Infrequent isn’t Complex

I have had a nagging itch that i have not managed to put in words about the “Simple” School of Design. I think, I might finally be up to something here.

The simple school of design goes on the tenet that

Simple things should be simple, Complex things should be possible
Alan Kay

Based on this idea feature-set of a product is categorized as either simple or complex (I am over simplifying the process here, but this is the 30,000ft picture) and then the product is designed so that the simple activities will be easily visible, performable and repeatable.

Complex activities are on the other hand either hidden inside the product somewhere or are shown “smartly” only when required or are not built at all.

There is something that doesn’t fit in my mental map of design in this approach that i did not know how to articulate until now.

Thanks to Suresh Sambandam’s post, I think I might be up to something here.

You see while simple things must be kept simple and complex things should be made possible. Infrequent things are not necessarily complex.

In our case me booking a cab for someone else is not a complex operation, it is a simple operation that i just do not perform that frequently. And here is where Uber went wrong, It hid the option and made it discoverable “Smartly”. But damn it Uber, when I log in to book a cab for my dad, thats the first thing i want to key in into the App. I don’t want to choose a different location in order to decide if the cab is for me or someone else.

Uber, hid a simple, yet infrequent, operation assuming it to be a complex operation. That is why when i log in to Uber with the particular intent of booking a cab for my father, i get very annoyed, even though i love its simplicity when I book a cab for myself.

Here is a lesson i would carry forward, infrequent activities are not always complex activities. As product managers we need to be careful not to confuse the two.