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David Lee King

Think Simple



apple keySimple is good. But that doesn’t mean your site has to BE simple.

Let’s use Apple as an example of this. Apple computers tend to have a “simple” experience attached to them. When you pick one out, there are relatively few choices – three models to choose from (as opposed to Dell, which has LOTS of models to choose from). Macs come with all the software a consumer needs to start out – basic writing, email, photo, video, and web apps – all conveniently installed. And even those apps are simple – iMovie is extremely easy to use, for example – it’s highly visual. Even the power button is simple – it’s the only button on my Mac, as opposed to my kid’s HP laptops – they have a good 5-6 buttons that do a variety of things (including hiding the power button for the uninitiated).

But is my Mac REALLY simple? Think about iMovie again. That scrolling, visual timeline of the video is anything BUT simple to create. It’s simple for the user, sure… but I’ll bet there’s some extremely complicated coding going on on the back end of that visual scroll bar!

good bookNo, it’s anything but simple. Apple has designed my MacBook experience to make sense simply, so I can focus on other things (like write this post).

We can do this with our websites, too. Our goal should be this – Think simple… always. Can we have detailed functionality? Yes – as long as it doesn’t get in the customer’s way. Our goal should be to keep the customer focused on the task at hand – and that task should NEVER be to figure out how your website works. Let’s keep our website innards out of the customer’s way!

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  • http://roytennant.com/ Roy Tennant

    David, I’ve long been a fan of simplicity, but something I thought you were leading up to was that in order to be simple on the front end you often need to be complex on the back end. That is, for many years library catalogs were simply on the back end (index all 245s in the 245 index) and were complex on the front end (make users select “title” to search titles). Then Google came along and demonstrated how if you were complex on the back end (use a complex ranking algorithm) you could be simple on the front end (type in whatever occurs to you into one search box). This was not “dumbing down” as some librarians claimed, but “smartening up” — just on the back end, not the front. But I totally agree with what you have to say — our systems need to be intuitive to our clientele — probably a goal that can never be fully achieved, but one well worth striving toward!

  • http://roytennant.com/ Roy Tennant

    David, I’ve long been a fan of simplicity, but something I thought you were leading up to was that in order to be simple on the front end you often need to be complex on the back end. That is, for many years library catalogs were simply on the back end (index all 245s in the 245 index) and were complex on the front end (make users select “title” to search titles). Then Google came along and demonstrated how if you were complex on the back end (use a complex ranking algorithm) you could be simple on the front end (type in whatever occurs to you into one search box). This was not “dumbing down” as some librarians claimed, but “smartening up” — just on the back end, not the front. But I totally agree with what you have to say — our systems need to be intuitive to our clientele — probably a goal that can never be fully achieved, but one well worth striving toward!

  • David Lee King

    Roy – good job of pulling something out that I WAS thinking about, but didn’t say too clearly!

    But yes – that’s the other side of the coin. I was thinking about making sure the interface is simple on the customer’s side … and to get there, sometimes it might have to be more complex on the back side of the software or service. Or, on the web at least, sometimes a bit of good CSS and simple design principles can clean up and simplify, as well.

  • David Lee King

    Roy – good job of pulling something out that I WAS thinking about, but didn't say too clearly!

    But yes – that's the other side of the coin. I was thinking about making sure the interface is simple on the customer's side … and to get there, sometimes it might have to be more complex on the back side of the software or service. Or, on the web at least, sometimes a bit of good CSS and simple design principles can clean up and simplify, as well.

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