We Admire Complexity, But Value Simplicity
When you open a new tab to search on Google, what are the first two things your eyes are drawn to? The Google logo and the search bar, right? You see their brand and you see their purpose. Simple.
This design decision is one of the reasons Google was able to outbeat their competitors (although Google’s success cannot be pinned to the design alone). They stuck with one purpose — to be the best search engine — and so visitors came to their website to do just that: search. No frills or distractions.
Now, it’s true that we want to build complex tools that are flexible and can handle whatever the user throws at them, but we don’t want to overwhelm them.
A user needs to see that a tool is flexible, not complex.
My job as a designer is to hide the complexity but still show the value of a tool. One of my favorite methods of doing this is by showing only a few questions at a time during the onboarding process. At that point, you’re trying to figure out what the user wants to do and mold the tool to fit their needs. Let’s look at a few examples.
You like doing your taxes, right? Yeah no, me neither. My taxes were much more complicated to do this year. Since I started dabbling in cryptocurrency trading last year, I had to report this to the government. However, the process of reporting wasn’t clear and everyone on the internet was in a fury trying to figure out what they’re supposed to do. I was in the same boat, so I decided to use tax preparation software. I used TurboTax for the first time, and boy did I love their onboarding process (and no, this is not sponsored).
Some were obvious questions, like your name and date of birth. But when it got to more complicated questions, like Did you receive any interest income, they would break down the meaning of the question and, if you did receive interest income, guide you through the process of reporting it. Everything was shown step-by-step, little-by-little, to keep me from losing my freakin’ mind. They knew that I, as a user, would be stressed out doing my taxes, but they made it feel like I was filling out a fun quiz on Buzzfeed rather than filling out a government form. They gamified the experience and made it simple.
Apartment searching can be exhausting. As someone who’s moved around a lot, I understand the physical and mental stress associated with moving. That’s why I appreciated using a website called Apartment List. Similar to TurboTax, Apartment List fed me only one prompt at a time. Select how many bedrooms you want. Easy. Where do you work or go to school? I got this. What are you looking to pay? I answered a bit high for that one just to have fun and see what’s out there. And that’s the thing — they turned it into something simple and fun. That’s exactly how a product should be designed.
I admit, I like to watch behind the scenes on how complex things are made. Whether it’s how a movie is produced or how a painting is made, I admire the creators and their process for sure. But if an app or website keeps me confused for over a minute, I’m out.
Well, what can I say — our expectations are high in 2018.