Simplicity is Not Understood

18 Jan 2007 - 2:27am
7 years ago
32 replies
1162 reads
Esteban Barahona
2006

note: this is a draft sour/sober personal opinion. it's not directed to
anyone in particular, really. don't take it too seriously if you don't want.
It doesn't have to do with IxD (wtf is IxD? really? is it
ProductDesign+HCI+Psychology+ScienceOfMind? who cares, IxD is a brand to
have more cash)... w/e

I "hate" to do this, talk in first person about this issues. but enough is
enough... I have waited 21 years to be strong enough to shout this; let the
ripples of the Net de-draft this rambling...

> Simplicity Is Highly Overrated<http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/simplicity_is_highly.html>
>

Cold Water

wtf? I just finished reading this essay/article... but it doesn't look
clear/articulate, it's as the author wants to make simple products that
looks complex so that buyers (not users) give cash to a brainless WW
Corporation (!). Ease of Use, Simplicity; did someone put this concepts on a
Design Altar? And after that, the "industry" use both terms loosely; with a
careless tendency to merge simplicity with ease of use.

Those the system/product is complex? is it simple? That doesn't matter for
the simplicity of the Interaction between user and machine. And there's a
deep issue of purpose, existencialism and pain of humanity as a whole.
Technology is the creation of humans for one purpose mainly: it exists so we
can do less work. Some (most?) humans are lazy by nature. Historically we
developed technology to survive as a species. But not only to survive on a
biological way, at some point we start using technology to hide our greatest
fear: we will die and don't know (or don't want to accept) what death means.
So we created Technology, the perfect host for us -the parasites- to feed
upon. And we make it cute... for hedonistic pleasures.

And now are we... <sarcasm>Descendants of the ones that discovered fire.
Fire is warm, fire is shelter. Against the wilderness, the enemy. We must
kill the enemy. We must destroy the enemy and seek pleasure through
technology, our cold and dead "mother". We must kill Gaia and become
cyborgs... transplanting or minds to computer networks to preserve our
pathetic existance.

So, now are we. Even more developed, you know after the Industry was born.
Now we can be efficient. Our technology gives us power, cuss humans doesn't
have an innate spark. Nah, lest give all that b/s thinking to crazy people.
</sarcasm> ...and now are we, still drooling for techno-toys (iPhone
anyone?). drooling for a way of life that is killing nature. humans are
currently insane. but there's still some hope...

Humanity is either insane, or deeply ignorant of reality. Today, I saw
beauty in a mountain. But it has being persistently devoured by the grey
goo, the sprawl, the city. Yes, those fortresses. Those useless fortresses.
Today I shout against this insanity. I shout against the believe that humans
have limit capabilities and are weak. Really, that's how society
indoctrinate its children. It indoctrinate children to be weak, dependant,
ignorant. But what society nows? Is it still following the "path of
progress", the industrialization, massification? I shout against
deep-engrained ideas that are useless. Ideas that are slowing or true
evolution. 46&2.

What about the singularity? How on earth (or hell, or heaven) do one designs
Interaction between a singularity-conscious abiotic mind and a conscious
biotic mind? To do that (if it's even possible, and that's a big if) it will
take the designer to be a Buddha/Awakened/Enlightened. Really... does anyone
thing about this? Interaction is between 2 systems; we may be more like
computers and computers more like us... theoretically. // Minsky

Either way we're screwed. We are a plague. Yes, we are a plague. Specially
the cities. That represents all this insanity // Ghost in the Shell, Matrix

Let me finish this with just one thing:

Simplicity can be Difficult.
Complexity can be Simple, or more precisely Transparent.
Humans are intelligent enough to use a Transparent Technology.
Transparent Interaction is easy for an intelligent Human.
It doesn't clutters the functionality.

Being Intelligent is using the mind.
It doesn't means "getting 100% in tests"...
that's just to get more cash,
we don't neet cash, neither borders/limits.

Use your Mind. Really
Look trough all this clouds.
Humans have so much wasted potential...
what a shame.

...this rambling doesn't make any sense.

^_^

Comments

18 Jan 2007 - 8:09am
jbellis
2005

Estaban,
Great rant. And don't apologize for the flames; they keep us all warm. (It's
still a flame even if you're just pointing it up in the air, right?)

I don't quite follow your spiritualism, but I too was a little disappointed
in the article. (Presumably Don's editors, who were not involved in the
article, are a big part of his undisputably hard-earned stature.) I agree
that the article says almost nothing that is precisely about Ix. On the flip
side, he was careful to preface it with disclaimers and the article is just
making a simple marketing observation... the claim that many users choose
the complexity that we are incongruously told is evil. The incongruity,
however, only exists in the mind of those who put the pieces together
incorrectly.

Users want benefits. Some are inept at, or maliciously fooled by, the
purchasing process.

But the real reason I responded was to applaud you on your poetic
observation about transparency. It is essentially identical to my message
that, more than any other factor, Ix boils down to explicitness. No, there's
no holy grail, but for me, explicitness is the savior, the all-encompassing
"limiting factor." Users can succeed with, and perhaps enjoy, even clunky
software if we give them a fighting chance.

Thanks, www.jackbellis.com

----- Original Message -----
From: "Esteban Barahona" <esteban.barahona at gmail.com>
> It doesn't have to do with IxD (wtf is IxD? really? is it
>
> > Simplicity Is Highly
Overrated<http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/simplicity_is_highly.html>
> >
> Complexity can be Simple, or more precisely Transparent.
> Humans are intelligent enough to use a Transparent Technology.
> Transparent Interaction is easy for an intelligent Human.
> It doesn't clutters the functionality.
>

18 Jan 2007 - 8:48am
bhekking
2006

> making a simple marketing observation... the claim that many users choose
> the complexity that we are incongruously told is evil. The incongruity,
> however, only exists in the mind of those who put the pieces together
> incorrectly.
>
> Users want benefits. Some are inept at, or maliciously fooled by, the
> purchasing process.

A Feb 2006 Harvard Business Review article by Roland Rust, et al. called
'Defeating Feature Fatigue' explores the issue of features & usability at the
time of purchase.
What the article's authors found was that, although features *do* induce people
to buy at time of purchase, usability (of which simplicity is an aspect, I'd
argue) becomes more important than features over time, as someone uses a
product.
Perhap Don Norman should/could have taken this effect into account in his
article.
My take-away was that usability trumps features over time and is far better at
creating lasting value.

Bret Hekking

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18 Jan 2007 - 9:11am
John Vaughan - ...
2004

Good points all around. But I wonder if the whole complexity issue really
doesn't have much to do with Ix, to the extent that the motivating human
factor is often non-utilitarian. It's power & play.

