The Complexity of Simple UX Design
„A conceptual model is the underlying belief structure held by a person about how something works.“
Simplicity is not about minimalism.
We tame complexity not just by decreasing features. The main task is understanding. Things we understand are no longer complicated, no longer confusing. In the best case we design something that is based on a simple conceptual model. A model that makes sure that initial learning as well as repeated usage are great.
Don Norman again:
„Simplicity is a mental state, highly coupled with understanding. Something is perceived as simple when its actions, options, and appearance match the person’s conceptual model.“
What makes a normal UX to a super normal UX?
An example: Mailbox App
Why be normal?
Why is it successful to have a „normal“ in your UX? From a user perspective normal means comfort, means control. In the case of an email application, where handling emails is a crucial task in our daily lives, people are very averse to change, even if the app is superior. It would be too much effort and risk to change. Designing for „normal“ reduces complexity, especially cognitive complexity for the user. It reduces switching costs and makes onboarding for first time users very easy.
How to become super?
“The more classic you can make something, the longer it will last.”
– Paul Arden
The Design of Everyday Things – Don Norman
Living with Complexity – Don Norman
Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams
Super Normal: Sensation of the Ordinary – Jasper Morrison, Naoto Fukasawa
- Don Norman is a cognitive scientist and professor at Northwestern University. He’s also a cofounder of the usability consultancy Nielsen Norman Group. I highly recommend to read his books.
- It was just a few months later acquired by Dropbox. Even though later the development of the app was stopped by Dropbox, many of the innovative user flows were copied by other email clients.