Simplicity Is Not Just for Sewing Patterns


There used to be job security in system complexity. Now, if you are the person who can simplify the system, you are queen of the world. Today, information flows faster and faster, and it needs to.

math   I recall when my third-grade math teacher told us all, “You won’t always have a calculator at your fingertips, so you will need to learn how to figure out percentages in your head.” Oh, she was a sweetie, that Miss Thompson, but I whip out my iPhone to figure out the tip at the restaurant every single time. And when I am shopping and it’s 30% off? You better believe, I reach in my pocket. So the simplifier rules the game.

It used to be that if the system was complex, it needed repairing, and that kept the repair team in a job. Remember the commercials for that poor, sad, bored Maytag guy? The ones sold a lot of washers and dryers based on reliability alone? In a faster-moving tech world, simply apply that principle to simplicity. No one wants to head to the manual, or call support. As the old saying goes, “Keep it simple, stupid.”

What does this mean, exactly?

The lines are blurring between content and structure, for one thing. The softening of the structured boundary between text, video, and image is an important distinction. Immediately, “manuals” are not “manuals” and reference guides online must seamlessly integrate video with rapid download times so that users can see a diagram followed by a 30-second to one-minute video showing a process, installation or example of how to use the tool or software. The days of scrolling down or clicking into a new window should go the way of the dinosaur. Our new design process should embrace the idea that a caption is not even necessary. Users can come on the journey with us, if we incorporate the right UX design principles into the mix.

The next step we have to embrace is a confluence between social media, mobile capture, and the cloud. Even in high-security systems, we are cloud banking, handling millions of transactions per minute on our phones, keeping virtual wallets, and more. Opening and closing our locks and homes with our keyless entry and embracing IOT. Our documentation systems can do the same thing just as seamlessly if we integrate social media quickly and we are smart. Why any lag time?

The coin we should be trading in now is simplicity, not complexity. To make these systems complex will leave us standing by the


side of the road, waiting for the bus, while the hyperloop passes by above us. The best and most effective CMS systems will be those that rapidly and transparently create single-source doc that makes use of some old-school cut and pasting, but brings it into digital asset management with rapid integration. So, whatever you do when you think about brining your doc into the new era, don’t listen to the tech dev guys who lean toward complex systems because their jobs have always depended upon it. Instead, lean forward to the intuitive systems folks and the cloud-dev UX designers. We are building better mousetraps. The kind that don’t reinvent the wheel in order to ensure that more wheels need to be built.

After all, I do indeed have that calculator in my pocket, Miss Thompson. I didn’t need to learn how to figure percentages. I just needed to embrace the technology 30- years ahead of us.