Isn't the question more about why we (as consumers) want to pay a premium
for seemingly specious gadgetry?

Well, Because complexity often has cachet. The motivating factor isn't
utility or functionality - but rather power. When we see the jet pilot
sitting before that huge daunting panel of controls we think, "Gawrsh,
he(she) must be really smart/capable/competent. I'm glad they're in
charge." Somehow it wouldn't be quite so impressive if there were just
steering wheel and automatic transmission. In fact, we still have a little
trouble with the concept of trusting ourselves to "autopilot" - even tho
that's often the case.

The other vector is our desire to play. Not to avoid or lessen work - but
to actively play. Most "play" involves investing lots of extra energy and
effort - But it's not "work". Most games involve learning - and adhering
to - a bunch of arcane rules that have no value outside of the playing field
(Note: I definitely don't question the value of learning to play the game
itself.) In a leisured society where many essentials are pre-packaged and
automated, we entertain - and satisfy - ourselves by mastering contrived
complexity: Rubik's Cube, sports strategy, a crossword puzzle, any video
game...

consider the value of The Power/Play

----- Original Message -----
From: "jackbellis.com" <jackbellis at hotmail.com>
To: "discuss" <discuss at ixda.org>
Sent: Thursday, January 18, 2007 9:09 AM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Simplicity is Not Understood

> Estaban,
> Great rant. And don't apologize for the flames; they keep us all warm.
> (It's
> still a flame even if you're just pointing it up in the air, right?)
>
> I don't quite follow your spiritualism, but I too was a little
> disappointed
> in the article. (Presumably Don's editors, who were not involved in the
> article, are a big part of his undisputably hard-earned stature.) I agree
> that the article says almost nothing that is precisely about Ix. On the
> flip
> side, he was careful to preface it with disclaimers and the article is
> just
> making a simple marketing observation... the claim that many users choose
> the complexity that we are incongruously told is evil. The incongruity,
> however, only exists in the mind of those who put the pieces together
> incorrectly.
>
> Users want benefits. Some are inept at, or maliciously fooled by, the
> purchasing process.
>
> But the real reason I responded was to applaud you on your poetic
> observation about transparency. It is essentially identical to my message
> that, more than any other factor, Ix boils down to explicitness. No,
> there's
> no holy grail, but for me, explicitness is the savior, the
> all-encompassing
> "limiting factor." Users can succeed with, and perhaps enjoy, even clunky
> software if we give them a fighting chance.
>
> Thanks, www.jackbellis.com
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Esteban Barahona" <esteban.barahona at gmail.com>
>> It doesn't have to do with IxD (wtf is IxD? really? is it
>>
>> > Simplicity Is Highly
> Overrated<http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/simplicity_is_highly.html>
>> >
>> Complexity can be Simple, or more precisely Transparent.
>> Humans are intelligent enough to use a Transparent Technology.
>> Transparent Interaction is easy for an intelligent Human.
>> It doesn't clutters the functionality.
>>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

18 Jan 2007 - 9:11am
Becubed
2004

> My take-away was that usability trumps features over time and is far better at
> creating lasting value.

But the frustrating conundrum is that features trump usability at the
moment of purchase. If you don't make the sale, you miss the
opportunity to create *any* value.

My takeaway is that usability is critical for existing customers.
After time, people get frustrated at poor usability and will abandon
your product -- and then repeat the cycle by being seduced by a
competitor's feature-rich product...

Hmph.

So usability's greatest contribution may be in creating loyal
customers, not in making the sale.

--
Robert Barlow-Busch
Practice Director of Interaction Design
Quarry Integrated Communications

18 Jan 2007 - 9:35am
Navneet Nair
2004

On 1/18/07, John Vaughan <vaughan1 at optonline.net> wrote:
>
> Good points all around. But I wonder if the whole complexity issue
> really
> doesn't have much to do with Ix, to the extent that the motivating human
> factor is often non-utilitarian. It's power & play.

You're right motivation does play a part in how users react while
interacting with devices and software. I tried doing a first-cut at what I
thought would be a good way to map motivation to user needs. But having
thought about it for a while it does seem a little more complicated than the
initial abstraction, but it is a start...

http://enterframe.blogspot.com/2006/12/theory-of-user-motivation-applying.html

Cheers
Navneet

----------------------------------------------------
Navneet Nair
Interaction Architect
onClipEvent: form follows function();
----------------------------------------------------
Website: http://www.onclipevent.com
Blog: http://enterframe.blogspot.com/

18 Jan 2007 - 12:56pm
Josh
2006

Esteban,

I dig the rant.

It brought to mind a conversation I had a while back about technology,
usability and design.

The bottom line was that usability can be ugly (please see useit.com for a
prime example) while technology and design can be completely unusable
(please see 90% of web sites for prime examples). The key to making products
that are usable, functional, and attractive is in creating synergy between
technology, psychology and the aesthetic. I like to call it elegance.

Elegant product design requires an understanding of people, the business
requirements, and of what is actually possible. It amounts to creating
products that are like professional athletes, products that make the
extremely difficult look easy. It ultimately takes a lot of work and some
serious talent.

Many companies and people don't know how to build elegance. It brings to
mind technology companies that focus too much on their frameworks or
advertising agencies that focus too much on pixel-perfect design. Neither of
which tends to have much empathy with the user.

Anyway, my goal is to build elegant products. The products that don't make
people think when they should be doing, make people think when they should
be learning, compel them by relating to them, and simply work.

- Josh Viney

18 Jan 2007 - 2:09pm
Fredrik Matheson
2005

I'm glad this has come up for discussion here. I've been reading up
on user adoption, negotiation and decision making recently and here's
what I've gotten out of it so far:

- People prefer what they have, know and understand to new things and
endow the things they have with better qualities than the unknown,
new thing (endowment effect)
- Any new/replacement widget must therefore be a heck of a lot better
to motivate them to change (e.g. it must seem at least ten times
better, so they feel they're missing out by keeping their old widget)
- The common sales situation for products denies people the
opportunity to get acquainted with the new product. Thus, ease of
use, which is hard to experience without actually experiencing using
the widget, receives less attention than features
- Melding simplicity with power in a product is difficult. I as a
user feel better when I know that the product has lots of complicated
components and can be configured in all sorts of ways, because that
tells me that the widget is powerful (needs restraining, makes me
look smart/capable, doesn't think for me and make me powerless).

