The Gift of Simplicity

“Nature is pleased with simplicity. And nature is no dummy.” Isaac Newton

During a marathon session of gift wrapping (which I survived without paper cuts, a holiday miracle) it occurred to me that most gifts are easy to wrap and unwrap, but some are darn difficult to unpackage.

A baby blanket had ten – 10 !! – of those little plastic fasteners in the folds. Those annoying small ones that require hunting down nail scissors to snip them off because regular scissors are too large. And don’t get me started on men’s dress shirts and pins. Unnecessary complexity (and risk of injury). As a consumer, I want to access the product with a minimum of fuss. While I understand wanting to display items like blankets and shirts attractively, this could be done with less waste of plastic and steel.

A positive customer experience requires simplicity. Take cars. Why does it require a PhD and five pages in the owner’s manual to explain how the windshield wiper controls work? Why are there so many speeds? Seriously, intermittent, low, medium, fast are all that’s needed. Options are good, but I don’t want to think too much about windshield wiper speed when it is raining buckets.

Companies think carefully before making changes to long-standing interfaces. Grocery stores who reconfigure their aisles are irritating. But sometimes change can have serious unintended consequences.  Recently it was reported that new rotary-style shifters resulted in driver confusion as to whether the car is in park, resulting in serious safety issues. I’m envisioning an engineer some years back thinking “well, everyone understands dials and that P means park.” But what’s the benefit to the driver, who for years has been used to a column/stick-type control being down to their right?

It’s hard to design technology. It took five years to design the iPhone. It took exponentially longer for an effective wheel design (wheels were around for thousands of years before the axel vastly increased its usefulness).

Engineers, designers, testers – make products easy to access, balance options with pragmatism, and consider change to long standing features carefully. Keep it simple … (you know the rest).

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Albert Einstein

Worth considering:

Simplicity and elegance in design can be learned from both vintage and new materials. Consider the infographic depicting Napoleon’s attempted invasion of Russia. The devastating impact of this decision can be seen almost immediately. A more contemporary example is this infographic included in this article on post-Thanksgiving shopping.

Moving to the cloud means IT security professionals have a lot of questions for vendors. This post points out questions IT organizations should ask themselves. One favorite is “Are we certain that the move to the cloud always introduces additional net risk?”

The Tile Mate, a little device that can attach to keys, slip in wallets, seems like the perfect tech gift to me. Simple!

In case anyone is wondering, my favorite Christmas move is “Christmas Vacation.” Favorite line: “I couldn’t be more surprised if I woke up tomorrow morning with my head sewn to the carpet.” Happy Holidays to all who read this, and best wishes for a fun-filled, productive and healthy 2017.

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