The question if either simplicity is better than complexity has been overwhelming people for the last few years. But if we analyse carefully each one of them we end up with a most interesting conclusion.
It’s clear that computers are simpler than they used to be. The underlying technology, microchips, has become more advanced and powerful and also more complicated (difficult to understand) in order to make computers simpler. There was a time when a single person could understand a microchip or operating system.
Complicated and advanced devices are “ok” — they do get the difficult jobs done, but when using them you often think there’s got to be a better way. And there often is.
Sometimes people just really like complex things and fail to go to with simple options.. But why?
Microsoft did this experiment they said, wait a minute we have herd complains that we have so many features, let’s create a word processor that is just a word processor, pure and simple, does not do webpages is not a database and then it came up. The word processor was called Microsoft Write which would eventually be replaced in Windows 95, by WordPad.
But it didn’t sold and it died, no one ever bought it. Because people like to surround themselves with unnecessary power. They do not need all those features but they think i will upgrade, because well someday i might need it. The problem is when you have so many features, where are you going to stick them? So you have to be very careful, cause if you are not you will end up with something like this:
This is Microsoft Word with all the tool bar opened, and you obviously never opened all the tool bars. But all you have to type is a little window. So, part of the art of designing simple good interfaces, is knowing when to use which one of these features.
Complexity doesn’t necessarily mean that it is difficult to use. Complexity can be exciting and good when its involved in the making of technologies, communications or ideas. But generally the more complex it becomes it harder it is to understand and it also involves additional costs to develop, support and use.
Simple Isn’t Easy
There’s a problem sometimes here: “easy to understand” does not mean “easy to do”. Competitive swimming for example it is easy to understand. It is not easy to do. Creating a powerful behaviour from easy to understand parts can be a big challenge it self.
There are two simple questions that can make you understand design behaviours:
How easy is it to understand?
- Simple: Easy to understand, straightforward
- Complicated: Difficult to understand, convoluted
What can it do?
- Advanced: Does a lot, powerful
- Basic: Doesn’t do much, simplistic
It’s hard to find patterns in chaotic and complicated behaviors. It is easy to look and something working and just leave it as it is. But looking at human behavior and our natural laws, it can give us inspiration that any complex phenomenon or design can be build simple for people to actually enjoy it. A good way to simplify interfaces is to count how many taps you have to do to get to a task. If normally you do more than 3 taps the system is not that simple as it should be.
If you assume that complicated is powerful you are wrong. Don’t confuse a simple interface with basic behaviors. If you think about these questions you will understand that simple isn’t easy!
Simplicity vs Complexity
Simple things are the hardest ones to achieve. If you give a child the decision to pick between a small sweet and a big sweet.
They will choose the big sweet. So therefore the more complex. But if you give the kid a small pile of clothes to fold and a big pile. They will choose the small pile. Therefore the simple one.
So I think it’s about when you want more it’s because you want to enjoy it. When you want less it’s because it’s about having more work.
So if you want to keep everyone sane, and not struggling and banging their mobile phones against the table, because the interface it’s too hard to understand or it simply doesn’t work like it should.. you have to simplify.
Because simplicity is about living life with more enjoyment and less pain.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I hope this gave you a peek into my design thinking and how I rationalize my decisions, as well as the way I work. Please leave a like or share to show your appreciation.