Four Ways to a Simpler You

  1. Start with your site traffic. A look at your site traffic is probably the best and fastest way to understand what your customers most value and what they can do without. Which of your content and features are getting the most attention? Which are being ignored? What are the top user paths? Which content is searched for the most? You’ll likely find that the 80/20 rule—where a small sub-section of your content sees the majority of activity—applies.
  2. Try mobile first. The emerging practice of “mobile-first,” whereby companies organize their business around mobile as their primary channel, is gaining in prominence (Google declared itself a mobile-first company in 2010). Whatever you think of mobile-first as a business practice, trying it out as an experiment can help you boil down your offerings to their most bare and useful essence.
  3. Get more objective. Designers, developers, and even executives can frequently get too close to their online initiatives; clinging tightly to pet features and the status quo. Install a decision-maker who knows your business and customers well, but who isn’t involved in the day-to-day of design and development. That person will have the objectivity to ask hard questions and, when necessary, slaughter the sacred cows.
  4. Test, test, and test. There’s nothing like the feedback of real users to break your internal logjams and provide clarity about what’s valuable to them. If budget or timeline are concerns, testing informally with friends and family can still produce valuable insights. And it’s better than no testing at all.

Scott McDonald: Four ways to a simpler you

3 mathematical laws and their implication for usability

According to Thomas Baekdal, usable sites/apps are fast, efficient, simple, (and focussed).

  • Fast is connected to “GOMS keystroke model”
    “The fewer times you click on something and the fewer times you move your hand between the keyboard and the mouse, the faster it is to use”.
  • Efficient is connected to “Fitt’s Law”
    “A large target close to you, is easier to hit than a small target far away”
  • Simple is connected to “Hick’s Law”
    “The fewer choices you have, the easier it is to choose between them”

Simplifying sensibly

Simplicity is a prime user experience principle. Making simple things, however, is actually quite difficult. Particularly because most clients usually are not willing to compromise on features and functionality. Instead of building simple things from scratch, more often than not, I find myself making things difficult first. Then I simplify carefully and (to the best of my knowledge) sensibly. This gives me sufficient control over trade-offs and design decisions to be made. Also, a simplified version can easily be scaled back to its original size, if necessary (there is still a client).

This is how it works for me:

  1. Get a complete picture of business requirements, user needs, context, specified functionality, given dependencies, and core content/data objects.
  2. Establish priorities for user experience, functionality, and content. Find out what users consider as ‘simple’ for this particular product.
  3. Design a high level model that fully accommodates the needs. Quickly prototype the application.
  4. Review the prototype. Identify potential for simplifying things: secondary content/data/functionality; unnecessary hierarchies; competing calls to action and interaction paradigms. Then get out your tools:
  • Discard: Remove irrelevant content, functionality, menus, items.
  • Consolidate: Merge content, calls to action, sections. Be careful not to create unwanted new hierarchies.
  • Streamline: Declare primary mission of a product/section/screen and make everything support this mission.
  • Flatten: Remove doorsteps, speed bumps, and stairs. Example: Navigation tabs are only necessary, if you have more than three navigation items. If it’s two, use a toggle button.

Simplicity as design principle

“Simplicity is certainly an important design principle. Many designers try to cram too much into a screenful of space, making it unwieldy for people to find what they are interested in. Removing design elements to see what can be discarded without affecting the overall function of the website can be a salutary lesson. Unnecessary icons, buttons, boxes, lines, graphics, shading, and text can be stripped, leaving a cleaner, crisper, and easier-to-navigate website. However, a certain amount of graphics, shading, coloring, and formatting can make a site aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable to use. Plain vanilla sites with just lists of text and a few hyperlinks may not be as appealing and may put certain visitors off returning. The key is getting the right balance between aesthetic appeal and the right amount and kind of information per page.”

From: Preece, J., Rogers, Y., Sharp, H. (2002), Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, New York: Wiley, p.27