Day 20: Simplicity Sells

I watched Ted Talk with David Pogue recently and I wanted to share some thoughts about it:

It seems to me that while it’s obvious what he is saying, it is also a little bit more complicated than he makes it.

His premise is that the simpler the design, the better the user experience. At a first glance that makes sense but I think that to really be able to use this statement in practical design tasks, one has to define “simple”. As stupid as it might seem, this little word needs to be defined in design terms because it can mean  many several different things.

Does “simple” interface means interface with limited amount of options? Or does it mean an interface that has all options shown by default? Or maybe one that uses words instead of icons? You can ask several hundred of these questions before you come up with what a simple interface is. Especially if you take cultural differences into consideration. Should the most used options be on the right or the left? After all a large chunk of our world reads from right to left.

What I suspect David Pogue means by “simple” is “intuitive”. He hints at that meaning of the word, when he mentions breaking the rules for the sake of intelligent design. And while this is a great idea, it is also not very specific. For me standard-based website is intuitive and I don’t have to wonder what in the text will take me to the next page, if one word changes color when hovered over. But it is not the case for my parents. They might have learned that by now, but it is not an intuitive behavior. And there is also the story of my friends’ kid, who comes to the screen of the TV and tries to “swipe” to change the channel. Damn, every now and then even I try to “swipe” on my Kindle.

What’s intuitive? That changes. What’s simple? That isn’t clearly defined. So how to design something that sells? By clearly defining your user group and catering to their needs. And by testing, testing and testing again.

And for desert, this video of Windows 8 design that, I believe is not simple and yet intuitive and has a chance to become a success.


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