However, two opportunities come to mind to uncover what we can do to
counter this mindless featuritis:

- investigate whether there is a difference in adoption rates for
simple vs. complex products in try-before-you-buy settings and look-
and-buy settings. I think there's a difference there, but I don't
have any data to support this.
- give new products great-working defaults that work great in
everyday life, and include user-tweakable advanced settings one level
down (think of an old Bang and Olufsen stereo: simple on the outside,
tons of buttons, sliders and scrollwheels beneath a panel). If you're
making a smaller, digital, product with clear physical limitations,
the extra bells and whistles can be accessed via a computer (cameras,
phones and mp3-players configured via a computer, for example).

So, give people lots of features so the product looks powerful (and
makes its owners feel masterful) and give it excellent defaults so
their actual use of it doesn't require a Ph.D.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

- Fredrik

| || ||| | |||| | || ||| || |||| || || |||| || | || |||| |
|| | ||

Fredrik Matheson
Interaction designer

fredrik.matheson at gmail.com
(+47) 982 19 313

18 Jan 2007 - 2:13pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> Elegant product design requires an understanding of people, the business
> requirements, and of what is actually possible. It amounts to creating
> products that are like professional athletes, products that make the
> extremely difficult look easy. It ultimately takes a lot of work and some
> serious talent.
>
> Many companies and people don't know how to build elegance. It brings to
> mind technology companies that focus too much on their frameworks or
> advertising agencies that focus too much on pixel-perfect design. Neither
> of
> which tends to have much empathy with the user.
>
> Anyway, my goal is to build elegant products. The products that don't make
> people think when they should be doing, make people think when they should
> be learning, compel them by relating to them, and simply work.

Very, *very* well said. I think I'm going to have to quote you on this one.
:)

-r-

18 Jan 2007 - 2:45pm
John Schrag
2005

Fredrik Matheson wrote:
> However, two opportunities come to mind to uncover what we
> can do to counter this mindless featuritis:
>
> - investigate whether there is a difference in adoption rates
> for simple vs. complex products in try-before-you-buy settings
> and look- and-buy settings. I think there's a difference there,
> but I don't have any data to support this.

I do have data to support this, but I can't find the source (after a
whole 10 minutes of googling, looking through my books and asking my
colleagues --- how lazy is that?).

Anyway, last year I was reading about a study of consumer purchasing
habits. In this study, participants were divided into 2 groups. In one
group, participants were shown a set of competing tech products, and
asked to choose among them in a store-like situation. (That is, they
could read the feature list on the box, but not try out the product.)
The other participants were given the items to take home and use for 24
hours, after which they would make the choice of which one they wanted.

The group that only had a superficial look at the items overwhelmingly
chose the one with the most features. But the groups that had a chance
to try them out overwhelmingly chose the easiest-to-use item, eschewing
lots of features in the process.

This is a fairly critical thing for a designer to know --- whether
people will get to try what you design before or after their purchase
decision.

If I come across the source, I'll send it along. If someone else out
there knows the study I'm referring to, I'd appreciate being reminded.

-john

18 Jan 2007 - 3:21pm
Peter Bagnall
2003

> The group that only had a superficial look at the items overwhelmingly
> chose the one with the most features. But the groups that had a
> chance
> to try them out overwhelmingly chose the easiest-to-use item,
> eschewing
> lots of features in the process.
>
> This is a fairly critical thing for a designer to know --- whether
> people will get to try what you design before or after their purchase
> decision.

So if you're a manufacturer, like Apple, who prides yourself on the
usability of you products then it makes sense to ensure that
consumers can really get their hands on your products and play before
they buy. Oh, and look - Apple Stores!! That's exactly what they do.

But it's not really in a stores interest (Apple needed the
integration to make it work) to do this generally, since it means
they need stock around that will get mucky, damaged, and so on. Most
consumer electronics stores (at least in the UK) have the stuff on
shelves in such a way that you can't play. TV's might be on, but the
remote control isn't available. MP3 players might be on show but they
have no power.

How would you persuade stores to display things in a way which would
allow customers to play? If we could work that out maybe we could
start to change the forces in play here.

> If I come across the source, I'll send it along. If someone else out
> there knows the study I'm referring to, I'd appreciate being reminded.

Hope you find it, I'd be very interested.

--Pete

----------------------------------------------------------
A brave man is a man who dares to look the Devil in the face
and tell him he is a Devil.
- James A. Garfield, 1831 - 1881

18 Jan 2007 - 3:22pm
cfmdesigns
2004

>From: John Schrag <John.Schrag at autodesk.com>
>
>Anyway, last year I was reading about a study of consumer purchasing
>habits. In this study, participants were divided into 2 groups. In one
>group, participants were shown a set of competing tech products, and
>asked to choose among them in a store-like situation. (That is, they
>could read the feature list on the box, but not try out the product.)
>The other participants were given the items to take home and use for 24
>hours, after which they would make the choice of which one they wanted.
>
>The group that only had a superficial look at the items overwhelmingly
>chose the one with the most features. But the groups that had a chance
>to try them out overwhelmingly chose the easiest-to-use item, eschewing
>lots of features in the process.
>
>This is a fairly critical thing for a designer to know --- whether
>people will get to try what you design before or after their purchase
>decision.

Do you recall whether the study commented on learning curve and the like? Because I can easily picture picking up a box of moderately sophisticated software -- say Final Cut or InDesign -- and being impressed by the feature list, but having a 24-hour test window, not being able to do anything beyond scratching the surface. Many of the advanced features missing from the "easier to use" product may be important in long-range software purchase planning, and may complicate the user experience due to their very presence.

This study would seem to be a test of marketing as much as anything else: does bullsh*t on the box sell as well when the user has a chance to play with it first?

I wonder how things would fare with a 7 day or 30 day eval period instead of 1 day?

-- Jim
Seattle

18 Jan 2007 - 3:28pm
Mark Schraad
2006

Thinking out loud... can one actually design for elegance? What strategy might a designer use to do so? It seems to me that elegance, not unlike the grace of a dancer, is an outcome of another sort of regiment. Do dancers practice grace... or is in strength training and repatition that they aquire grace? Is it not the fundamentals that enable a designer to create elegant designs?

Mark

>> Elegant product design requires an understanding of people, the business
>> requirements, and of what is actually possible. It amounts to creating
>> products that are like professional athletes, products that make the
>> extremely difficult look easy. It ultimately takes a lot of work and some
>> serious talent.

18 Jan 2007 - 3:31pm
cfmdesigns
2004

>From: Peter Bagnall <pete at surfaceeffect.com>
>
>But it's not really in a stores interest (Apple needed the
>integration to make it work) to do this generally, since it means
>they need stock around that will get mucky, damaged, and so on. Most
>consumer electronics stores (at least in the UK) have the stuff on
>shelves in such a way that you can't play. TV's might be on, but the
>remote control isn't available. MP3 players might be on show but they
>have no power.

