Simplicity is a good thing, says John Maede, a professor at the MIT Media Lab.
“The Laws of Simplicity” presents ten rules and three axioms on how to achieve simplicity:
1. REDUCE everything when possible; use the process of SHE (Shrink, Hide, Embody)
- Shrink – have more functionality in smaller form-factors
- Hide – subsume secondary functionality in larger categories (e.g., navigation menus )
- Embody – imbue item with a feeling of value and quality despite simplicity (e.g., a Bang & Olufsen remote control is very simple but also very heavy)
2. ORGANIZE things into categories makes more thins appear to be fewer – this coincides with the “Hide” above
3. TIME – saving time makes things simpler. Why? because there’s less happening
4. LEARN – the more you know about something, the simpler it appears.
5. DIFFERENCES – Contrast makes things look simpler
6. CONTEXT – focus isn’t always a good thing; carefully consider what might appear peripheral to see how it can create CONTRAST
7. EMOTION – sometimes emotion dictates adding more (versus REDUCE). Ornamental components can be a good thing.
8. TRUST – Trust leads to simplicity
9. FAILURE – some things will defy all attempts at simplification
10. SUBTRACT THE OBVIOUS, ADD THE MEANINGFUL
Some of the “Laws” aren’t laws that lead to simplicity; some laws are contradictory; others are redundant. Here’s how I would reformulate them:
1. ORGANIZE AND SUBORDINATE – structured information is easier to digest than unstructured data; secondary functionality should be hidden behind larger categories
2. REMOVE unnecessary or nonessential elements. Once you’ve done that, wait a day and then REMOVE some more
3. SHRINK AND CLARIFY remaining elements until they are intuitive; summarize; take out distracting details
4. LIMIT DEPTH – remove elements that are too “deep” into hierarchies/categories, since no one will ever find them and they will just add confusion