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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Joel and Norman Totally Miss the Point on Simplicity

Norman wrote a overgeneralized post about the vices of simplicity to which Joel responded. Both of them have the premise that the most important part of simplicity is features. Joel even goes on about how everyone comments how simple the iPod design is, yet Joel tells us that is just aesthetics, as if aesthetics doesn't sell.

Simplicity is not how many features your product has, simplicity is an idea that can be applied to all parts of a product.

The user interface, the value proposition, the target audience, the infrastructure, the way its components interact, the default preferences, the way in which you change preferences, the way in which you communicate upgrades, the way the product interacts with other products, the api, the manner in which you pay for the product. This list can keep going, these are only a few examples.

Joel and Norman claim that complexity is better to strive for than simplicity, but I think that they are making too broad of a statement. Does anybody really think that the user interface should be more complex than needed? That the target audience be an amorphous void? Their main point seems to be that more features are always better than fewer, however, even that is an over-generalization.

In a startup environment for example, if you strive for more features instead of fewer, that could mean your startup fails to launch and without a product you have nothing. Beware of this over-general advice, these people like to write inflamatory un-predicated articles with no thought to the repercussions.

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