NEW YORK–Technology is rapidly changing our world. There’s IoT, new software development and big data platforms for both commercial and consumer applications and as it so happens, it become an exercise in complexity management.
Last October 19, The NY Technology Council hosted a discussion of the cognitive science behind complexity in all the products designed today hand in hand with technology at LMHQ in lower Manhattan.
Bonnie E. John, Ph.D. , a leading expert in techniques to improve the design and implementation of computer systems with respect to their usefulness and usability, introduced Dan Ward, noted authority on product development complexity as the main presenter.
Ward is the author of numerous publications on the topic of complexity, including his most recent book “The Simplicity Cycle: A Field Guide To Making Things Better Without Making Them Worse.”
Ward talked about his book, a field guide that equips readers with practical tools to produce elegant, effective designs. It takes a deep but lighthearted look at the way complexity enhances or diminishes the things we make and use, from PowerPoint presentations and pizzas to spacecraft and software, and shows readers why simplicity is the key to innovation and good design—whether you’re creating new products, services, or consumer experiences.
Ward said he was inspired to write the book when someone told him, “I don’t care how good it is. If isn’t easy to use, I don’t want it.” He challenged how we think about what seems good but actually confusing. In a computer, he asks, what is the difference between sleep and hibernate. “Perhaps what we need is a nap button,” he teased.
Ward makes use of the Y and X axis for his Simplicity Cycle–the Y axis for complexity—interconnected parts; X axis for goodness—it might mean clarity but also, depending on context.
He stressed, though, how today’s breakthrough can be tomorrow’s commodity. “Time can decrease goodness.”
Ward challenged previous assumptions with the following insights:
Simplicity is not the point. Balance complexity and goodness towards simplicity
Limiting our ability to learn with the KISS concept. Make it MISS, make it simple and you know the word that follows that.
Good design is just bad design redesigned
John, who works at Bloomberg, left us with some food for thought, especially what designers can do:
- Understand the task
- Make useful simplifying assumptions
- All users are part of the designed system
- Training is just as much a design problem as
- UI or software
- Learning is not just a one-time occurrence
- Optimize representations/mappings
- Resist giving too much choice to the user