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Simple is Hard

“I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one” is a wonderful phrase said to have been originally said by the brilliant mathematician Blaise Pascal (but also attributed to Mark Twain at times).

I’m always reminded of this quote when I read about articles on product simplicty and avoiding feature creep. The latest Wired article “Why Subtraction is the Hardest Math in Product Design” is a case in point. While doing the obligatory praise for Apple’s original iPod (I suspect soon people will have forgotten about the original exemplar, the no-rewind walkman) and Google, they also note that the discipline for simplicity is beginning to slip, be it with the overzealous texture of the iBooks app or the increasingly cluttered Google interface (though I think that the latter is perhaps a tad unfair, given their recent up on design aesthetics).

Speaking of simplicity, back in 2010 Dmitry Fadeyev over at Usability Post noticed an occasional issues with sites: border-itis, or borders within borders. (I know that with my product design training I’ve been guilty of this one more than once). He also shows how to fix these designs.

[EDIT: I have a couple of other articles I should have mentioned. One is a piece in Strategy+Business magazine on the Value of Doing Less. And the other, which I can’t believe I forgot, is John Maeda’s ‘Laws of Simplicity’. Which, of course, became a TED talk.