Reduce complexity, embrace simplicity

Have you ever used a product which is too complex to use, has a plethora of functionalities, and leaves you disgruntled and sometimes disoriented? I have – most of the banking apps that I use are so complex that it leaves me with a headache. Some of the news websites also leave me confused.

Many companies get confused over simplicity. Simplicity is not just a great user experience. It is about how the user sees and uses the product and gets output from the product. Companies need to understand that simplicity is the foundation of product thinking.

Simple products not only make things easy for the customer; it makes organizations simple.

Think how Google reinvented the search page when Ask.com and Yahoo.com were ruling the search engine industry. Google just had a search bar when the other majors crowded their websites with increasingly (and sometimes highly irrelevant) information. Look who won.

To embrace simplicity, make sure the solution you provide and the problem you address is balanced. If the solution is more than what is required, the product gets crowded. If the solution is less, then there is a significant product gap.

Make sure you bring clarity in your product design. Clarity removes ambiguity across the entire value chain of product management. It helps remove the unwanted button and the useless doorknob. It helps in building aesthetics and elegance, the two cornerstones of simplicity.

Just take a look at the iconic laws of simplicity outlined by John Maeda, when he was, in his own words, “earning his MBA”.

Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda, lawsofsimplicity.com; Image courtesy Design Open Data


Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda, lawsofsimplicity.com; Image courtesy Design Open Data

Do not treat simplicity as a destination. It is a journey. If you feel you have created a simple product, rethink. There will still be features that you can remove.

Take the journey towards simplicity by narrowing down to the barebones (just like Google does) and keeping only the essential. Focus on minimalism (just like Apple does with its three-click policy). Strip away everything that you feel that the customers will not need or do not use ever.

Also, realize that simplicity cannot always be planned. Sometimes, simplicity is an accident. Like how Silly Putty was invented. During the 2nd world war, Silly Putty was invented when boric acid was accidently dropped into silicone oil. Even though the practical use of Silly Putty was not evident immediately, the astronauts of the Apollo 8 mission used it to make their tables secure in zero gravity.

Go on then, strip your product of the features that you feel are not required. Do not be apprehensive. Be aggressive and be ready to accept accidents.

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