Thoughts On Simplicity

by Luke Wroblewski December 14, 2006

A number of folks (myself included) have been sharing their thoughts on what it really means to make simple products. Here’s a round-up of what’s recently been said:

Simplicity Is Highly Overrated, Don Norman

“Make it simple and people won’t buy. Given a choice, they will take the item that does more. Features win over simplicity, even when people realize that it is accompanied by more complexity.”

The Sweet Spot for Buying, Luke Wroblewski

“Before using a product, people will judge its desirability and quality based on ‘what it does’ (i.e. the number of features). Even though they may be aware that usability is likely to suffer, they will mostly choose products with many features.”

The Complexity of Simplicity, Luke Wroblewski

“While there are many reasons why keeping things simple is difficult, I’ve encountered these three causes quite frequently...”

Simplicity, Joel Spolsky

“if you think simplicity means "not very many features" or "does one thing and does it well," then I applaud your integrity but you can't go that far with a product that deliberately leaves features out.”

Simplicity Isn’t so Simple, Nick Bradbury

“Simplicity is a goal all developers should strive towards, but it's a mistake to think that simplicity means having a small feature set. You're rarely going to sell more copies of your software by providing less features.”

Simplicity is Highly Underrated, Joshua Kaufman

“As a designer, I take simplicity very seriously. (It’s in the first line of my bio.) So when Don Norman comes along and says it’s overrated, I feel obligated to respond.”

Don Norman: simple doesn't sell, Mark Hurst

“The challenge for designers, and executives, and other practitioners is to consider what's a good experience in their context.”

In defense of simplicity, Scott Berkun

"This is much harder and requires smaller egos, but a great v3 needs less UI than v2: eliminating setup, configuration, simplifying designs, automating things successfully so that users don’t even need to know of them (not just automating my interaction with things)."

Simple Simplicity, Michael Zuschlag

"So how do you simplify? Cutting out feature is, I dare say, the most simple-minded approach to simplification"

Simplicity Does Not Pay Too Early, Continuous Learning

"As many have noted, simplicity is vague. You can define it to mean anything you want, and if we look from that perspective, many experts are right, because they all mean different things when they say simplicity."

The Laws of Simplicity, John Maeda

“I wrote The Laws of Simplicity in late 2005 to early 2006 to get my thoughts down about simplicity. In the course of 100-pages, I outline the Ten Laws as used on this website.”