December 20, 2006

Is Simplicity Overrated?

Fascinating column by Donald Norman about simplicity, design, and marketing. In Simplicity Is Highly Overrated, Norman argues that while people may say they want "simplicity" in their products (cars, washing machines, etc.), how they feel about products and what they're willing to pay for is a different story. He describes a Korean toaster: "It had complex controls, a motor to lower the untoasted bread and to lift it when finished, and an LCD panel with many cryptic icons, graphs, and numbers" for $250! Why? "Make it simple and people won’t buy. Given a choice, they will take the item that does more. Features win over simplicity, even when people realize that it is accompanied by more complexity."

Found this article via the Dec. 2006 issue of Current Cites, where reviewer Leo Robert Klein argues that "it's hard to say what impact this approach should have on design decisions, particularly on the Web. We're not buying products for ourselves after all but making them for others. If features in this context were so attractive, then 'Advanced Search' would be the first stop of even our most neophyte users."


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