April 18th, 2007
Ever since Don Norman said, “Simplicity does not sell,” I’ve been keeping an eye on the various responses to his statement.
Gerry McGovern just wrote a piece examining Don’s argument, where he gives various reasons for using complexity to appeal to customers when designing physical products.
…we love to show off. Complexity is like the peacock’s feathers. It is brash and impossible to miss. Complexity lets other people know how clever we are and how rich, because we can afford such complexity…
This is definitely something everyone can relate to. I’ll admit I bought a Motorola Razr the second it came out because it was flashy, laden with features, and made people “oo” and “ah”. Now two years on, I’ve found I don’t use anything on the phone besides talk and the camera. Whether I planned to use the Razr to its full extent or not is irrelevant. I wanted a reaction from my peers.
Everyone is different though. Some people are very minimalist, some people are very high tech, but most people are just caught up in the latest fads. This leads me to wonder if people really care about whether a product is simple or complex, or if people just care that a product is new, trendy, and in high-demand. Apple’s iPod is a simple device, yet it’s the most popular media player in the entire world. Microsoft’s Zune, which has more features than the iPod, isn’t doing so hot. What gives? Is it our ego that drives what we look for in a product? To steal a line from Jared, when someone asks me if I want to see their iPod, I automatically say, “Yes!”, but when someone asks me if I want to see their Sandisk Sansa e280, I give them a weird look.
Moving away from the design of physical products, Gerry asserts that simplicity is king when designing for web sites.
…we can’t wear a Web site, drive around in it or show it off at a party. Browsing a site is essentially private behavior. When we go to Google we are usually alone. We search for cheap flights, but we certainly don’t go around advertising that we’re cheap.
We may still end up buying complex products on the Web, but our Web behavior will remain relentlessly simple and hugely impatient…
Do we just want an effortless way to acquire products that make us feel superior? What do you think?
You can read Gerry’s full article here: Why Simplicity is Essential
to Web Design.
[Joshua Porter also wrote an in-depth article addressing this topic. You can read Josh's article here: Simplicity: The Ultimate Sophistication.]Tweet