Simplicity

by Meryl K Evans | Category: Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech 3 comments

letter opener SimplicityIn reading about a letter opener that looks like a whale, my first thought was who needs a letter opener when a finger works fine? OK, sometimes it fights to dig in the little space in the corner. Sometimes it walks away with a shiny new paper cut. (How does something tiny hurt a lot?) Besides, I open my mail wherever I stand as I sort mail right away. A letter opener may not be within reach.

I have that whale letter opener and love it. Yes, the everyday arcane task of opening a letter is fun with the pink whale. Its skinny tail fits in everything and then zzzzipppppp! I love the tearing vibrations as the whale makes its way across the envelope.

Simplicity works. Imagine if the inventor had added bells and whistles. How silly would that be to blow the whistle or jingle the bell whenever I opened mail? “Hey! Gather around, the mail’s here!”

That’s what’s happening with apps today. Twitter’s new interface is live. It requires more steps to do tasks that took one or two steps with the old design. I waste too much time looking for features. Good interface design that’s intuitive doesn’t make you work hard to get around. (Many folks need to read Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think Simplicity.)

For a long time, I used Palm Desktop to manage my tasks and calendar. Yes, the app that came with Palm Pilots. After I recycled my last Palm, I continued using Palm Desktop for years without the device because nothing measured up. Eventually, I moved to Google Calendar while continuing to use Palm for managing tasks.

Google’s tasks wasn’t ready for me because it didn’t have the needed recurring feature. All the other task apps had problems: overkill, missing features, no desktop version, no syncing with smartphone.

Then, I found gTasks. It has the recurring task feature and syncs with Google tasks and my smartphone. (Would you believe someone left a review on January 22 saying it took a long time to find an app replace the trusty old Palm? That says something about Palm despite its rocky last years.)

I’m not a Luddite. The opposite actually. I love my gadgets and technology. I’ve admired and appreciated a good website makeover. But developers think they need to offer everything to be all things to everyone. That just overwhelms potential users. We’d keep looking for a simpler product rather than settling for a bloated or confusing one.

Content is like that, too. Not all web pages need to be covered with words. A lot of great sites communicate with few words. Yes, we customers want to know as much as we can about a product or service. That’s why you have navigation and links to take us there when we’re ready. Too many directions and calls to action send us away from the website.

Mail’s here. Zzzzippppp!

What products do you love for its simplicity? What do you like about it? Have you had favorite products add too many features? Did you abandon it or stick with it?

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3 comments

  • Posted by Englenook on February 25th, 2012, 1:50 PM

    Let’s hear it for the K.I.S.S theory (Keep It Simple Stupid)! I go back to the early days of “Techdom” – before PCs. Techies were in one of two schools. 1) Totally enamored with using every ‘gee whiz’ capability available regardless of needs of the end user or 2) Dedicated to finding a solution to a problem which was not obtrusive to the end-user.

    Personally, I believe those who cannot simply define and address a problem do not understand the problem. Some of the glitz is for glitz sake and some is due to not understanding the customer.

  • Posted by Rick Noel on March 1st, 2012, 6:44 PM

    Hi Meryl, my favorite product is actually a service and that would be Google. No, I don’t work for them, but use them hundreds of times per day. For Internet searches like most others used to navigate the web. As an Internet marketer, I use Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, YouTube, Gmail, Google sites, Google Apps, Google+, Adwords and a host of other Google tools. Google has simplified their privacy policy across their product line and consolidated all of these services (60 of them) privacy policies into one. Many Google users are concerned about the privacy issues associated with this move which went live today, 1 Mar 2012. I am not overly concerned which is good because I don’t have a viable substitute service as Google dominates the search and video landscape, especially in the USA. That said, I do understand where those who are concerned are coming from. Your post on Simplicity reminded me of how Google is positioning this rather large change in their privacy policy. Thanks for sharing.

  • Posted by meryl on March 2nd, 2012, 7:56 AM

    Englenook: Glitz is still a rampant problem even after usability and user experience have become accepted in web design.

    Rick: Great example. Google grew popular because of simplicity. The search engine has more features, but those don’t come along on the landing page. Still simple.


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