Versatility vs. Constraints

Bathtubs are more versatile than shower cubicles. But that doesn’t make them better.

A bathtub lets you luxuriate in a therapeutic bath of fragrant oils and Epsom salts on a languid afternoon. With a shower curtain, it also lets you take a daily 10 minute shower. It seems to offer the best of both worlds.

Yet this versatility comes with trade-offs. A bathtub is designed for lying down. Showering upright on its contoured enamel surface is the perfect recipe for a bathroom accident. While bathtubs are designed to be perfect for the rare glamourous bath, they are less suitable for the routine daily shower.

Shower cubicles come with constraints – you cannot bathe in them. But this constraint helps them do one thing really well. Versatile bathtubs are designed for the rare edge case, while shower cubicles are perfect for everyday use.

Many of our purchase decisions are driven by putting the edge case ahead of the essential: cameras with too much zoom, cars with 4-wheel-drive, amplifiers with too much distortion and PCs with insane processing speed.

Versatility often leads to trade offs and dilution just as constrains can help us focus on the essential.

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