Simplicity is not the goal

Where ever you are. Where ever someone is talking about design – very soon someone will bring up the word simplicity. Or someone will say: "This or that has to be simple".  Or someone is asking for no touch or low touch design. Or they say, every information has to be just one or two clicks away. But what does 'simple' means?

I think we agree that simple stands for easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty to use - "a simple solution" and it stands for plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature, or design; without much decoration or ornamentation. Users can always tell when something is simple, but can rarely articulate why it is simple. Because simplicity is inherently subjective, achieving it is pretty delicate.

Regarding the utility and usability better adjective as the following are for sure better …

  • Uncomplicated
  • not overwhelming
  • not complex

… but as you can see these are all negative adjectives? The only way to phrase it positive is simple or perhaps logical but the word simple is too fussy and also logical is not clear - as both depend are subjective and hooked on the particular user’s needs – so do you agree if we say that user centered design is the only way to meet this? … to be simple ?

And even if we think about simple in the meaning of appearance

  • Elegant
  • Trendy
  • Modern
  • Beauty
  • or a number of other near-synonyms

… but as outlined before, even if this time the adjectives are positive – they do not tell us: What is this simple, elegant, trendy, modern, or beauty - whatever you like to call it is in the eye of the beholder and the product and brand which brand values it has to represent.

Whenever interface and product design convey high quality and precision, the users will automatically attribute these characteristics to the entire product, service and provider.

Let me list principles which I see as essential to meet the user’s expectations and user experience.

Don't overwhelm your users.
Focus on the situation, don’t distract your user. And present your user only a few relevant choices at a time which he can understand and where he knows and understand what he can or has to do and that he understand and see that these option take him nearer to his aim.

Don’t use jargon or techy or nerd slang.
Talk to people like they are human. For example, rather than just label a form "phone," how about making the label a bit more personal especially as it is a web accessed touchpoint – tell your user why you need or like to have his phone number. For instance by providing your user the hint: "Enter your phone number so we can get a hold of you on the phone if the worst comes to the worst.

Clarity in visual design is critical for simplicity.
Users value the reliability and very quickly, so if there isn't a clear visual order or hierarchy, a meaningful iconography (symbolic, iconic, and indexical signs) , people will get confused.

Keep in mind, just because something looks simple, doesn't mean it is simple. And just reducing clicks for the reason to shorten click ways, doesn’t mean to make it simple.
Simplicity is not the goal it’s just the side effect of good design work.


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