That surprises me. Our big box stores like Best Buy almost always have the remote right there with the TV, with an anchoring cord so it doesn't vanish. I know when I got a DVD player for my mother a couple years ago, the remote was the #1 thing I was interested in. I figure that the basic feature set is likely to be the same, and where it differs in quality and esoterics, I can't tell the difference and neither can Mom. But the remote is the primary point of contact, so the layout, button shape and coloring, feel, etc. are the things that she would need to be superior, the things she would be most annoyed by if they were bad.

I think you're largely right about non-powered MP3 players. Just as bad are the unpowered digital cameras, and especially the cell phones. (If all Steve Jobs had done was show an off device with a plastic overlay of one of the screens, I doubt as many people would be as eager for it. Show me how cursed the UI is on the phone, dang it.) I've only seen unpowered Zune's to date.

Stores like Best Buy typically do have a powered version of most of the device behind the counter, or the ability to power one up where needed. But you have to ask, and you have to know you can ask. And employees have to be at least rudimentally trained on the breadth of the devices.

-- Jim

18 Jan 2007 - 3:35pm
cfmdesigns
2004

>From: Mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com>
>
>Thinking out loud... can one actually design for elegance? What strategy might a designer use to do so? It seems to me that elegance, not unlike the grace of a dancer, is an outcome of another sort of regiment. Do dancers practice grace... or is in strength training and repatition that they aquire grace? Is it not the fundamentals that enable a designer to create elegant designs?

Elegance (and grace) doesn't come automatically. It has to be a goal, or the tasks performed won't lead there; they will lead to something else (which may also be valued). And then you have to struggle and fight to retrofit to get to(ward) elegance. (Or grace.)

(I teach and choreograph country-western dancing. There are a lot of competent dancers who at best emulate grace in their style and technique.)

-- Jim

18 Jan 2007 - 3:47pm
Mark Schraad
2006

So what would the objectives and tactics be to design elegance. What I think I am getting at, is that those are words describing the artifact or action after the fact as ane valuation... can you really target that reliably, or is it a try and see - if it matches the criteria, type of process?

On Thursday, January 18, 2007, at 04:36PM, "Jim Drew" <cfmdesigns at earthlink.net> wrote:
>>From: Mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com>
>>
>>Thinking out loud... can one actually design for elegance? What strategy might a designer use to do so? It seems to me that elegance, not unlike the grace of a dancer, is an outcome of another sort of regiment. Do dancers practice grace... or is in strength training and repatition that they aquire grace? Is it not the fundamentals that enable a designer to create elegant designs?
>
>Elegance (and grace) doesn't come automatically. It has to be a goal, or the tasks performed won't lead there; they will lead to something else (which may also be valued). And then you have to struggle and fight to retrofit to get to(ward) elegance. (Or grace.)
>
>(I teach and choreograph country-western dancing. There are a lot of competent dancers who at best emulate grace in their style and technique.)
>
>-- Jim
>
>________________________________________________________________
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>

18 Jan 2007 - 4:02pm
Esteban Barahona
2006

2007/1/18, Josh Viney <jviney en gmail.com>:
>
> Esteban,
>
> I dig the rant.

thanks

It brought to mind a conversation I had a while back about technology,
> usability and design.
>
> The bottom line was that usability can be ugly (please see useit.com for a
> prime example)

yes useit has some nice usability methods but aesthethically it's a website
stuck in the 90's

while technology and design can be completely unusable
> (please see 90% of web sites for prime examples).

Not on my bookmarks ;)

The key to making products
> that are usable, functional, and attractive is in creating synergy between
> technology, psychology and the aesthetic.

see/read Synergy (...the combination of senses). there's few activitities
that are more enjoyable than designing while listening to good music
(currently listening Massive Attack, cool group).

I like to call it elegance.

I call it Italian... linguistics are a valuable tool too.

Elegant product design requires an understanding of people, the business
> requirements, and of what is actually possible. It amounts to creating
> products that are like professional athletes, products that make the
> extremely difficult look easy. It ultimately takes a lot of work and some
> serious talent.

indeed. Products can be usable and look like sculptures, but most examples
are only useful as prime material for new, different, better products (like
~90% ...does anyone read Murphy's Laws? 90% of everything is
worthless/crap).

Many companies and people don't know how to build elegance. It brings to
> mind technology companies that focus too much on their frameworks or
> advertising agencies that focus too much on pixel-perfect design. Neither
> of
> which tends to have much empathy with the user.

humans don't know what they want.

Anyway, my goal is to build elegant products. The products that don't make
> people think when they should be doing, make people think when they should
> be learning, compel them by relating to them, and simply work.
>
> - Josh Viney

yes, me too... but I'm just on my first semester of Product Design. Shame...
there cann't be a "company/enterprise" that focus on designing interaction
over the Net... although the technology is there.

18 Jan 2007 - 4:09pm
John Schrag
2005

I wrote:
>The group that only had a superficial look at the items overwhelmingly
>chose the one with the most features. But the groups that had a chance

>to try them out overwhelmingly chose the easiest-to-use item, eschewing

>lots of features in the process.

Jim Drew replied:
> Do you recall whether the study commented on learning curve and the
> like? Because I can easily picture picking up a box of moderately
> sophisticated software -- say Final Cut or InDesign -- and being
> impressed by the feature list, but having a 24-hour test window,
> not being able to do anything beyond scratching the surface. Many
> of the advanced features missing from the "easier to use" product may
> be important in long-range software purchase planning, and may
complicate
> the user experience due to their very presence.

This particular study was looking at consumer electronics, if I recall
rightly. Objects that are about the complexity of cellphones, cameras,
etc.

Certainly there are differences between purchasing comsumer goods and
professional level work software. My own career has been spent mostly
in the design of deep application software that is used 40 hours a week
by its users -- who are themselves artists and designers. Since most
people now download trial versions or software before purchasing (or
sometimes use cracked copies), my colleagues and I have spent a lot of
time studying people's first experience with complex software (both our
own and other's).

While it is true that users don't expect to learn a great deal in the
first hour or so, they absolutely must feel that they are accomplishing
something and making some kind of progress --- or they will bail out of
the free trial, and go find some other software with a comparable
feature list. In fact, early frustration can make some people give up
after less that 20 minutes. So a longer trial won't necessarily help,
if the UX is bad at the get-go. On the other hand, if your product is
the only one that has the critical feature, you can probably get away
with crappy design. But your competitors won't let you keep that
advantage for very long.

-john

18 Jan 2007 - 4:15pm
Chris Whelan
2004

I don’t believe elegant design is an unplanned
outcome.

