Dermot Holmes
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Dermot Holmes

Look at all these buttons.

Examining: “Easy to use”

What do a fruit peeler, iPod and fighter jet have in common?

“…and we want it to be easy to use.”

Everyone nods, the meeting moves on, no one ever asks how easy.

“…we want to charge a fee for that.”

Someone will immediately ask: “How much? How will they pay?”

Option 1: Improve the interface

Make the interface (UX/UI) better. Better grouping, labelling, element expression, layout, modalities, form factors and other HCD principles. This is a skill in itself, but basically it’s presenting the same functions/information in a better way.

Option 2: Improve the technology

Using new technology can give you the option of making things go faster, bigger, lighter, automatically or enable the user operate at a higher level of abstraction.

Going deeper

Making your product five times easier to use is a huge competitive advantage.

Every digital project ever…

Digital projects usually revolve around features, so your requirements always end up looking like this:

  • Feature b
  • Feature c
  • Feature …
  • Feature z
  • Make sure features are easy to use
  1. Let people do those things efficiently and precisely
  2. Let people learn how to do those things quickly

Option 3: Improve the products feature balance

I’ve named each of these elements:


How many things does the product really need to do?


How much efficiency and precision is needed when doing the things?


How much time or ability does the user have to learn these things?


The key is finding the right balance.

  • At most, you can max two out of three. You can’t have it all.
  • But you can still use technology and interface improvements in combination with tuning your product balance.
Higher learnability. Higher functionality. Higher finesse.


Lets look at some real works examples.

Example 1: A fruit peeler

  • Number of functions: 1 (Low)
  • Learnability: Seconds
  • Finesse: Acceptable (you get what you get, but usually don’t need any more than that)

Example 2: iPod (Generation 1)

  • Number of functions: About 10–15 primary functions using 6 physical inputs. (Moderate)
  • Learnability: A few minutes.
  • Finesse: Just enough where it counted.
  • Learnability: Years
  • Finesse: Extreme level of control and efficiency


There’s one big shortcut in all this. Learned behaviour and prior knowledge.


Not everything has to be easy to use. Snapchat offers lots of extra functions but they are hidden away. They could be easer to use. Snapchat knows this.



I write about the fundamentals of design and digital.

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I write articles about design, business and how to create digital products.