David Pogue: Simplicity Sells – my thoughts

In Week 02 of this module, we discussed Visual Grammar and how simplifying details and re-using elements minimises the visual complexity of your digital product and makes your design much more user friendly.

To help understand this concept a little further I watched the presentation David Pogue made called ‘Simplicity Sells’.

Pogue starts off the presentation discussing how we are at a certain point in technology advancement where everything has become too complex. Technology is being made capable of so many things now that “if you keep adding more and more features, where are they gonna go”. This results in too many pop up menus, sub menus and tools.

Pogue suggests that good design is knowing when to use each feature. When all features are made available at once its over stimulating for the user but also if a user has to go through too many menus to find the tool or item they need that, is too complex. An example of this over complication is in older microsoft software where they would try to simplify the broad range of tools on their systems by creating more steps to find each tool.  A good designer should be able to find the balance to this.

David Pogue suggest these points to help simplify things;

  • consistency- consistency in design is always good for keeping things easy to navigate and understand for the user
  • trash can – having a trash can icon easy to find in your design helps users delete items without hassle.
  • real world equivalents- making acting out certain tasks in your design simulate the real life version of the task as much a possible to make your design intuitive for any user
  • labels- labelling tools icons helps users know what they are using so they can make better decisions.

He says to use these suggestions ‘unless it violates intelligence’. He goes on to explain what this means, ‘intelligence could make something not consistent but better’ This means that using intelligence in the way you design and understanding what the user wants from the software.

David Pogue discusses the company ‘Palm’ and how they dealt with completing tasks. The executive of Palm said that “If a task takes more than 3 taps to complete it is too long’. This is a brilliant way to think about interface design that thinks of the user first.

Pogue describes how the new way to look at design is “Simplicity Sells”. People are willing to pay the price for well designed products with less feature overload.

Summarisation of my thoughts

Overall I really enjoyed the talk it was entertaining and brought up some great points about ui design. Although the examples he discussed are outdated now – nearly 15 years old- there’s a lot we can learn about how he described the basics of design.

Microsoft has improved its user interface in the years after the presentation, the over complicated design David Pogue mentions has been simplified but can still definitely be overwhelming at times I find a lot of adobe software to be similar in this way. I think it comes from the fact that these are both very feature heavy programs. This is sometimes not a bad thing thought as sometimes to be able to complete the task with the best outcome you need more tools and more control which is what these programs offer. Adobe in particular markets its programs towards design professionals, in which case they need the control and range of tools, knowing the difference comes with intelligence (as he mentions in the presentation) and knowing your audience.

Palm as a company hasn’t existed since 2010 but the advice ‘task shouldn’t take longer than 3 taps’ made me rethink how I would design in the future. Advice like this mightn’t always be appropriate but having it at the back of my mind as I complete my portfolio website and any future designs will come in very useful.


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