If you put a skilled chef in an adequate kitchen with
high-quality foods and reasonable time to prepare,
more often than not you’re going to get an elegant
meal, no? Sure, this chef might burn the soup once in
a while, but wouldn't you consistently expect high
quality results?

If you hire a skilled designer, give him/her the time
and resources, why wouldn't you expect great things?

It's the selling products/making money that introduces
the wild cards here, I think.

--- Mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com> wrote:

> So what would the objectives and tactics be to
> design elegance. What I think I am getting at, is
> that those are words describing the artifact or
> action after the fact as ane valuation... can you
> really target that reliably, or is it a try and see
> - if it matches the criteria, type of process?
>
>
> On Thursday, January 18, 2007, at 04:36PM, "Jim
> Drew" <cfmdesigns at earthlink.net> wrote:
> >>From: Mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com>
> >>
> >>Thinking out loud... can one actually design for
> elegance? What strategy might a designer use to do
> so? It seems to me that elegance, not unlike the
> grace of a dancer, is an outcome of another sort of
> regiment. Do dancers practice grace... or is in
> strength training and repatition that they aquire
> grace? Is it not the fundamentals that enable a
> designer to create elegant designs?
> >
> >Elegance (and grace) doesn't come automatically.
> It has to be a goal, or the tasks performed won't
> lead there; they will lead to something else (which
> may also be valued). And then you have to struggle
> and fight to retrofit to get to(ward) elegance. (Or
> grace.)
> >
> >(I teach and choreograph country-western dancing.
> There are a lot of competent dancers who at best
> emulate grace in their style and technique.)
> >
> >-- Jim
> >
>
>________________________________________________________________
> >Welcome to the Interaction Design Association
> (IxDA)!
> >To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> >List Guidelines ............
> http://listguide.ixda.org/
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> http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
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> http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> >Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> >Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> >Resource Library ...........
> http://resources.ixda.org
> >
> >
>
________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association
> (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............
> http://listguide.ixda.org/
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> http://resources.ixda.org
>

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18 Jan 2007 - 4:16pm
Josh
2006

"Can we design towards elegance?"

It may true that elegance can really only be measured after the fact, and
it's probably too subjective a descriptor anyway. But I like to think of it
as something that once seen can be understood. Apple designs elegant
products, and, in my opinion, even their packaging could be described as
elegant. They're not the only ones. Car manufacturers, architects, fashion
designers all use elegance as a goal for their products. Why should software
be different?

I described elegance as synergy between technology, psychology and the
aesthetic. It is the end result of a concerted effort on the part of
developers, designers, marketers, usability professionals, and business
management. It requires work, talent, and vision. IxDAers are in prime
position to help bring it all together.

Strategically, I would make elegance one of the high level goals of the
product that all decisions would be weighed against.

It would require that all stakeholders keep it as their highest goal,
possibly on a little post-it note on their monitor.

Tactically speaking, it requires that users are understood (usability and
psychology), that technology is treated as a means to an end not as an end
in and of itself (pick the right tools for the job), and that design brings
it all together like glue (make it look pretty). The product must always be
considered in it's entirety. As soon as we get myopic, we lose perspective
and end up creating Frankenstein's Monster.

The saying "less is more" comes to mind, but I also consider that every part
of the product must be justifiable. If something doesn't add value, remove
it. Clutter is the arch-enemy of elegance.

Fight entropy.

- Josh Viney

18 Jan 2007 - 4:26pm
russwilson
2005

Features trump usability in the absence of alternatives.
If I have the choice of two (or more) products with the same
(or very similar) functionality, then other factors become
more prominent (such as the better-designed, more usable product).

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Robert Barlow-Busch
Sent: Thursday, January 18, 2007 9:12 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Simplicity is Not Understood

> My take-away was that usability trumps features over time and is far
> better at creating lasting value.

But the frustrating conundrum is that features trump usability at the
moment of purchase. If you don't make the sale, you miss the opportunity
to create *any* value.

My takeaway is that usability is critical for existing customers.
After time, people get frustrated at poor usability and will abandon
your product -- and then repeat the cycle by being seduced by a
competitor's feature-rich product...

Hmph.

So usability's greatest contribution may be in creating loyal customers,
not in making the sale.

--
Robert Barlow-Busch
Practice Director of Interaction Design
Quarry Integrated Communications
________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org List Guidelines
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18 Jan 2007 - 4:57pm
Esteban Barahona
2006

I have experienced this on proffesional graphic-creation software. Case in
point:

vector graphics

Inkscape is the free software competitor to Illustrator. It has done the job
quite well, in my case. However, this week I tryed -seriously, with time and
the Mac version- Illustrator. I looks neat, but Inkscape was much better at
the get-go. I drooled at the "power-user functionality" of Illustrator
(color profiles, etc). This 2 software will be on my "dock" sometime. But
for quick prototyping I prefer Inkscape.

Your work doesn't seem like one. It seems more like play ^_^

2007/1/18, John Schrag <John.Schrag en autodesk.com>:
>
>
> I wrote:
> >The group that only had a superficial look at the items overwhelmingly
> >chose the one with the most features. But the groups that had a chance
>
> >to try them out overwhelmingly chose the easiest-to-use item, eschewing
>
> >lots of features in the process.
>
> Jim Drew replied:
> > Do you recall whether the study commented on learning curve and the
> > like? Because I can easily picture picking up a box of moderately
> > sophisticated software -- say Final Cut or InDesign -- and being
> > impressed by the feature list, but having a 24-hour test window,
> > not being able to do anything beyond scratching the surface. Many
> > of the advanced features missing from the "easier to use" product may
> > be important in long-range software purchase planning, and may
> complicate
> > the user experience due to their very presence.
>
> This particular study was looking at consumer electronics, if I recall
> rightly. Objects that are about the complexity of cellphones, cameras,
> etc.
>
> Certainly there are differences between purchasing comsumer goods and
> professional level work software. My own career has been spent mostly
> in the design of deep application software that is used 40 hours a week
> by its users -- who are themselves artists and designers. Since most
> people now download trial versions or software before purchasing (or
> sometimes use cracked copies), my colleagues and I have spent a lot of
> time studying people's first experience with complex software (both our
> own and other's).
>
> While it is true that users don't expect to learn a great deal in the
> first hour or so, they absolutely must feel that they are accomplishing
> something and making some kind of progress --- or they will bail out of
> the free trial, and go find some other software with a comparable
> feature list. In fact, early frustration can make some people give up
> after less that 20 minutes. So a longer trial won't necessarily help,
> if the UX is bad at the get-go. On the other hand, if your product is
> the only one that has the critical feature, you can probably get away
> with crappy design. But your competitors won't let you keep that
> advantage for very long.
>
> -john
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss en ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
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> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
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>

--
http://www.zensui.org

18 Jan 2007 - 5:05pm
Esteban Barahona
2006

you're spot on. I created an origami module after programming classes in
Java (<3 it) and some in C/C++ (not for me...). It will be uploaded later...
the idea is to make the instructions available on a free (not public domain
though) elegantly presented way (so it will take time).

anyway, my point is basically the same as yours. IxDers are a bunch that has
the potential position, knowledge background and talent/creativity to be
exactly in the center of the Venn's Diagram of Human Knowledge. Or the
center of a subsystem of the interesting bits, Not more! (KISS... Keep it
Simple, Stupid)... IxDers have various different backgrounds. But being in
the center of this knowledge modules and creativity is basically what I
think keeps IxD as a valid proffesion (even though each IxDer may have a
different WRITTED concept).

