Simplicity gets a bad name, for the good of all of us

simple.In nearly every project and product we develop at PICnet, I constantly ask one question that likely annoys our team more than a day working under Steve Jobs: “can’t you make it more intuitive?”

Note that I don’t say, “can you dumb it down so that a banana slug, without so much as an opposable thumb or high-speed Internet access, can still work this?”

That’s an important difference. Not the banana slug part, but the idea that dumbing down technology for the sake of simplicity should not be a goal we strive to achieve. Instead, I’m happy to see that like-minded people like Dan over at Adaptive Path feel the same way. In his posting entitled Strive for Elegance, not Simplicity, Dan lays out his thoughts on this matter, and focuses on elegance in his designs rather than simplicity.

Rather than simplicity, I try to make my designs elegant, which is something different. As I’ve noted before, simplicity can remove something precious from users: control. Users sometimes prefer having more complexity because it can sometimes provide users with more control. Even if, as Norman rightly notes, users don’t use the controls, there is something about having them that is comforting.

As our clients have seen, and the world will see when we release Soapbox Events, we’re constantly striving to make sure that our offerings are both simple and utilitarian, with a splash of eye candy design. This makes sure our clients have both ease-of-use and control, which to be honest, is quite a challenge. Stay tuned, and challenge the developers…and designers. Neither is always right.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, December 16th, 2006 at 10:25 pm and is filed under design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Simplicity gets a bad name, for the good of all of us”

  1. Ryan Ozimek


    Thanks for the comment, great article. I think that Joel’s summed it up best when he writes:

    “On the other hand, if you’re using simplicity to mean a lack of power, a lack of features, that’s fine, if you want to be in the paper clip business, good luck with that, but the chances that your product will solve my exact problems starts to shrink and your potential market share does, too.”

    If we’re building software that’s going to help the non-profit community as a whole, any accidental techie or rider will tell you that simplicity isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

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