The challenge with making things simple often comes in a few modes:
1. We want things to be simple, but we don't fully understand the primary thing we should focus on. Or if we do, we don't have strong enough reason to remove what clutters our work.
2. As much as we like, we cannot make things simple by removing options or information; we have external requirements.
3. In the absents of removing clutter that comes with lots of decisions, options, or information, we don't have strategies to make our work simple.
The issue of not making our work simple is that a person trying to use or understand what we've made will get stuck in confusion or decision overload.
Here are four strategies to reduce complexity in design:
Reduce Options; this is the hardest for designers because it takes a deep understanding and boldness to implement. (and often agreement with others.)
- Hide; put all the advanced options behind a selection. On old TV remotes, the little buttons would sometimes be hidden behind a plastic cover. The issue here is that the advanced options, when opened, can be overwhelming to a person looking for only one thing.
- Customization; in digital space means a person can customize the software options for their need. This often seems like a great approach; the challenge is that you still have to decide on the default state; what options are shown before customizing is done.
- Progress Disclosure; the idea here is to hide all advanced information or options until a first action is taken. This is similar to the "hide" strategy, but instead of overwhelming a person with all the advanced options, you give them more options in the context they are looking to take action. This is a compelling approach but has the pitfall of not being obvious enough.
When attempting to make your work, design, or even life simple, maybe the goal is not always to remove all the options. Instead, it's to increase the speed of decision-making and understanding of options.
Often, we need a combination of simplifying strategies, and we need to revisit what we can remove to create simplicity continually.