2007/1/18, Josh Viney <jviney en gmail.com>:
>
> "Can we design towards elegance?"
>
> It may true that elegance can really only be measured after the fact, and
> it's probably too subjective a descriptor anyway. But I like to think of
> it
> as something that once seen can be understood. Apple designs elegant
> products, and, in my opinion, even their packaging could be described as
> elegant. They're not the only ones. Car manufacturers, architects, fashion
> designers all use elegance as a goal for their products. Why should
> software
> be different?
>
> I described elegance as synergy between technology, psychology and the
> aesthetic. It is the end result of a concerted effort on the part of
> developers, designers, marketers, usability professionals, and business
> management. It requires work, talent, and vision. IxDAers are in prime
> position to help bring it all together.
>
> Strategically, I would make elegance one of the high level goals of the
> product that all decisions would be weighed against.
>
> It would require that all stakeholders keep it as their highest goal,
> possibly on a little post-it note on their monitor.
>
> Tactically speaking, it requires that users are understood (usability and
> psychology), that technology is treated as a means to an end not as an end
> in and of itself (pick the right tools for the job), and that design
> brings
> it all together like glue (make it look pretty). The product must always
> be
> considered in it's entirety. As soon as we get myopic, we lose perspective
> and end up creating Frankenstein's Monster.
>
> The saying "less is more" comes to mind, but I also consider that every
> part
> of the product must be justifiable. If something doesn't add value, remove
> it. Clutter is the arch-enemy of elegance.
>
> Fight entropy.
>
> - Josh Viney
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss en ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists en ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

--
http://www.zensui.org

18 Jan 2007 - 5:07pm
Esteban Barahona
2006

hmmm.... Consistency.

I concur 100%. Money is overated.

2007/1/18, Chris Whelan <ccwhela en yahoo.com>:
>
> I don't believe elegant design is an unplanned
> outcome.
>
> If you put a skilled chef in an adequate kitchen with
> high-quality foods and reasonable time to prepare,
> more often than not you're going to get an elegant
> meal, no? Sure, this chef might burn the soup once in
> a while, but wouldn't you consistently expect high
> quality results?
>
> If you hire a skilled designer, give him/her the time
> and resources, why wouldn't you expect great things?
>
> It's the selling products/making money that introduces
> the wild cards here, I think.
>
>
>
>
>
> --- Mark Schraad <mschraad en mac.com> wrote:
>
> > So what would the objectives and tactics be to
> > design elegance. What I think I am getting at, is
> > that those are words describing the artifact or
> > action after the fact as ane valuation... can you
> > really target that reliably, or is it a try and see
> > - if it matches the criteria, type of process?
> >
> >
> > On Thursday, January 18, 2007, at 04:36PM, "Jim
> > Drew" <cfmdesigns en earthlink.net> wrote:
> > >>From: Mark Schraad <mschraad en mac.com>
> > >>
> > >>Thinking out loud... can one actually design for
> > elegance? What strategy might a designer use to do
> > so? It seems to me that elegance, not unlike the
> > grace of a dancer, is an outcome of another sort of
> > regiment. Do dancers practice grace... or is in
> > strength training and repatition that they aquire
> > grace? Is it not the fundamentals that enable a
> > designer to create elegant designs?
> > >
> > >Elegance (and grace) doesn't come automatically.
> > It has to be a goal, or the tasks performed won't
> > lead there; they will lead to something else (which
> > may also be valued). And then you have to struggle
> > and fight to retrofit to get to(ward) elegance. (Or
> > grace.)
> > >
> > >(I teach and choreograph country-western dancing.
> > There are a lot of competent dancers who at best
> > emulate grace in their style and technique.)
> > >
> > >-- Jim
> > >
> >
> >________________________________________________________________
> > >Welcome to the Interaction Design Association
> > (IxDA)!
> > >To post to this list ....... discuss en ixda.org
> > >List Guidelines ............
> > http://listguide.ixda.org/
> > >List Help ..................
> > http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> > >(Un)Subscription Options ...
> > http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> > >Announcements List .........
> > http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> > >Questions .................. lists en ixda.org
> > >Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> > >Resource Library ...........
> > http://resources.ixda.org
> > >
> > >
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association
> > (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss en ixda.org
> > List Guidelines ............
> > http://listguide.ixda.org/
> > List Help ..................
> > http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> > (Un)Subscription Options ...
> > http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> > Announcements List .........
> > http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> > Questions .................. lists en ixda.org
> > Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> > Resource Library ...........
> > http://resources.ixda.org
> >
>
>
>
>
>
> ____________________________________________________________________________________
> No need to miss a message. Get email on-the-go
> with Yahoo! Mail for Mobile. Get started.
> http://mobile.yahoo.com/mail
> ________________________________________________________________
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> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
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>

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18 Jan 2007 - 5:08pm
Esteban Barahona
2006

...the idea of Layers starts to study this issue. If software is implemented
as modules why not let users build their own dream-powerful-software like
playing LEGOs?

2007/1/18, Wilson, Russell <Russell.Wilson en netqos.com>:
>
> Features trump usability in the absence of alternatives.
> If I have the choice of two (or more) products with the same
> (or very similar) functionality, then other factors become
> more prominent (such as the better-designed, more usable product).
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces en lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-bounces en lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
> Robert Barlow-Busch
> Sent: Thursday, January 18, 2007 9:12 AM
> To: discuss en ixda.org
> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Simplicity is Not Understood
>
> > My take-away was that usability trumps features over time and is far
> > better at creating lasting value.
>
> But the frustrating conundrum is that features trump usability at the
> moment of purchase. If you don't make the sale, you miss the opportunity
> to create *any* value.
>
> My takeaway is that usability is critical for existing customers.
> After time, people get frustrated at poor usability and will abandon
> your product -- and then repeat the cycle by being seduced by a
> competitor's feature-rich product...
>
> Hmph.
>
> So usability's greatest contribution may be in creating loyal customers,
> not in making the sale.
>
> --
> Robert Barlow-Busch
> Practice Director of Interaction Design
> Quarry Integrated Communications
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss en ixda.org List Guidelines
> ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/ List Help ..................
> http://listhelp.ixda.org/ (Un)Subscription Options ...
> http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists en ixda.org Home .......................
> http://ixda.org/ Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss en ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
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>

--
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18 Jan 2007 - 6:19pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> If I come across the source, I'll send it along. If someone else out
> there knows the study I'm referring to, I'd appreciate being reminded.

