5 Guidelines to Leveraging the Benefits of Simplicity

Posted by Lauren Ford on Oct 23, 2013 6:19:03 AM
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Everyone strives to keep things simple, and people have come to expect it. Take a look at the apps on your smartphone. Did any come with a user guide? Technical documentation? Instructional video? No, most don’t – and we prefer it that way. Typically users download an app and immediately begin using it, learning as they go. The simpler an idea, service, or product is, the more people are willing to try it.

But maintaining simplicity often becomes very difficult when our basic human nature is to over-complicate. Anyone can use the hottest buzz-words or create complex infographics, yet providing consumers with a simple and thorough understanding will eliminate misperceptions. Here at Square 9, we’ve seen simplicity rule as a competitive advantage in software design, but “keeping it simple” also applies to the many aspects of running a business. The following guidelines can help any business gain a competitive edge through the influence of simplicity.

Balance Convention over Configuration

To avoid letting complexity take over, the key is to properly balance flexibility with ease of use. Things typically start off simple until complexity eventually slips in. Unfortunately (and ironically) adding complexity is easy, but maintaining simplicity is hard. Complexity easily gains traction, and snowballs into larger issues. This is usually because intricacy is unrecognizably created and therefore never changed. So how do we avoid getting complicated? Many companies take the approach of “convention over configuration” which in some cases, may offer less flexibility to provide the best practices for users. This fixed method delivers a “one-way street” which the user cannot deviate from. Therefore there is no other choice than to take the simple solution to accomplish the intended goal.

Streamline Decision-Making Through Marketing

In today’s world, it is not unrealistic to assume that consumers are overwhelmed by the amount of choices, products and information they’re exposed to. But to gain that competitive edge, marketers should encourage audience engagement and grasp significant data in purchasing experiences, reviews, likes and dislikes, etc. Effective marketing can use this information to appeal to consumers. Make purchasing decisions simple by targeting “wants” to inspire repeat sales. Confidently and efficiently navigate your audience to their purchase options. Decision simplicity drives the likelihood of a purchase, future repeat purchases, and recommendations. Provide trustworthy information to streamline and simplify buying decisions.

Lead "Simply" by Example

We often dupe ourselves into overthinking, overanalyzing, and overcomplicating the facts. In business, complexity is created by the decisions and behaviors of people. The role of a leader is crucial in order to set clear, and simple strategies in representing a company. Leaders create order internally through simple rules so that important issues can be tackled first. Making the complex clear encourages employees to work smarter. A win-win scenario, providing an end-to-end simple solution leaves executives, developers, and technical managers with fewer crucial decisions in development and fewer concerns from users. Yet, it is important to avoid treating complex issues as if they were much simpler. When a severe problem arises you must approach it by any means needed to solve it. However, providing simplicity from the start will avoid the creation of complex issues all together.

Limit Instruction without Losing Intelligence

Because of its flexibility and tremendous capabilities, business software faces many challenges that smartphone applications do not. People don’t want to read any manuals or technical guides; they want to install the software and figure it out with little or no training. Consumers still expect a level of individuality and grow disenchanted when forced to conform. Thus, when applications are simple enough for questions to answer themselves, then the concept of simplicity is in full effect. But to be simply successful, do not confuse “keeping it simple” with “dumbing it down.” Your audience can recognize the difference, and the last thing a customer wants is to feel talked down to. Dumbing down content will not influence people. You will be ineffective if you are too simple, so in order to gain consumer interest you must incorporate functionality with simplicity.

Simplify Content and Design

In software design, we use terms like “intuitive” and “user-friendly” but are these terms truly signifying simplicity? Most computer systems work best if they are kept simple and avoid unnecessary complexity. It is easy to get carried away programming complex code, yet it is important to note that increases to a system’s intricacy amplifies difficulty in maintaining it. Overcomplicating software design could turn consumers away through unneeded features and over-engineering. It generally is harder to debug programs than it is to write them, so use thoughtful reduction to simplify functionality. Impress consumers, don’t overwhelm them with confusing complexity. By keeping a system simple, you are capitalizing on its ease of use.

Simplicity is a competitive advantage, but remaining simple involves strategy. Apple’s iPhone continues to stand as the leading smartphone manufacturer. Eliminating volume controls it has two external buttons. My Samsung Galaxy has four. Creating simple products and associated campaigns will help your organization stand above the competition by avoiding losses in effectiveness due to over-complication. Keeping technical materials short may be harder to create, but they will be much easier for users to understand and execute in the long run. Bring in customers and build a sterling reputation by staying simple through effective messaging and stress-free functionality.

Topics: Marketing, Document Management Software, End User Experience, Enterprise Content Management