Looking through the history of websites and applications there is typically a core compelling reason why people started using it and why it took off right away. Many startups follow this principle: YouTube was there to upload videos, Facebook had a simple profile page to share content, WhatsApp was a simple messaging app, Snapchat to share photos, Uber for rides, the list goes on of apps that were released with a core purpose. This is why the concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is so important. If something is released with one simple purpose, it allows the market determine if there is in fact a demand for it. If the product is not validated early on, it makes it a lot less painless to re-evaluate if the product is something that the market needs or wants.
There are other reasons for keeping it simple. For one, if people go to the app and get lost in features, they may not understand what the purpose of the app is. If feature xyz is really what you want to see if people are using, it makes it a lot less difficult to test if they are using it the way it is intended if xyz is the only thing they can do. This sort of hyper focus makes sure you are doing one thing and doing it really well. Many times we see neophyte entrepreneurs come in that want to build the next cool app that is different from “x” app because of all these extra features. Why not just build the extra feature the existing app doesn’t already have and see if people really like that thing? Doesn’t it seem to make more sense to be really really good at one thing versus having a bunch of things that work less than optimal?
Another reason for keeping it simple is just that. For every extra feature it adds another layer of complexity to the app. Each additional feature could have its own set of unforeseen use cases or edge cases that need to be addressed. Much like that whack-a-mole game in arcades where there is a mallet to bop the moles that pop up, when one issue is fixed it can cause other areas of the app to break. The game becomes significantly easier if there is only one mole to manage. We aren’t saying that it’s not okay for apps to grow and become more complex over time, but for starting out some genuine thought should be put into every feature required.
The sky is the limit on cool features that can be built for your awesome app, the real challenge is figuring out what the absolute core value is which makes it completely different. The trick is figuring out what makes it unique and simple enough to use for getting to that mass scale.