“Simple” and “Easy” as a terms are overused

We all talk about simplicity and how it should drive our product development. In fact – we can see that “simple” and “easy” resonates well with our customers and we end up overusing it.

In fact – I think that “simple” and “easy” are becoming a high tech potato chips (or crisps if you like) – if you are throwing a party you’ve got to have them! So we end up having gozillion of web apps that are neither simple nor easy. They are simplistic. They tend to oversimplify the problems they are trying to solve, and they end up being useless. 

I’m afraid that very soon we’ll end up having “simple” and “easy” bearing pejorative connotation (simple = oversimplified = useless).

So what should we do then? My take on the problem would be the following – I’ll stop using “simple” and “easy” and will use “elegant”, “easy to understand”, “clean” and “well designed”.

Because users can outgrow “simple” but will never outgrow “well designed”.

Adrian Short said…

Ultimately, all arguments are semantic arguments.

Your idea, my idea and other people’s ideas of what “well designed” means may well vary. But then you could say the same thing about “simple” too.

To try to prevent this kind of discussion going round in circles it’s worth noting Tesler’s law of the conservation of complexity. Once you’ve got rid of the unnecessary complexity in a process, the only thing remaining for designers to do is to decide where the residual complexity resides. Do the users have to handle it, or do smart applications do this on their behalf?

One example of this is configuring mail server settings in Thunderbird. The application needs to know various things about the protocols, incoming and outgoing mail servers, etc. But it doesn’t ask the user. It just asks for their email address, and password and works the rest out from there. The complexity of this configuration has been shifted from the user to the application, resulting in a simple and easy interaction — for the user.