Simplify, Simplify, Simplify! Simplicity may be the most important usability design principle as well as being the common thread through many other design principles. Simplicity of design not only optimizes business and the user experience but also simplifies software development, deployment, maintenance and support. User centered design is an iterative process of enhancement, refinement, and simplification. The user centered design process leads to simpler, elegant, and powerful designs that are innovative, easy to learn, easy to use, efficient, compelling, and aesthetically pleasing.
While feature rich applications and information rich web sites can be a challenge to design, a well structured application or web site can still be approachable and usable for both the novice and experienced user. Simplicity does not mean simplistic solutions, lack of functionality or limited information.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo Da Vinci.
“Our mantra was simplicity” Donna Dubinsky, 3Com’s Palm Division.
“Keep it simple and good things will happen” Jack Trout (1999) – The Power of Simplicity.
“Very often, people confuse simple with simplistic. The nuance is lost on most.” Clement Mok, Chief Creative Officer, Sapient.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hofmann.
“Simplicity is not an end in art, but we usually arrive at simplicity as we approach the true sense of things.” Constantin Brancusi.
“Simplicity is the outward sign and symbol of depth of thought.” Lin Yutang.
“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” Charles Mingus.
“Things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein.
“Simple things should be simple and complex things should be possible.” Alan Kay, Disney Fellow and VP of R&D, The Walt Disney Company.
“Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge.” Winston Churchill.
“Simplify, simplify, simplify.” Henry David Thoreau.
“If you can’t describe it simply, you can’t use it simply.” Anon.
“To simplify complications is the first essential of success.” George Earle Buckle.
“Simplicity is the soul of efficiency.” Austin Freeman.
“…it is simplicity that is difficult to make.” Bertholdt Brecht.
“Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means.”
– Dr. Koichi Kawana, Architect, designed the botanical gardens
“See it big, and keep it simple.” Wilfred Peterson.
“The whole is simpler than the sum of its parts.” Willard Gibbs.
“Sometimes one has to say difficult things, but one ought to say them as simply as one knows how”. G. H. Hardy.
“Perfection, then, is finally achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de St. Exupery.
“Make all visual distinctions as subtle as possible, but still clear and effective.” Edward R. Tufte (1998) – Visual Explanations.
“Persuading through Simplifying – Using computing technology to reduce complex behavior to simple tasks increases the benefit/cost ratio of the behavior and influences users to perform the behavior.” B.J.Fogg (2003) – Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think We Do.
“In a medium already famous for ‘information overload,’ simplicity is a rare and wonderful find.” Jennifer Flemming (1998) – Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience.
“Simplicity: The New Competitive Advantage in a World of More, Better, Faster.”
“The paradox of simplicity is that making things simpler is hard work.”
“Simplicity is power. The power to do less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does.”
“Simpler companies are user centered. They adapt to the needs of day-to-day
decision makers.” Bill Jensen (2000) – Simplicity.
“Kanso (Simplicity): A key tenet of the Zen aesthetic is kanso or simplicity. In the kanso concept, beauty and visual elegance are achieved by elimination and omission.”
“Simplicity is powerful and leads to greater clarity, yet it is neither simple nor easy to achieve.” Garr Reynolds (2008) – Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery.
“The Mother of All Qualities: Simplicity”
“Of all the principles articulated in this book, simplicity is the broadest and perhaps the most fundamental.” Paul Clements (2000) – Constructing Superior Software.
“Simplicity plays a central role in all timeless designs. We appreciate solutions that – all other things being equal – solve problems in a clear, economical, fashion. The most powerful designs are always the result of a continuous process of simplification and refinement.”
“The importance of simplicity can hardly be overstated. In fact, the sheer simplicity of an elegant solution is often its most startling and delightful aspect.”
“Reduction through successive refinement is the only path to simplicity.” Kevin Mullet and Darrel Sano (1995) – Designing Visual Interfaces.
“The path to simplicity: It’s not always possible to keep a Web-based application simple. There are some incredibly complicated applications out there, for good reason. Despite this, designing the obvious means striving for simplicity.” Robert Hoekman Jr. (2007) – Designing the Obvious: A common sense approach to web application design.
