If your product isn’t simple, it’s not relevant

Slack, Uber, Nest. All of them are admired companies, unicorns even. They have the best technology, the best patents and amazing innovations. However, their technology is not the reason why customers love them so much. It is their design philosophy instead, which focuses on one thing: simplicity.

Read the F** Manual

For many years, technology was developed to create a solution for a certain problem. For example, in the 80’s the CD player became very popular amongst its users, because it removed the frustration of having scratches on your music source. However, you had to read the manual first.. For computers this was even worse: RTFM (Read The F** Manual) was a term coined by frustrated programmers because they became overburdened with user questions regarding what seemed like ordinairy problems to them.

Simplicity is in the centre of attention now

Nowadays you cannot get away with that anymore. Technological platforms like Facebook have over a billion users, and its users do not require a manual. Furthermore, we do not get an introductory course of ‘the new ERP in the company’ any longer. Slack is a classic example of the new way of thinking for business software: you do not need an introductory course in order to be able to use it, it just works. Simplicity is the key.

Another example: how high do you estimate the intelligence of your pet? Purina, producer of nutrition for animals, launched several cat games for iOS. Apple creates products that are so easy to understand that even a domestic animal could use them.

7 rules to make something simple

The problem with simplicity is that it is very easy to recognise, but actually making something simple is a completely different story. Below are seven rules that may help you.

1. Simplicity turns the user into a superhero

As Clayton Christensen, the man behind the Innovators Dilemma, already said: disruptive innovations enable lower skilled people to do amazing things. Take your phone and open an app that you use frequently. Did you use to know the way to your grandmother by heart? Now you’ve got Waze for that. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but according to your grandma you have become a superhero!

2. Simplicity is peace of mind

With the Internet of Things, we are able to monitor and operate all kinds of objects in the near future. With the help of your car, your house will soon know when you are almost home. As a result your thermostat will automatically be turned higher, your lights will turn on and the door of your garage will open at exactly the right moment. A range of sensors that track data are needed for this interactivity. The more data, the better. However, do not be tempted to share all kinds of useless sensor data with your user! Considering the user, it is enough for him to know that all goes well. Nothing more and nothing less.

3. Simplicity is using their platforms, not yours

Do you have a nice website, including a clear contact form and a call centre that is available between 9.00am and 17pm? Even have a cool app coming with it? Good!

Nevertheless, those tools are asking users to come to you. Turn it the other way around! What is your target group and what do they like to use to communicate with each other? Certainly not through nice contact forms! On top of that, the days in which telephone calls were on top of the communication list are gone as well.

If you want to contact your user, they should be able to send you a Facebook message, a tweet, or a WhatsApp message. Not only as a replacement for customer service, but also to actually get things arranged. Something broken? Send a WhatsApp message. Want to cancel your flight? Tweet! Pay? Facebook. Tikkie, the new repayment app from ABN AMRO, has become very popular. Why? Because it is connected to WhatsApp. It is often even cheaper than developing everything yourself!

4. Simplicity is saving time

We are all very busy nowadays. Maybe even too busy. Obviously you cannot offer your user an eighth day in the week, but you can make sure that they are able to get much more done in seven days. How? By accelerating time-consuming tasks through simplifying them. In that light it is obvious why the automotive industry in urban areas shifts to transport concepts like Uber and Lyft: they save you a lot of parking time!

5. Simplicity is the removal of friction

Hyper-convenience. Hyper what? Just a fancy name for the removal of friction in the entire process, from acquisition to actual use to returning to offering service. In short: Plug & Play.

Are you working in the clothing industry and have you reduced the purchase threshold by introducing free shipping? That is a good first step. But returning purchases also costs money. And time: the package has to be packed and delivered at a post office or a shipping point. Think about how you could eliminate the entire purchase threshold.

Remember that when you develop a fantastic app, it is not simple by default. Due to the fact that you have to install it as a user. Even that is friction.

6. Simplicity is accessibility

For every problem there are solutions, and for every solution there seems to be an app. This results in ten apps for every problem. A simple app combines digital parts as well as ‘real-world’ parts resulting in the solution, made accessible by one simple interface which is accessible for all relevant devices.

7 Simplicity is beautiful

Each day we are looking at our screens more than at our life partners. They share a similarity though: people like to look at something beautiful.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but simplicity is always a winner.

Develop a beautiful interface, take care of a great usability, a consistent use of colour, clear icons, and just enough features. Do not exaggerate.

Simplicity is not optional anymore

We are living in a complex world and are short of time. Simplicity is not an option anymore. If you are not simple, you are not relevant. It’s that simple.

Update: Request our free whitepaper with 7 simple design rules and examples at joost@ktcagency.com. No spam. Promised!