Why you Should Always Strive for Simplicity

If you ever happen to look into some awarded websites that are highly praised for their design and smooth aesthetics, you will be heavily surprised. While some of them do achieve some artistic end that is pleasurable to the eye and they manage to combine information with a good presentation of information, most of them are unfitting and awkward in their presence and they fail to deliver on the thing that really matters to the user.

They may combine interesting colors and have original ideas about the site widgets and the UI, but they miss one of the most important rules they were supposed to follow. They downplay the data. They create structures and boxes of colors but they forget to put a strong contrast before the background and the letters to make it easier for the users to read. They have yellow cards in the sidebar shackling when you hover that the content inside them seems more like an ad itself rather than genuine site content.

Before I got introduced to them and see how they look with my own eyes, I had a very close friend that was sort of obsessed with them. He was a designer for many years and he would always find inspiration from these, top-of-the-crop works of art. I never had any reason to question his judgment of course and I always thought that he was finding some advanced concepts at play like those that expand a field with new elements and go into hyperboles just to reach beyond their limitations.

But one day I did pay a visit and I was struck by their convoluted nature. I realized at that moment that the audience of these sites was split and there were two parties that were looking at it, each from its own perspective.

On one hand, where the actual users that wanted to visit a site to get some information. And on the other hand, there were the designers that were looking for a way to expand their consciousness and reach new levels of understanding for their craft. If you were in the first group you would mostly be happy with the information at hand. You would scarcely even bother to observe the style and the colors and you would get straight in for what really mattered to you.

But from the designer’s point of view, they look at it with their own professional eyes and the information in it looks more like another paragraph of “Lorem ipsum” independently of the actual content. The website is like a miniature painting and they are going to concentrate on how much cohesion it has visually and what tone it exempts more than anything else.

When iPhone came out it took the world by the storm. Every new feature they added was copied and replicated across all other firms and it wasn’t long before it influenced the lives of a whole generation.

We all know about apple’s obsession with design and how diligent Steve Jobs was in finding that perfect outlook he was always looking for. Even till the end, he would still remember that class in calligraphy he had taken in his student years and he would speak about how heavily it influenced him later on in his path.

Yet what you will find at iPhone’s core principles is not a tendency to decorate the phone with more stuff, trying to make it more impressive but to remove them to the bare minimum, and make it as simple as possible. For one thing, the whole design of it is straight forwards and made with simple lines and shapes. As you use it you will find that all its functions were created with the user in mind and were abiding by the rule of “every function should be reachable in three touches” just to make it as easy for them as possible.

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” ― Steve Jobs

Job constantly emphasized the need for Apple to bring simplicity back to their products and that they should concentrate on making it easier in their use. As he once said, “the main thing in our design is that we have to make things intuitively obvious”.

Striving for simplicity means that you strive for the things that matter and every complexity will be added on top of it only if needed. A footballer that can make complicated tricks with the ball means nothing if he employees them for style at the wrong time. He will probably lose time and energy on the things that don’t matter and he will get lost in his attempt to impress others when a simple pass would achieve the same exact goal.

A writer that is using intricate, complex words and is concentrated in the way he is perceived more than passing his message to the reader, is going to lose the audience who is gonna exhale deeply while reading his piece and going to abandon it for making things harder that they have to be.

If you take a close look at the best writers like Fitzgerald or Hemingway, you will realize one thing they all have in common. They care more about telling the actual story than ‘crafting’ it in a certain way per se. It is a subtle difference but you go through their novels and you get the sense that they speak to the reader with the same excitement that they would speak to their friends in real-time where they would simply replicate a story for them.

A story is not about saying ‘fallacious’ instead of ‘being wrong’ or saying ‘tumultuous’ instead of loud. Each word can have its subtle nuance and place in the whole scheme of things but unless it comes from a genuine place and is meant to accentuate a nuance that is not possible to pass otherwise, chances are that the reader is gonna realize what you are doing and will decide to spend his time with something else.

William Zinsser writes in his book “On writing well”,

“Clutter is a laborious phrase that has pushed out the short word that means the same thing. Even before John Dean, people and businesses had stopped saying ‘now’. They were saying currently (“all our operators are currently assisting other customers”), or “at the present time”, or “presently” (which means “soon”). Yet the idea can always be expressed by “now” to mean the immediate moment.”

There is no question that simpler is always better and that people should never forget the core directive of their craft. Striving for simplicity is an extraordinarily complex task and will always pose trouble in the course to get there. Getting something to its simplest form actually takes the most work of all.

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