Simplicity vs Capability

Jan 13, 2021
It's not always either/or - but usually it is. What are your needs?

We talked about the beauty of simplicity in design and the methodology of “less is more.” Each person will have the different point of view about if they want to have an application that is simple with basic actions, or an application that display all functions to show off how feature-rich it is.

Start with the basic function

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Firstly, define most basic function of the application that you are developing. If it is a checklist application, the most basic function is create a todo, then mark it as done when you finish it. Within one or two actions, the user need is satisfied and user is happy. A simple UX will offer plenty of white space and lots of space to breathe on design. The clarity of the text and focus will not be disturbed by many choices.

Some good example of this style is Notes app of Apple, or AirMail by Bloop SRL.

When Your App is Mature

Usability will be harder to maintain when your app grows. Factors from business are unavoidable. From version to version, there will be more change requests by stakeholders, marketers and of course from important end-users.

There will be more UX interviews made, and more metrics to consider that will impact the UI of the application. There will be buttons everywhere on the UI or some functions need to be accessible with one click, etc. are common problems that UX Designers will need to handle to keep the simplicity of the original design.

Facebook Mobile platform is a good example of dramatic changes over time of using it. The app has frequent updates and major design changes. Now the bottom bar needs to have “More" buttons to handle all the views and when they have new a feature, Facebook need to add a new view.

Simplicity vs Usability 

Losing simplicity is a trade off if you are adding more capabilities to the product. Some risks should be considered:

  • Maintenance: is it easy to maintain? will this change affect other functionalities?
  • Usability: will this feature change UI too much that users have to learn the app again?
  • Performance: will it slow down the app when there are many thread that need to be processed at once?
  • Decoration: is this change for decoration or it will bring value?

If we cannot keep the stability of the app, we take Facebook case and how they handled this. Facebook was originally a social network application. They now have many other products that focus specific functions of the app to compete with specific competitor. In some cases they compete with themselves! (Witness Instagram stories and FB stories).

Segmented products: FB Messenger vs SnapchatSpecific and Separated views/modes: FB video view and Livestream to compete with Youtube

To have a simple app that everyone loves is already a success - but beware of the risks when the app becomes mature. Avoiding a simple app to become a feature-creep product is also a mission for the UX designer. To be ready with all the changes, UX designers should take all the metrics and analytics they can collect to make the right decision on creating a usable product. Usability is all that matters.