Please do. I'd love to see it spelled out like that. All the evidence
supports this, but having it all in one report, I can dish it off to people
and make them read it. :)

-r-

18 Jan 2007 - 4:16pm
Casey Krub
2007

Hi -

This is a probably a little bit of a tanget but this discussion reminded me
of a Daniel Pink article for Yahoo Finance back in July called "Good
Investing By Design"
http://finance.yahoo.com/columnist/article/trenddesk/7674

To quote his article:

Today, utility is abundant. We have more products and services than we can
handle, and most function just fine. To stand out in a crowded marketplace,
sellers must make a dramatic leap in utility -- or stand out in some other
way. They can try to compete on price, but that usually ends in a downward
death spiral.

So the alternative is to compete not on left-brain attributes like price and
functionality, but on right-brain qualities such as emotion, meaning, and
look and feel. Case in point: Target sells toilet brushes and vegetable
scrubbers designed by superstar architect Michael Graves. Even the most
mundane, utilitarian objects in our lives have been turned into objects of
desire.

Also - I would highly recommend Daniel Pink's book "Whole New Mind". It's a
great but very fast read - sort of like a Design primer for CEOs.

Casey

On 1/18/07, John Schrag <John.Schrag at autodesk.com> wrote:
>
>
> I wrote:
> >The group that only had a superficial look at the items overwhelmingly
> >chose the one with the most features. But the groups that had a chance
>
> >to try them out overwhelmingly chose the easiest-to-use item, eschewing
>
> >lots of features in the process.
>
> Jim Drew replied:
> > Do you recall whether the study commented on learning curve and the
> > like? Because I can easily picture picking up a box of moderately
> > sophisticated software -- say Final Cut or InDesign -- and being
> > impressed by the feature list, but having a 24-hour test window,
> > not being able to do anything beyond scratching the surface. Many
> > of the advanced features missing from the "easier to use" product may
> > be important in long-range software purchase planning, and may
> complicate
> > the user experience due to their very presence.
>
> This particular study was looking at consumer electronics, if I recall
> rightly. Objects that are about the complexity of cellphones, cameras,
> etc.
>
> Certainly there are differences between purchasing comsumer goods and
> professional level work software. My own career has been spent mostly
> in the design of deep application software that is used 40 hours a week
> by its users -- who are themselves artists and designers. Since most
> people now download trial versions or software before purchasing (or
> sometimes use cracked copies), my colleagues and I have spent a lot of
> time studying people's first experience with complex software (both our
> own and other's).
>
> While it is true that users don't expect to learn a great deal in the
> first hour or so, they absolutely must feel that they are accomplishing
> something and making some kind of progress --- or they will bail out of
> the free trial, and go find some other software with a comparable
> feature list. In fact, early frustration can make some people give up
> after less that 20 minutes. So a longer trial won't necessarily help,
> if the UX is bad at the get-go. On the other hand, if your product is
> the only one that has the critical feature, you can probably get away
> with crappy design. But your competitors won't let you keep that
> advantage for very long.
>
> -john
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

19 Jan 2007 - 4:14am
Adler
2006

Esteban,
in fact I found the article quite interesting, easy to read and to articulate.

use your reflective thinking when reading the article. It doesn't say
what to do but brings up important issues to the discussion table:
* power ("make it look powerful while also making it easy to use.")
* control (usually people want to be in control when facing a machine)
* the above vs. easy to use / simplicity: how to actually design
something easy to use, simple but that people want to buy? how to
explain technology reviewers that many features doesn't mean the
product is better?

to sum up, this is a very cultural thing.

some discussion...

I could argue that some societies want to be in full control and thus
want as many features and options "to control the machine" - install
Linux and you can compile anything you want to your machine.

other societies trust in the product and prefer it to be simpler and
do what they need. Why should a printer have 10 buttons if all I want
is to print and cancel it if something is wrong?

falling in the usual example, the iPod. Do you want to manage your
files, change name, do this and more in your player? that would make
the design very complex, no? hence, all the file management is done
in the iTunes and you use the iPod just to play and rate the songs.
Simple, no?

to add to the discussion, have a look to the book "The Paradox of
Choice: Why More Is Less" by Barry Schwartz or see his presentation at
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4834733049751123536&hl=en

conclusion:
when people are "tuned" to look for the product's functionality
instead of being amazed by the number of features it will be easier to
design for simplicity.
when you face cultures where the power of features is more important
you have to find ways to convince people that your product is better
although it is (and looks) simpler. Once people know what you don't
need more explanations :)

Last example:
I heard an example (by word of mouth, so no reference) that
illustrates this. I don't want to criticize anyone but I'm writing it
as i heard:
Americans thing that if something makes noise than it is powerful. So
if you design a vacuum cleaner for them you have to add extra noise to
"show" how powerful it is. However if you want to design a vacuum
cleaner to Japanese people you have to add filters to remove all the
sound because they believe that a machine is very good if it makes no
noise.

whether this is true or note, take it as a joke, and use it to
understand the point of Norman's article. Some people want many
features, but how can we design something simple for these people?
reviewers of products will probably also look at how many features a
product has instead of considering a common scenario in using a
product to review the product.

this week I wanted to by a machine and since most of the explanations
were in Chinese I asked the shop assistance what were the differences
between the 3 machines they had. The immediate reply was "this one is
better because it does more things"

I smiled and said, "I'll take this other one because I need one that
works without a cable and I only need one of the features anyway".

have a good weekend,
Adler

> > Simplicity Is Highly Overrated<http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/simplicity_is_highly.html>
> Cold Water
>
> wtf? I just finished reading this essay/article... but it doesn't look
> clear/articulate, it's as the author wants to make simple products that
> looks complex so that buyers (not users) give cash to a brainless WW
> Corporation (!). Ease of Use, Simplicity; did someone put this concepts on a
> Design Altar? And after that, the "industry" use both terms loosely; with a
> careless tendency to merge simplicity with ease of use.
...
> ...this rambling doesn't make any sense.

