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Watch “What happened to ‘simple’ design?” with David Pogue

Products have become overly complicated with an abundance of features, causing frustration among customers. Correspondent David Pogue delves into how simplicity in technology can simplify our complex lives.

Everywhere you look, products are getting too complicated, with more and more features aimed at attracting consumers. But designing things to do more can often lead to frustrated and unhappy customers. For designers, it’s a constant and complex balance to get it just right. Correspondent David Pogue looks at how complicated lives – full of endless features – may be getting easier to navigate thanks to simple design.

What happened to ‘simple’ design?

My Takeaways

As Jakob Nielsen mentioned in the video, simplicity is really hard. It takes a lot of thought, and with the pressure that most product development organizations operate under, designers just don’t have enough time to think through how to simplify the work they are creating.

The other challenge, though—that was only mentioned in passing by Jon Friedman, Microsoft‘s Corporate Vice President, Design & Research at Microsoft — is that the definition of simplicity is very context-dependent and personal.

Simplicity can only come when it’s truly adapted to each individual’s definition of what is simple for them.

Ben Friedman, Microsoft’s chief of design

A piece of literature that informed my view on simplicity was John Maeda‘s book Laws of Simplicity. Being the forward-looking thinking that Maeda is, he already warned that Artificial Intelligence might not be the solution for all problems when it comes to simplifying experiences, given the challenge of trust.

The more a system knows about you, the less you have to think. Conversely, the more you know about the system, the greater control you can exact.

Maeda, J., The laws of simplicity (2020)

Thus the dilemma for the future use of any product or service is resolving the following point of balance for the user (Maeda, J., The laws of simplicity, 2020):

HOW MUCH DO YOU
NEED TO KNOW
ABOUT A SYSTEM?

HOW MUCH DOES
THE SYSTEM
KNOW ABOUT YOU?

On the left-hand side, effort is required to learn and master the system; on the right-hand side, trust must be offered to the system, and that trust must be consistently repaid. Privacy is sacrificed for extra convenience when following the Master’s lead. Alternatively, undo allows us to become the Masters ourselves by gently learning to trust our own knowledge of a system. The placement of faith goes many ways (Maeda, J., The laws of simplicity, 2020)

Sources

By Itamar Medeiros

Originally from Brazil, Itamar Medeiros currently lives in Germany, where he works as VP of Design Strategy at SAP and lecturer of Project Management for UX at the M.Sc. Usability Engineering at the Rhein-Waal University of Applied Sciences .

Working in the Information Technology industry since 1998, Itamar has helped truly global companies in multiple continents create great user experience through advocating Design and Innovation principles. During his 7 years in China, he promoted the User Experience Design discipline as User Experience Manager at Autodesk and Local Coordinator of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) in Shanghai.

Itamar holds a MA in Design Practice from Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK), for which he received a Distinction Award for his thesis Creating Innovative Design Software Solutions within Collaborative/Distributed Design Environments.

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