No time for a manual

What’s the biggest value in today’s world? The answer is simple — and contrary to what may spring to mind first, it’s not money.

It’s time.

Never before the world has had so much to offer. With so many projects to do, so many books to read, so many places to visit — we feel like there’s no time to waste. So we’re always rushing, trying to make the most of the little time we have. We read, write and generally — work, in a hurry. It’s nothing unusual, it’s what “today” is all about.

Now — you might think: what does it actually have to do with software? Quite a lot, in fact! Every product we design, and eventually sell, is made for the people. With all the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, people rely on modern technology to manage their time and schedule, or basically — make their lives easier.

With so little time available, nobody feels like reading manuals. People download various apps and expect immediate results, immediate improvements to their busy lives. Wasting precious moments just to understand what the app is for, how to set it up, or even how to use it, is not on schedule. Each mobile or web app should be so obvious, so intuitive, so simple that anyone, in the blink of an eye, will know how to use it and what for.

How do you think about a new product? First of all, you find a problem and figure out a solution. Then, you create the idea of the app. For sure, during the process of creation you start adding new features. Everyone does that. Many times, I was absolutely convinced about the need to add to my app a little this, a little that.

I worried about the user’s first reaction. Will he find the app useful? I didn’t want to leave anything to chance, so to make sure he would — I kept adding more and more features. The result? An app with a thousand functions.

But let’s take a different, and the most important, perspective — the user’s one. Your super awesome, powerful app can be intimidating, different than expected. Such app will frustrate the user, giving him just one, simple idea right after installation — to trash.

So, how to create an app that anyone will be able to understand, and — most importantly, use? Just follow a simple rule: KISS. And no, I don’t mean being especially affectionate towards the users. ;) KISS is an old design principle, which stands for nothing else than: “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” Don’t overcomplicate — simplicity is king.

I Iove this quote by Elon Musk: “Any product that needs a manual to work is broken. Follow this rule, and start from the beginning. After you figure out how to solve a problem, look at your idea from the user’s perspective. Step into his not-so-tech-savvy shoes, and answer these questions: How would I use an ideal app that solve the problem? What should the first screen look like? Where should ‘solve the problem’ button be? Put answers onto paper and get back to the design process.

Now go, create a simple app. If you feel tempted again to add new features before the launch — get back to these questions and answers. Because the ideal app needs no manual.