Why Simplicity Is The Most Powerful Ally Of User Experience 2

Why Simplicity Is The Most Powerful Ally Of User Experience

Any UX Designer can tell you about the complex simplicity oxymoron. And it’s true, a lot of work goes into keeping a product or platform looking and feeling simplistic.

So why bother? You could argue that people should just learn how to use something. Get out the old-fashioned manual or indeed, look up some instructions on the web, and figure out how something works. There are plenty of instances where any of us can recall having to do something like that. Truthfully, how did that experience make you feel? It’s fairly safe to say that the vast majority were left feeling rather frustrated by it.

Lives are busy in this day and age. People are also more used to instant gratification. We have more and more products that just, well, work. And they work intuitively. So, we expect this standard across the board. So, when it comes to simplicity, it really is the most powerful way to improve your user experience.

Simplicity means intuitive

That’s just it, right there. Simple means intuitive. Ergo, you pick up a handheld device for example, or go to operate a piece of equipment, and your fingers know what buttons to press without reading 100 pages beforehand.

There is, however, a little note of warning here. Yes, simplicity is a key and fundamental part of great UX Design. But, take it too far the other way, and oversimplification can undo your good work. As this collection of experts stress, fantastic UX Design has the customer at its heart, and by doing this, you’re thinking first and foremost about what they want. Sometimes a level of curiosity and learning is appropriate.

Don’t go breaking the law!

Ok, so you don’t want to go overboard and simplify the fun out of something. Similarly, you don’t want to make things more complicated than they need to be. Confused yet? Here are some handy words of wisdom to get you back on track, courtesy of the UX Collective.

The Laws Of Simplicity in UX Design go something a little like this:

  • Law 1: Reduce
  • Law 2: Organise
  • Law 3: Time
  • Law 4: Learn
  • Law 5: Differences
  • Law 6: Context
  • Law 7: Emotion
  • Law 8: Trust
  • Law 9: Failure
  • Law 10: The One

Now, you’ll have to read John Maeda’s fantastic book to find out more about each of the 10 laws, but in a nutshell, they’re all about using the right information and resources to simplify the design.

There’s also a philosophical element to this. About appreciating the difference between simplicity and complexity (law 5) and understanding that they need each other. And, (law 9), realising that some things can never be made simple.

Make it enjoyable

The more the experience of using a product or service flows, the more enjoyable it is. Often, the more simplistic the process of using said product or service the more flow it has. But a lot goes into keeping something simple.

Just take a look at some experiences from UX Designers who’ve spent many years trying to perfect the simple part of a design. There are a surprising number of elements involved, including not overwhelming your users with lots of choices at once or alienating them with jargon. Eventually, it all comes down to the right approach and a good foundation of understanding when it comes to meeting customer’s expectations. That is how you can hit the sweet spot in making it enjoyable.

Remove barriers

If you’re struggling to use a product, there has to be a good reason to keep on using it. Plus, it can take the enjoyment out of the whole experience. It becomes a large barrier for users. And barriers can be a problem with product or service uptake.

By removing potential barriers and making it accessible, you’ll be referring right back to the rule of simplicity. You’ll also be thinking of that number one person: the user, and putting their experience first.

Keep in close contact with your users

Through continual close contact with your users, you’ll be able to spot the barriers before they become a major problem and keep tweaking your design for the better.

Ultimately, this idea is what makes the UX wheel keep turning, and it’s never more appropriate than in the case of the rules of simplicity. As any UX specialist will tell you, there’s no better time to include the customer in the design process than the very beginning. And keep them there, throughout its growth and development. It’s only through feedback that you’ll be able to understand what kind of people use your product, what they want to get from the experience, and how you can improve it.

Simplicity Is Your Ally

UX Design is all about delighting people with intuitive, well-thought-out products. Something that feels great when you’re using it, brings enjoyment and doesn’t throw up hurdles when you’re trying to get to an endpoint.

Simplicity is the key that unlocks all of these positive experiences, but to create something that feels intuitive to the user, designers have to do a big smoke and mirrors job with everything that’s going on behind the scenes that make it work so fantastically. Ultimately, there’s no set path to achieve this simplistic feel. It will be different every single time because the movable feast is the users themselves. By taking the time to connect with them and understand them from day one, you’ll be able to deploy all your fancy design skills to make it happen.

Andrew Machin
Andrew Machin

With over 25 years’ experience in UX and digital strategy, Andrew has helped many national and global brands such as John Lewis, Harley Davidson, Johnson & Johnson, and Interflora create exceptional digital product experiences.

Through the success of such projects Andrew has received high-profile accolades that span innovation, strategy, and design, such as the Dadi Grand Prix Award and the Digital Impact Award for Innovation.

This experience has led to Andrew judging digital design awards, been featured in .net magazine, lecturing at Leeds university, and speaking at seminars and conferences across the UK.

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