The best product is a simple product

Describe me the table you’re sitting at. If you do not have a table, then explain me what kind stool/chair/bed/floor you are sitting on.

It’s rather rare sight to see a complex product to sell. This goes across the mediums and industries, and simplicity is one Silver Bullet for guaranteed success. It make my head boggle that many different industries and people who work there can’t figure this out. Do note that simplicity does not mean dumbed down or lack of depth. Otherwise PS3 would still sell like no tomorrow.

When you look around you where ever you walk, you’ll see that tables and chairs there are simple. Some of them might have a function, but they’re simple and design and easy to use. Well, how can a chair be hard to use, you ask?

You may call the chair above a design chair, and while a lot of these kind of things are called that, they’re really art chairs. They’re chairs that somebody wanted to make to please their own curiosity. There’s a commercial that says “If it works, it’s design” and I couldn’t disagree more.

The reason this kind of chair is the most common is that it’s simple. A product that is complex to explain is also complex to use, and complexity in chairs is a minus. Chairs in general have been designed and designed and designed to death. Personally I have wants or wishes to design another chair ever, even if the people in the industry see a great chair design as some sort of Golden Calf. In all actuality, people do not need new chair designs at this point of era, and no revolutionary design will pop up… unless we are able to space travel, where different kind of thinking is required.

The same mindset can and should be applied to tables.

Simplicity in film industry is something different. My Fair Lady is a simple film, but that’s not the only reason it’s so well revered. It’s a combination of the actors and the story, but the story’s quite simple actually. A lot can also be attributed to Hepburn, but this may be my inner fan screaming through what I’d like to think as objectivity. Bay’s Transformers were simple, but for all the wrong reasons. While My Fair Lady has layers and depth, the Transformers trilogy has no layers or depth. The comparison is brutal and is like apples and oranges, but it applies. In same way yo can compare Super Mario Bros. to whatever modern 3D game you choose and make the comparison; the simplicity of Super Mario Bros. was simple and yet still played, whereas eg. nobody plays Gears of War any more, and it had no staying power.

Music industry is something that I really shouldn’t get into, but I’ll give my two cents nevertheless. Without simplicity the music industry would be filled with cacophony. While certain pieces do make the cacophony sound pleasing or exciting, but if we take Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean as an example, we hear that the song is simple, but it has depth and layers, but in a different manner to films.

Making a simple product is anything but simple and easy. Achieving simplicity takes research and work both inside and outside the given field. A good golden rule is if the product is difficult to describe, then the product is difficult to use. A good service is never difficult to use and aims direct simplicity. A friend of mine had this idea of a service, where certain group of people would arrange parties, meetings etc for customers according to their wishes. The simplicity in this is that the customer merely needs to call in or meet with him and create a request what kind of event he wants. All the rest are up to my friend. The customer is now free from the stress of putting up the event and can concentrate on the people who would attend the event. My friend then again would arrange everything as requested, and making some money while he’s at it.

Service in general should always be simple for the customer. It’s the service provider who has more difficulties and challenges to overcome. A bad design in any product (be it service or material product) will always make things more complex. What the customer uses might seem simple to him, but behind the curtains the service done may be complex. Internet stores are really good example of this, as ordering is just few clicks away. The company then receives it, fetches your product from their storehouses, puts into a package and sends it to you. There’s numerous logistical things that they need to do between all this from simply putting up the website, designing it, having warehouse full of stock and getting that stock from somewhere etc. The customer is never supposed to see this, if all things are done right.

Any service design should aim for simplicity, and a designer who willingly aims for difficult use of his product is a moron.

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