Simplicity (misinformation)

9 Apr 2007 - 11:16am
7 years ago
3 replies
426 reads
Mark Schraad
2006

This conversation has one foot in design, another in engineering and yet a third in marketing.

Simplicity is about the usage of the product. It effects the user. Complexity as present here, the 'amount' of features is about the purchaser. These may or may not be the same person, but they definitely have different perspectives and the criteria for purchase and usage are different.

These are very different contexts. The reason that users buy a particular product is for the benefits (pardon my marketing hat). In the early stages of diffusion people may buy based upon features, but that is primarily because they either do not know how to assess the benefits, or they are technically inclined. By the time a product finds its way to the mainstream of consumers the features have been translated into benefits, typically by information leaders (walter mossberg), and into brand/product specific recommendations.

If consumers buy complex (many features) but want to use simple, then there really is not any dissonance for the designer. The real trophy comes from designing feature laden products in a manner that lets them be operated or controlled simply (duh). Preliminary research will help to determine the thresholds of product feature inclusion, and the marketers will detail the multitude of feature benefits to list on the packaging.

Mark

On Monday, April 09, 2007, at 11:50AM, "David Malouf" <dave.ixd at gmail.com> wrote:
>Joshua Porter just posted this article about Simplicity:
>http://www.uie.com/articles/simplicity/
>
>-- dave
>
>
>--
>David Malouf
>http://synapticburn.com/
>http://ixda.org/
>http://motorola.com/

Comments

9 Apr 2007 - 11:39am
trevvg
2006

I agree with everything that you've said below. But what about the feeling
of control that features and feedback tend to give users? Nomran mentions
this in his article and I tend to think it may be the crux of the struggle
between features and simplicity:

http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/simplicity_is_highly.html

People want control AND ease of use. Having control often means having the
ability to make more finely tuned choices.

> This conversation has one foot in design, another in engineering and yet a
> third in marketing.
>
> Simplicity is about the usage of the product. It effects the user.
> Complexity as present here, the 'amount' of features is about the
> purchaser. These may or may not be the same person, but they definitely
> have different perspectives and the criteria for purchase and usage are
> different.
>
> These are very different contexts. The reason that users buy a particular
> product is for the benefits (pardon my marketing hat). In the early stages
> of diffusion people may buy based upon features, but that is primarily
> because they either do not know how to assess the benefits, or they are
> technically inclined. By the time a product finds its way to the
> mainstream of consumers the features have been translated into benefits,
> typically by information leaders (walter mossberg), and into brand/product
> specific recommendations.
>
> If consumers buy complex (many features) but want to use simple, then
> there really is not any dissonance for the designer. The real trophy comes
> from designing feature laden products in a manner that lets them be
> operated or controlled simply (duh). Preliminary research will help to
> determine the thresholds of product feature inclusion, and the marketers
> will detail the multitude of feature benefits to list on the packaging.
>
> Mark
>
>
>
> On Monday, April 09, 2007, at 11:50AM, "David Malouf" <dave.ixd at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>>Joshua Porter just posted this article about Simplicity:
>>http://www.uie.com/articles/simplicity/
>>
>>-- dave
>>
>>
>>--
>>David Malouf
>>http://synapticburn.com/
>>http://ixda.org/
>>http://motorola.com/
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9 Apr 2007 - 11:52am
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

"The real trophy comes from designing feature laden products in a
manner that lets them be operated or controlled simply (duh)."

Definitely. We know people buy complex products, and we know that they
want those products to be easy to use. So the real heart of what IxDs
do a lot of the time is find ways to make complicated, feature-laden
products self-evident so they provide the illusion of simplicity. It's
also where the biggest reward is. Turning something complex into
something that appears very simple is a serious point of pride.

-r-

9 Apr 2007 - 1:56pm
Mayur Karnik
2007

These are really complex discussions about simplicity.

Marketing + Engineering + Design.

Marketing folks aim at simplifying things in terms of communication
(advertising messages, USP, point of purchase promotions, 50% winter sale,
product bundling ads - get this with that free, etc.) and availability (shop
next door, apple store, distribution network, retail, etc.). Features are
important, lest the competitor catches the morning worm earlier than you.
Time to market is paramount (even if it means more stress on customer
service); launch it now - fix it later. Consumption is defined as sale - do
everything and anything so that she buys our product. Pay increment will
depend on hard core quantitative yardsticks (sales figures). Boss says 'Show
me the money'.

Engineering folks aim at simplifying things in terms of development (less
code, copy paste code if it saves time, ship the dirty work to Bangalore as
long as it doesnt cost me my job) and process (is there a smarter, efficient
and a more sophisticated way of achieving the same thing?). Features are
very important since I need to keep my job, besides if things were simple
enough I wouldnt have got this job in the first place (WYSIWYG sucks - I was
valued more in the shell days). Consumption is defined as load to machine -
the smarter the code, the less machine resources it takes and the simpler
life gets for anyone (MS engineers excluded). Pay increment will depend on
the amount of code generated and the extent of complexity the engineer is
provenly capable of handling - a good mix of quantitiative and qualitative
yardsticks. Boss says 'Show me the code, show it to me fast'.

Design folks aim at simplifying things in terms of form (well metaphored
icons, more intuitive interfaces, 'clean' design) and function (fitts law,
millers law, less clicks, less errors). Time to market is a bitch, enough
design time is a luxury (and a concept hypothetical in nature). Usage is
more important than consumption - Mr. Kotler it all actually begins 'after'
the sale! Less is More if you are sitting in Amsterdam or London; Less is
Bore if you sitting in Taipei or Hongkong. Boss says 'Show me everything,
show it to me fast (because we have to help them with the code and the
money)'.

When a person buys a product, its a heady mix of advertising, resulting
self-image, product benefits, availability, good battery life, price,
immediate needs, etc. etc. Joshua rightly puts it that people buy products
that may be complex because of their anxiety of not knowing their own needs
rather than being in awe of complexity over simplicity. People at the end of
the day crave for simplicity; its just that they end up buying a
feature-laden product because the advertising guys made the delivery of the
message simpler rather than the consumer's estimate of his own needs; they
end up sporting stuff in their houses and on their bodies that they may not
utilise beyond the basic functions because it also addresses their
self-esteem needs, their social needs that were mere wants till they saw the
ads or saw the stuff in their peers' houses, etc.

The politics of complexity is more an act of misinformation than bad design
/ bad IxD; misinformation that aims at feeding on the consumer's fears,
luring her to instant gratification and leaving her with the regret of
buying an outdated product and a desire to own the contemporary / the latest
(and hence the 'best').

Rgds,
Mayur
On 4/9/07, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <rhoekmanjr at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> "The real trophy comes from designing feature laden products in a
> manner that lets them be operated or controlled simply (duh)."
>
> Definitely. We know people buy complex products, and we know that they
> want those products to be easy to use. So the real heart of what IxDs
> do a lot of the time is find ways to make complicated, feature-laden
> products self-evident so they provide the illusion of simplicity. It's
> also where the biggest reward is. Turning something complex into
> something that appears very simple is a serious point of pride.
>
> -r-
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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
>

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