--
User Experience * Interaction Design
http://www.linkedin.com/in/adler

19 Jan 2007 - 5:26am
Tim Ostler
2007

Pedro 'Adler' Jorge wrote:>
>this week I wanted to by a machine and since most of the explanations
>were in Chinese I asked the shop assistance what were the differences
>between the 3 machines they had. The immediate reply was "this one is
>better because it does more things"

You hit the nail on the head. This is a conversation about Quantity (for
which read "perceived value") versus Quality. Neither is better than the
other: they just appeal to different markets. As with any other product, if
you want a piece of software to sell on simplicity you have to make sure
your brand positioning can sustain it. The iPod succeeded because its simple
interface corresponded with its positioning as a premium product, bought by
people who could afford to pay over the odds for an elegant (a.k.a luxury)
product.

--
Tim Ostler
Senior Information Architect
Tribal DDB London

This information is given in the above email and /
or attachment is provided without warranty of any kind,
either expressed or implied on the part of the writer
or the Agency.

19 Jan 2007 - 9:14pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jan 18, 2007, at 3:26 PM, Wilson, Russell wrote:

> Features trump usability in the absence of alternatives.
> If I have the choice of two (or more) products with the same
> (or very similar) functionality, then other factors become
> more prominent (such as the better-designed, more usable product).

Only sometimes.

Technology goes through evolutionary stages:

Stage I: Talking Horse Stage
Product is the only option. Here, the pure functional notion is all
that matters. It could do everything else sucky, but if the one thing
it does is the only option available, people will be happy with it.

Stage II: Feature Battles
In this stage, the sheer presence of features is what is important.
In the early phases of this stage, it's the number of features which
matter, only because the purchaser doesn't understand what each
feature actually means. In later phases, the actual features
themselves will make a difference -- shoppers will be looking for
certain features to make their purchase decisions.

Stage III: Experience Wars
In this stage, features no longer matter. (There's nothing anyone
could add to a word processor to get people excited about switching.)
Instead, it's now about the experience and total cost of ownership.
What's the advantage of switching? How much will it cost? What's the
support cost? Often, in this stage, products with fewer -- but better
thought out -- features will trump more feature-laden winners of
Stage II. (Think Word vs. WordPerfect. Think Access V1 vs. DBase.
Think Excel 3 vs. Lotus 1-2-3.)

Stage IV: Commodities
In this stage, the actual item becomes absorbed into a larger product
mix, such as a CD-ROM drive in the computer. Individual features of
the technology no longer matter, but become an price/performance
issue for the integrator.

In each stage, "usability" change its meaning and the notion of
simplicity changes. You have to understand which stage the
marketplace has positioned the product and its competitors before you
can determine if features will actually trump usability.

Jared

p.s. There's an article on our site called Market Maturity that goes
into this in more detail. I'd provide a link, but the airplane I'm on
doesn't have internet connectivity yet. (A feature I wouldn't mind
having.)

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks

21 Jan 2007 - 5:04pm
cfmdesigns
2004

It's a good question. I don't think you can target it reliably,
because it's not quantifiable. (I would say almost by definition:
it's like advanced math formulas where you cannot calculate the
entire sum exactly, but you can say what the entire value is. You
can approach elegance, but the harder you try, the more frustrated
you'll be by failing.)

(You have to learn how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.)

But neither is it blind try-and-see. It's the same thing mentioned
above: we get get darn close through known methods -- user research,
personas, emulating what others have done -- but ultimately, we can't
say when we've reached the goal, only that we've gone as far as we're
willing to.

-- Jim

On Jan 18, 2007, at 1:47 PM, Mark Schraad wrote:

> So what would the objectives and tactics be to design elegance.
> What I think I am getting at, is that those are words describing
> the artifact or action after the fact as ane valuation... can you
> really target that reliably, or is it a try and see - if it matches
> the criteria, type of process?
>
>
> On Thursday, January 18, 2007, at 04:36PM, "Jim Drew"
> <cfmdesigns at earthlink.net> wrote:
>>> From: Mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com>
>>>
>>> Thinking out loud... can one actually design for elegance? What
>>> strategy might a designer use to do so? It seems to me that
>>> elegance, not unlike the grace of a dancer, is an outcome of
>>> another sort of regiment. Do dancers practice grace... or is in
>>> strength training and repatition that they aquire grace? Is it
>>> not the fundamentals that enable a designer to create elegant
>>> designs?
>>
>> Elegance (and grace) doesn't come automatically. It has to be a
>> goal, or the tasks performed won't lead there; they will lead to
>> something else (which may also be valued). And then you have to
>> struggle and fight to retrofit to get to(ward) elegance. (Or grace.)
>>
>> (I teach and choreograph country-western dancing. There are a lot
>> of competent dancers who at best emulate grace in their style and
>> technique.)

21 Jan 2007 - 5:07pm
cfmdesigns
2004

Just for accuracy's sake, that's Sturgeon's Revelation, not Murphy's
Law. "90% of everything is crud".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon%27s_law

-- Jim

On Jan 18, 2007, at 2:02 PM, Esteban Barahona wrote:

> indeed. Products can be usable and look like sculptures, but most
> examples
> are only useful as prime material for new, different, better
> products (like
> ~90% ...does anyone read Murphy's Laws? 90% of everything is
> worthless/crap).

21 Jan 2007 - 5:11pm
Esteban Barahona
2006

2007/1/21, Jim Drew <cfmdesigns en earthlink.net>:
>
> It's a good question. I don't think you can target it reliably,
> because it's not quantifiable. (I would say almost by definition:
> it's like advanced math formulas where you cannot calculate the
> entire sum exactly, but you can say what the entire value is. You
> can approach elegance, but the harder you try, the more frustrated
> you'll be by failing.)

About formulas... why try to calculate the entire sum? Why not just use
ranges... and the value is somewhere in the middle. Triangles with infinite
"lados"/sides are sacred chakras focusing points... The "rombo"/*no
wordreference.com translation*/ is sacred too, but that's another
"autodidacta"/self-learning "lesson"

Simplicity is elegance. See a good kanji... Maths have it all wrong (maybe
the purpose of Math?!)... it's beautiful, but more easy... than current
Academia Maths.

About frustration, just "make the poof spell" (hint: the "inconcistency"
-sp? on the dock's "move from dock to desktop" action... that's a "nasty"
bug... but fun too)

(You have to learn how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.)
>
> But neither is it blind try-and-see. It's the same thing mentioned
> above: we get get darn close through known methods -- user research,
> personas, emulating what others have done -- but ultimately, we can't
> say when we've reached the goal, only that we've gone as far as we're
> willing to.
>
> -- Jim

that's wise words

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