too complicated

Yup. The KISS method. It’s so overlooked and yet, so necessary these days. We live in a world where technology is advancing more quickly every day. And that’s great. But it also means we are surrounded by instruction manuals the size of phone books, and there are more things for us to break by accident.

The more advanced we get, the steeper the learning curve.

Simplicity = success

When it comes to creating a successful website it’s all about function. You could have the best product ever, but if people can’t figure out how to read about it they won’t give a damn. Look at two of the most widely used websites on the planet: Google and Facebook. Both are very clean and there is a TON of empty space (sadly that’s slowly filling up). The user experience is easy for the basic functionality of search for something (Google) or creating a profile and posting content (Facebook). And they are huge successes.

MySpace is another great example. It was the most popular social network at one point in time. Then the user experience became a cluttered, Flash-filled mess that caused headaches to use. A social network of 400+ million tanked. Then it got revamped. The new layout is sleek, sexy and much easier to use. They are stressing simplicity. And it’s become an art gallery for the individual to display themselves. Admittedly I don’t use it much at all, but that’s not a knock against MySpace. I simply don’t have the time or content to add another social network to my daily routine, but I know plenty of people do, and will use MySpace to its full extent.

Don’t rush just to get your product out there

It’s tempting to rush to get your product to market. The opportunity to make money is always the most lucrative…at first. But if you release a faulty product that is difficult to learn how to use, or the experience is complicated and not fluid, it may really hurt you in the long run. First impressions are important and that includes you. Would you rather push a product to market when it’s functional, but not close to perfect, and get bad reviews or ruin the first impression users get when trying it out? Of course not. Don’t be afraid to spend the extra time to make the experience as easy as possible for new users. Those users will become your biggest advocates once they know they have a great product in hand. That will be immensely more valuable to you in the long wrong.

What “state” are users in when using your product?

When using your product, what is a consumer going to be doing? Make sure to put yourself directly in their shoes, if possible, when designing the product. It’s easy to design something in a lab that seems easy to use when you are creating it. But if you’re in a stressful situation trying to use the product, or time is of the essence, will the average consumer be able to have the same experience? Probably not. If you’re designing a shopping app, think about how easy your app is to use when one hand is filled with shopping bags. Are you a camera company? Make sure you can fire up the camera and take a photo in a split second and get a clear photo for those once-in-a-lifetime moments that are unexpected.

The problem with this is that products are often given to focus groups to try out on site, or surveys are given out. If I’m a consumer who is in a quiet, calm setting I’ll probably be able to figure out the instruction manual pretty easily while filling out your user-experience survey. When I’m home and have a crying baby in the room, or I’m running late and I can’t figure out how to work the navigation system in my car I’m probably not going to be calm or focused. Make it easy for me to figure out in any state of mind I might be in.

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Remember: users are your lifeblood. You don’t have a business without people using your product. Empathize with them and create an experience they don’t have to think about while having it. That’s the best experience possible.