Don’t be fooled by the facade of simplicity: A checklist to properly vet software products

The Facade of Simplicity: A checklist for properly evaluating software products

Marc Stracuzza
Marc Stracuzza
Director of Portfolio Strategy, commercetools
Published 02 May 2023

Regardless of your corporate business model, you’re undoubtedly aware your end customers are looking for an effortless experience. This is because the majority of people are drawn to familiarity and easily digestible information. Call it the “comfort zone” or anything else, but the truth is people naturally gravitate to things they know – whether it’s a rebooted TV series, the 2nd, 3rd or 4th release in a movie series or an improved version of a product they’ve used for years.

Don’t be fooled by the facade of simplicity: A checklist to properly vet software products

This same well-studied human trait comes into play whenever you’re looking for resolutions to problems. You instinctively want it to find the quickest, simplest solution. Especially when  dealing with the unknown, because it gives you the confidence you’ll be successful in accomplishing the desired outcome. However, this facade of simplicity has the potential to create situations in which you miss out on achieving a  more impactful vision.

Case in point: Purchasing software products. When business and tech leaders need a new product, they often fall back on this facade of simplicity. They look for options that solve problems in a way they’re already comfortable with because it seems simpler and, more importantly, safe and familiar. 

Whether you recognize it or not, when  evaluating a new software solution, you often have a bias towards vendors that present a complex problem as easy to solve. After all, why would you rush to buy a product labeled “expensive and complicated?”  This is why it’s critical to determine if the simplicity being marketed to you is truly because the vendor has created a very well-designed, robust product or is just presenting a facade. To find out, you have to break through the “Facade of Simplicity.”

How to start the vetting process:

Since evaluating software products is no easy task, instinct leads you to compartmentalize your decision-making into smaller sections that can be validated independently. While this approach makes a lot of sense, it can lead to oversimplifying the overall solution. Essentially, by compartmentalizing, you could dismiss your greater needs and not properly qualify a product.  

You want to take a more comprehensive approach and not just focus on if a product can support your needs but also how. Examine if the support it offers is scalable and adaptable to your future needs. This checklist can help you properly vet your next software product so you don’t fall prey to the “Facade of Simplicity,”

  1. Define what you need 
    Think about the problems you have and the goals you need to accomplish. It’s simple to fall back to the familiar, so be careful not to jump at the first solution you find. What you think you need may not actually be what you actually need. Take the time to select multiple products and vet them through an objective lens.

  2. Determine if the product addresses your primary use cases
    You spend a lot of time and energy defining your use cases, so it’s important to use them as a base to filter your initial product choices. Once it’s clear which offerings fit your needs, engage the winners for talks and demonstrations to prove their product  supports your use cases. Take your time with this process because often, products that oversimplify the problem will shine in this evaluation phase because they obfuscate behind carefully scripted demos and prescriptive UIs.

  3. Identify if the product offers all the features you need 
    Create a checklist of everything you might need and ask the product team to indicate support for these features. If you check most boxes and feel good about the product, your leaders will also be happy because this shows you’ve mitigated any risk. However, if you have any concerns over a specific item, ask for clarification!

  4. Ensure the product is future-ready
    Perhaps the most critical aspect of product selection, it’s often an afterthought. Most programmers and developers remember the famous quote attributed to Bill Gates about RAM (memory), “640K ought to be enough for anybody.” Regardless of whether the founder of Microsoft made the statement or not, it reinforces that we’ve learned our needs today won’t necessarily be our needs in the future. 

    With technology and our world evolving more quickly than ever, it’s even more critical to look beyond your current needs during the vetting process. Integrate a  future focus into your evaluation by considering how the features work, how often they’re updated and if they can scale. MACH® products are rapidly becoming the standard because they’re built with technologies that deliver the flexibility brands need to adapt to change.

Tips to overcome the Facade of Simplicity

Understanding a product’s adaptability is very difficult through the lens of prescriptive UIs and targeted product demonstrations. Often, you’re left with trying to understand product architecture. Products that are highly adaptable are often positioned as complex by competitors who promote the “Facade of Simplicity” to hide limitations. As a decision-maker, you have to make sure to look beneath the surface.

  1. Understand how the solution space is evolving
    More modern architectures are not only being designed to handle the needs of today, but also ensure you are set up for future flexibility. Leveraging organizations that vet architectures, like The MACH® Alliance, can help you navigate  multiple software needs and make the best decisions for your business.

  2. Look beyond prescriptive UIs and simplified feature demos
    A good UI can be a great advantage in product configuration, but it can also hide a lot of problems or product rigidity. These are key limitations that could prevent you from accomplishing your ultimate goals. The trick is to see through the facade before you commit to a product.

    If a demo is controlled by the product seller, ask to drive the demo yourself. Having control will enable you to move beyond a carefully scripted demo scenario and allow you to better understand how the product works. Attempt to do more than you think you might need. Stretching the product’s capabilities will give you a clearer overall impression and expose any crucial limitations.

  3. Knowing how it works is important  
    This point is worth repeating, don’t solely focus on if the product can offer a feature;  focus on the how. Identify how rigid the product is with questions including: Does the product only have a UI or can you use APIs as well? And, does the product lock you into one way to approach your problem or are there multiple options? You want to confirm what a product doesn’t do as much as what it does. 


Product evaluation is hard, and with a large landscape of potential options, it can be a daunting task. Don’t get caught up in short-term wins or group-think — look  beyond what you currently need to do and think about what you may want to do in the future. A product that seems simple now could be massively difficult and expensive to modify or replace if it doesn’t work. Breaking through the “Facade of Simplicity” and asking the hard questions is the best way to have confidence that the product(s) you choose will support your success and the future of your business.

To learn more about leveraging modern commerce software to drive business growth, download our white paper, How to Compose Your Commerce in 2023.

Marc Stracuzza
Marc Stracuzza
Director of Portfolio Strategy, commercetools

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