more elaborate than a one-dimensional app. But know that the world has been spoiled by the mobile UI. There is no turning back from that.

Less wins.

Constraint is its maestro.

Apply it across everything.

And stay in the game.