“Simplicity is achieved when everyone can easily understand and use the design, regardless of experience, literacy, or concentration level. Basic guidelines for improving simplicity are: remove unnecessary complexity; clearly and consistently code and label controls and modes of operation; use progressive disclosure to present only relevant information and controls; provide clear prompting and feedback for all actions; and ensure that reading levels accommodate a wide range of literacy.” William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler (2003) – Universal Design Principles of Design: 100 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design.
“Keep it simple: In general, interfaces should use simple geometric forms, minimal contours, and a restricted color palette comprised primarily of less-saturated or neutral colors balanced with a few high contrast accent colors that emphasize important information. Typography should not vary widely in an interface..”
“Design principle: Take things away until the design breaks, then put that last thing back in.” Alan Cooper (2007) – About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design.
“…the book is a manifesto to make the Web atone for the sins of computers and regain a level of simplicity that can put humanity at peace with its tools once again.” Jakob Nielsen (2000) – Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity.
“Three Tips: Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.”
“Throughout this book, we’ve been evangelizing simplicity, but ironically, the practice of simplicity is not simple. It is easy to build a bulky design by adding layer upon layer of navigation and features; it’s much more difficult to create simple, graceful designs. Paring designs to essential elements while maintaining elegance and functionality requires courage and discipline.” Jakob Nielsen (2006) – Prioritizing Web Usability.
“Think simple as my old master used to say – meaning reduce the whole of its parts into the simplest terms, getting back to first principles.”
“Simplicity and repose are the qualities that measure the true value of any work of art.” Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect.
“Eloquence Through Simplicity: The guiding principle in dashboard design should always be simplicity: display the data as clearly and simply as possible, and avoid unnecessary and distracting decoration.” Stephen Few (2006) – Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data.
“There are two ways of constructing a software design. One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies. And the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies.” C.A.R. Hoare.
“One of the great skills in using any language is knowing what not to use, what not to say. … There’s that simplicity thing again.” Ron Jeffries.
“Simplicity design axiom: The complexity of the information appliance is that of the task, not the tool. The technology is invisible.” Donald Norman (1998) – The Invisible Computer.
“Simplicity: An interface should be simple (not simplistic), easy to learn, and easy to use. It must also provide access to all functionality of an application. Maximizing functionality and maintaining simplicity work against each other in the interface. An effective design balances these objectives.” Microsoft (1999) – Windows User Experience: Official Guidelines for User Interface Developers and Designers.
Edward de Bono’s Ten Rules for Simplicity:
1. You need to put a very high value on simplicity.
2. You must be determined to seek simplicity.
3. You need to understand the matter very well.
4. You need to design alternatives and possibilities.
5. You need to change and discard existing elements.
6. You need to be prepared to start over again.
7. You need to use concepts.
8. You may need to break things down into smaller units.
9. You need to be prepared to trade off other things for simplicity.
10. You need to know for whose sake the simplicity is designed.
Edward de Bono (1999) – Simplicity.
John Maeda’s ten laws of simplicity:
1. REDUCE – The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction
2. ORGANIZE – Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.
3. TIME – Savings in time feel like simplicity.
4. LEARN – Knowledge makes everything simpler.
5. DIFFERENCES – Simplicity and complexity need each other.
6. CONTEXT – What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.
7. EMOTION – More emotions are better than less.
8. TRUST – In Simplicity we trust.
9. FAILURE – Some things can never be made simple.
10. THE ONE – Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.
John Maeda (2006) – The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life.
“Good design, like good writing, is simple and economical. Simple design makes the product easier to maintain and use. No magic formula will enable us to create simple designs; they are the result of creativity, false starts, and hard work. But when we can achieve most of our design objectives while making something simple, our results are likely to be good”.
“Both the internal design and the user interface can have simplicity, but the interaction between the user and the program is what concerns us here, and frequently we have to sacrifice the simplicity of internal design to make the user interface simple”.
“A user expects that his programs be no more complicated to understand than the task they are doing for him”.
Paul Heckel (1982) – The Elements of Friendly Software Design.
“We’re humans first, beginners or experts second.” Clifford Nass, CBC – Quirks and Quarks.
“A well-designed and humane interface does not need to be split into beginner and expert subsystems” Jef Raskin (2000) – The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems.