Monday, December 04, 2006

The Complexity of Simplicity

Making things simple is hard work ...

"Though many business strategies and publications continue to trumpet the power of simplicity in the design of digital products, for lots of companies and product teams, simplicity doesn’t come easy.

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”—Charles Mingus

While there are many reasons why keeping things simple is difficult, I’ve encountered the following three causes quite frequently:

Perceived simplicity can often conflict with actual simplicity of usage.
Actions that provide real value—and drive revenue—often have formidable learning curves.
Gradual engagement, the most frequently cited solution for managing complexity, is actually quite difficult to design and build.
Perceived Versus Actual Simplicity

Many of us carry a few preconceived notions about simplicity. We assume things that are easy to use don’t have a lot of options and, as a result, shouldn’t appear cluttered when we first encounter them. In the world of product design, this means plenty of whitespace, clear calls to action, and an overall reduction of content—in the form of visual elements such as type, images, lines, colors, shapes, and so on. When a product has these attributes, we are more likely to assume it is easy to use. It’s quite possible that it might not be, but the perception of simplicity is there.

Conversely, a perception of complexity can turn customers, clients, or business stakeholders off before they ever actually use a product. In a worst-case scenario, an evaluation based on an opinion that “this looks cluttered; therefore, it must be difficult to use” can prevent customers from ever even trying a product out. But as Don Norman recently suggested, an initial impression of complexity might actually be an artifact of a product’s simplicity."    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

Visual Density - Usability, User Interface Design

Visual Density


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