Skip to main content

Thoughts on "Simple is Better"

Simple user interfaces are catching on. Sparse user interfaces generally make for products that are easier to use. The main Google search page is a model of simplicity, and it is one of the most visited pages on the web. It is almost difficult to do anything but search when you visit the page. But the simplicity of Google's search page is likely something that has been under constant attack.

Usability trades off against features. Forces within Google are no doubt constantly pushing to add features to the search page. The temptation is great for two reasons:
  • Since the page is so popular, you can guarantee traffic for whatever link or feature you add to it. When Google releases a new product, think of how tempting it must be to add a blurb to the main search page urging visitors to check out the new product.
  • Google could implement more flexible and customizable searches if it included some options on the main search page.
Resisting this temptation is hard. Whoever is resisting it faces "death by increment" arguments: "I know simplicity is important, but don't be unreasonable! What could be the harm of adding just one new feature to the page?"

For this reason, it's helpful to define usability metrics up front. The metric might limit the amount of time it takes for a typical user to accomplish the most common and important tasks. Or it might measure the likelihood that a novice user will perform these tasks successfully when visiting the page. Each new feature Google adds to the page will tend to increase the amount of time and decrease the likelihood that a visitor will perform the most common and important searches successfully.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Spreadsheets Suck for Prioritizing

The Goal As a company executive, you want confidence that your product team (which includes all the people, from all departments, responsible for product success) has a sound basis for deciding which items are on the product roadmap. You also want confidence the team is prioritizing the items in a smart way. What Should We Prioritize? The items the team prioritizes could be features, user stories, epics, market problems, themes, or experiments. Melissa Perri  makes an excellent case for a " problem roadmap ", and, in general, I recommend focusing on the latter types of items. However, the topic of what types of items you should prioritize - and in what situations - is interesting and important but beyond the scope of this blog entry. A Sad but Familiar Story If there is significant controversy about priorities, then almost inevitably, a product manager or other member of the team decides to put together The Spreadsheet. I've done it. Some of the mos

Use Case as a Black Box

Consider the following use case: Purchase Items Actor: Purchaser Precondition: Purchaser types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40. Postcondition: For the average Purchaser acting at full efficiency, the number of seconds elapsed is no more than 30 + 20 * n, where n is the number of items purchased. The name of the use case represents a functional requirement. What does the product do, or enable the user to do? Purchase items. What are we to make of the preconditions and postconditions? What relationship do they have to the requirements for the product? Answer: the preconditions and postconditions are the nonfunctional requirements attached to the functional requirement . Another way of expressing the nonfunctional requirement would be as an attribute and associated constraint: Usability: For a Purchaser who types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40, it shall take no

Henry Ford's "Faster Horse" Quote

You may have heard the ( apocryphal ) Henry Ford quote: If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said "a faster horse". Over at the On Product Management blog , Saeed gives his take on this infamous quote. He "hates" it, and gives some compelling reasons. Saeed is spot on in his explanations. Personally, I think the quote is great, but it's a matter of interpretation. The valid point of the quote is not that it's a bad idea to facilitate a conversation with your market to better understand it. The valid points are: You must ask the right questions to get valuable answers. You must interpret the answers thoughtfully - often outside their direct meaning - to glean reliable information. Asking questions is not always the best way to "listen" to your market. (E.g., sometimes pure observational studies are more reliable.) Nonetheless, I find the quote is helpful to combat "armchair product management" in the