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Cost of Simplicity

You probably have a friend, we all do, or it might even be yourself who installed an app, tried to use it but just couldn’t “get” it. It required a lot of effort to find the value. It just wasn’t simple.

If you want to become a rocket scientist, there is a certain amount of knowledge you will need to acquire in order to understand the field. This takes time and effort. The same goes with an app you are trying to use, although hopefully less tricky than rocket science. You also need to gain an understanding of the data and information being communicated to you. When a company wants to create a particular experience (their intention) for you, it is “communicated” through the apps’s use of UI, colours, text, symbols and information architecture.

Cost of Understanding

In “Figure it out“, the authors Stephen P. Anderson and Karl Fast talk about how information needs to be understood in relation to people and their needs (“…designer Richard Saul Wurman in the late 1980’s… information that failed to inform was merely data…”) and this process of making something understandable has a cost. This cost could be time and effort or learning new skills and developing better skills on the side of the sender or receiver. This cost of effort, from an UX perspective, should ideally be on the sender’s side.Cost of Simplicity

This “cost of understanding” I found very useful as an analogy when it comes to simplicity, as “understanding” very much relates to “simplicity”. The simpler something is for the user (receiver), the easier it is to understand. But, if understanding has a cost, where does it go if you need to make it easier for a user?

The “cost of understanding” is the total cost of the “knowledge” transfer moving from one person or app to another person. What you have to figure out is, who is “paying” for it. Simplicity is the science and sometimes art of shifting the balance of that effort towards the communicator, business or app.

Shifting the Cost of Simplicity

If you don’t make the effort to “simplify” it, the cost of the understanding sits with the user. They have to make the effort in understanding what you are trying to communicate. If you put in the additional effort of creating for example: automating tasks, providing predictable options, auto-completing forms you already have information on, you take some of that cost away from the user. If your business takes on the cost of simplicity, you will not only have taken on the challenge of building for humans, but also give your product to test its viability as soon as possible. There is nothing worse than having to give up on a good valuable idea, because people didn’t “get” it.   

And that is what simplicity is in UX; going the extra mile, so that users don’t have to.

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Going from persona to person

Over the past year or two, I have found myself wondering about a better life with personas. Are personas giving us enough or can we do more? Real people’s needs, attitudes and behaviours shift or change over time and sure, there will always be new people that fit a persona, but should we be okay with letting people go? That might be okay for an entertainment app, but it probably is not okay if you want to provide long term customer value. 

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The End of Feature Requests

Have you ever been on the end of a long string of feature requests, either from users or management? These feature requests are usually very specific in how you are supposed to implement it. So much so that you, as a UX Designer or Product Owner, you sometimes feel like a tool. Well, there is a very simple way to change that. All it is going to take is for you to ask one simple question, and that question is: “What are you trying to achieve?”

“What makes this question so special?”, you may ask. Let me explain. This question does three things.

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“Be the change you want to see in the world” ~ Not Gandhi

Deep Diving into “Why?”

After “What are you trying to achieve?“, my second-favourite and most used question, is “Why?”

Anyone who has ever engaged the inquisitive mind of a four-year old has had the experience of answering the dreaded follow-up question of ‘but why?’. While this line of questioning has lead to many frustrated adults, this line of thinking has inspired the problem-solving approach employed by some of the top companies and leaders in the world.

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Are you doing Mini-Waterfall?

Are you really doing Agile?  If you are not doing iteration on your work, then are you getting the benefits of doing Agile?

The idea behind Agile was to be more flexible to users and market changes. Waterfall takes years to develop a piece of software and by the time you hit the market, you are no longer relevant. With Agile, you can build a MVP and iterate on your product as you try and find the right market fit. If you are only adding new features during sprints, without iteration, then you have just broken Waterfall down into smaller pieces. This is what I like to call “Mini-Waterfall”.

What is your company doing?

Links & References

  1. Agile process
  2. Waterfall process

The Purpose behind your UX

Every company does their UX a bit differently. It all depends on resources available, are you a start-up or large company and the influence of your existing business-developer processes.

I worked for an ecommerce company and work were usually handed down from the top, in the form of “We need to redesign application X” or “We want a new application X”. My first response is always: “But why?”. Why do you need to redesign? Why do you want to build a new product? What is wrong with the current product?

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