How the Pareto Principle (80:20 rule) defines the User Experience

Like most people who have read about the Pareto principle, that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. I am fascinated about how it has the potential to be one of the best life hacks available; that which through any productivity trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method increases productivity and efficiency.

Like any process or method, it has to be used wisely; essentially there are pros and cons in using the Pareto Principle depending on the context. This is never more applicable than in businesses whom, even unconsciously, only execute to the 80 percentile due to limited resources / bad decisions / tight project time targets / ineptitude etc. This is never most noticeable than in the customer user experience.

On paper it makes sense; complete 80% of the job in 20% of the time, make it functional for the customer, and then have the remaining 80% of the time to concentrate on other features…

Following this through, albeit simplistically, the problem is that “80%” of your competition does exactly the same; you are no different to the majority. If you follow the same principle, these businesses will only have the desirability to gain 20% of the total market if all other major variables like technology, disruptive processes etc. remain the same.

I believe the reason for this phenomenon is by only completing 80% of the fully functioning product, you don’t get the small things right. It is these that the customer notices and just like a broken point in a record it more noticeable, and therefore more frustrating, the more you use it.

Getting the small things right defines the user experience. It is why I strongly disagree with people who say you do not need to work hard within a startup, by definition a high growth business that has the ambition to be in the top 20% within a market, but instead use life hacks like the Pareto principle to compensate, I believe they are simply wrong.

In summary: work intelligently, but work hard, as Rory Sutherland says in the below TED talk: sweat the small stuff!

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