Hide Complexity!

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything.  In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s there are few. 
- Shunryu Suzuki – roshi (1905 – 1971)

When developing software intended for human interaction (the user interface), there needs to an effort to hide complexity.   In sharing his ideas on complexity, John Maeda writes, “Hide complexity through brute force methods.  A classical example of this technique is the Swiss army knife.  Only the tool you wish to use is exposed.”

When developing software there is a tendency to expose all the complexity and put it right in front of the person interacting with the software. Too often there is a feeling that all the features need to be exposed, so to demonstrate all the hard work that went into developing the product.   Like the Swiss army knife software features need to be exposed only when they are needed.  In other words all the functionality is hidden away until needed.

When all the functionality is in the face of the user, screens become cluttered and it becomes difficult to navigate through all the functionality.  Often a software developer has a sense if they do not expose the functionality the user will never find it and it will never be used.  Instead they need to hide the functionality, expose it at the right moment, and the design needs to be intuitive.

The problem is that intuitive design is very difficult to do and requires the designer to understand how the software application is going to be used.

John Maeda blog (website) http://lawsofsimplicity.com/

Read more at Reboot! Rethinking and Restarting Software Development.

Published in: on September 22, 2009 at 01:01  Leave a Comment  
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