Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Simplicity Misunderstood !

Human thinking is complex... and our brain deals with dynamic, non-linear, multi-dimensional problems everyday. For example, people easily drive on extremely chaotic asian streets, simultaneously appreciating the pretty views around (u know what I mean..), while engaged in a heavy political conversation with another in the car… There is no question human brain is capable… but the question is… why we developers wet our pants when it comes to complexity in user interfaces we create??

Here is my take on it:
People hate 'perceived complexity' 
but love 'power for complexity' !
I know, that statement needs explanation! Here we go... 

Lets take Business Applications. Business applications deal with power/heavy users… and for power users, power to perform complex operations is mandatory. Give them a tool that restricts behavior/imaginations, and usage will just fall off... Need a proof? who thinks Excel is simple? despite criticism, it is still the most valued tool after all..

Ok, now.. What is the difference between 'perceived complexity' and 'power for complexity'? See below screen for a casestudy:



















Problem with above interface is that it's just 'static, linear, single-diminutional' and people perceive it as complex… As per my view, the secret of creating user interfaces which are not perceived as complex, but with 'power for complexity' is hidden in three attributes, the exact ones I mentioned in the first sentence of the post!

  • Make the interface dynamic: By dynamic, I mean the sensitivity of the user state and context. Make the UI relevant to the user by understanding the state of the user and operating environment of the user proactively. Dynamic interfaces help taking most of the perceived complexity away from data oriented screens. See how smart LinkedIn in getting users to complete their CVs... That is a great use of social aspects too. Mobile adaption and new HTML5 capabilities helps web applications here a lot.

  • Make the interactions nonlinear: linear interfaces are navigation centric whereas nonlinear interfaces content centric. Paging and form based traditional UIs are examples for navigation centric UIs. Most of the modern single paged UIs are content centric and present users with relevant content at right time at right place without users performing navigation.

  • Serve with multidimensional content: My favorite .. Multidimensional behavior opens limitless opportunities for rich user interactions. Users are free for imaginations and are helped to best use the brain for creativity. Facet analysis based 'advanced search' interfaces are a good example for this. Multidimensional interfaces can even gamify complex operations and make the users to enjoy use of their brain while better achieving business objectives.

What do you think? Do you have any addition to the above list?

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