User Experience Is Not Simplicity, But Should Be Made Simple

UX Design | 10th July 2015

Not all topics can be introduced with a Steve Jobs’ story, but then again, simplicity in User Experience is not just any topic.

“The suspense is killing me,” I said. “How’d it go this morning?” “Well,” he said, “Steve hit us with the Simple Stick.”

Translation: Steve had rejected their work—not because it was bad but because in some way it failed to distill the idea to its essence. It took a turn when it should have traveled a straight line.

Excerpt from Insanely simple: the obsession that drives Apple’s success by Ken Segall

While not all clients will be as adamant as the proverbial Jobs, the subject of simplicity vs complexity in User Experience is one that tends to leave practitioners split into two fields: those who believe that less is more and those who reply more is more. In much the same spirit, UX designers may be found citing Hick’s Law (an increasing number of choices will result in a logarithmical increase in decision time) or even Albert Einstein’s On the Method of Theoretical Physics:

It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.

Einstein probably didn’t have simplicity in User Experience in mind when he wrote this words, but that didn’t prevent designers from heralding his quote as a short manifesto in favor of simplicity. And where exactly does Hi INTERACTIVE stand in this seemingly complex issue?

Simplicity in User Experience: quality overcomes quantity

Giant theoretical physicists aside, the matter of simplicity in User Experience is more than likely to haunt many, if not all, of your projects. At Hi INTERACTIVE, we deal with that same problematic ourselves and strive to follow both our mottos to the letter: Quality overcomes quantity and Simple, functional solutions, which reflect on our portfolio. User Experience is thus always on the back of our minds when embarking on a decision tree which will eventually culminate in a great, extremely user-friendly product: and that is what User Experience design is about: making decisions about a given product, be it your corporate website or mobile app. As Rebekah Cox, designer at Quora, eloquently puts it: Design is a set of decisions about a product. Within that set of decisions, there are two points that good design is able to cover:

  • Create a clear relationship between a product and its interface;
  • ​Focus attention where it matters most: purpose and goals.

‘Complexity crept into my User Experience design. Help!’

Fear not: even if you have succumbed to complexity in User Experience, as Giles Colborne put forward in his book, Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design, there are still strategies which can be employed to bring simplicity to your User Experience. Taking a remote control as a starting point, Colborne showed not just one, but four different simplicity strategies:

  • Remove: Eliminate any un-essentials elements.
  • Organize: Display the elements according to logic: find a suitable organizational model and follow it.
  • Hide: Show the most important elements, highlighting them whenever and keep others reachable through navigation.
  • Displace: Make sure that the interface you are about to create is not the sum of every possible interaction: leave something for the other devices to offer too

Sometimes, despite complexity’s bad rep in the realm of User Experience, it might just be what the doctor ordered: at least, that’s what Francisco Inchauste’s theory is about. If applying the principle of less is more might make your product more confusing, then that’s probably not a good way to go. As it happens so often, one must take into consideration the user’s needs and the context itself.

Where is there room for simplicity in User Experience? 

Simplicity should preempt any decisions made regarding the design of a given product: once you start dealing with lists of mandatory elements to include in your product, the time for simplicity has already come and gone. The role of the User Experience designer is paramount here: a good UX designer is in the best possible position to stand up for your interests, put forward a strategy that allows you to attain your goals, while providing the necessary expertise. Simplicity in User Experience is well within your reach.

Check out our contributions for simplicity in User Experience: Hi INTERACTIVE would love to bring simplicity to your next project. Let’s talk!