Friday, February 22, 2013

The Secret Menu: In-N-Out Design

Panera bread gained some attention this week through the revelation of their "secret menu" of items not advertised on the menus in their stores.  West Coasters in the know are aware that In-N-Out has special ordering options that they do not make known, and were for a long time only available via word of mouth.  Even Starbucks has a little baby sized cup of coffee called the "Short" size.




Why do this?  If you offer a feature, why not tell people about it?  If you're In-N-Out burger, why have an insanely short and simple menu and then hide the deeper options?  And how do these principles apply to the software design world?


  • Creating insider information makes your customers/users part of an exclusive club.  Remember that cool tracking shot scene from Goodfellas (a movie with many great tracking shots) where Ray Liotta takes Karen through the back entrance of the Copacabana nightclub, introducing her to the servers and staff while being shown to a private table and skipping the line?  There's no way you could create that with a fast food joint or a piece of boring software, right?  Wrong.
  • These "power users" are far more likely to want to share their cool hack with their social circles.  
  • Word of mouth marketing from friends is orders of magnitude more effective than traditional advertising
  • In the age of Google, anyone who really wants to know can effortlessly find the information you're "hiding", so you're not really denying it to anyone.
  • Simplicity and minimal options are pillars of good UX design (even for restaurants).  Don't Make Me Think.  Put the options behind a curtain.

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