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The weird and difficult intersection of marketing and design - Journal of Omnifarious

Dec. 27th, 2007

04:50 pm - The weird and difficult intersection of marketing and design

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Simplicity is highly overrated according to the author of one of my favorite books on user interface design " The Design of Everyday Things".

Basically, the gist of the article is that apparent complexity is how people judge how powerful a device is. If you want people to believe that you have a spectacular newfangled appliance that does all kinds of neat, useful stuff it had better have tons of knobs and displays to prove it.

Of course, when people get the thing home they are then baffled by it all and complain bitterly about how hard the thing is to use. So one strategy would be to make the apparent complexity an illusion so that people will perceive your product in a positive light while still finding it reasonably simple to use once they get it home.

That's a really hard set of factors to balance though, and it makes me wonder about how the disconnect between appearance and reality will be handled. Will people see through a product that falsely advertises complexity while actually being a poor, low-quality product that doesn't really do anything fancy?

Current Mood: [mood icon] confused
Current Music: Delerium - Extollere


[User Picture]
Date:December 28th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
I'm very fond of Don Norman, thanks for pointing that article out.

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Date:December 28th, 2007 02:54 am (UTC)
A couple of projects I've worked on at work have had that problem (the problem Don Norman is talking about, which is the reverse of the problem you mention). We worked very hard to make as much functionality as possible easily accessible from a simple UI. It should unobtrusively do what you want and get out of your way, right? And people who used it liked it. But people would open up a demo or a bundled copy and be presented with, basically, a blank slate and no good idea what could be done with the program. We eventually added a walkthrough document that would pop up if you hadn't run that version of the program before.
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[User Picture]
Date:December 28th, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
many very complex activites produce nearly no evidence of their coplexity to the user. Things like good animation, a good DJ, many many complex systems that simply work. Users only notice when they stop working and try to fix the thing how complicated it is. Thus, excellence suffers from invisibility and under-appreciation much of the time.

How about a sleek exterior design with simplicity, flipped open to a bunch of knobs that allow you to screw up the settings. Display it open with knobs showing on the floor, but advise that they keep it closed and only use the on/off once they get it home. Smart users will be irritated by false controls.
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[User Picture]
Date:December 29th, 2007 05:27 am (UTC)
A company (I believe it was elecrolux) made an exceptionally quiet yet very powerful vacuum once which failed. No one would believe that such a quiet machine was actually doing the job. The made the motor louder and *viola* it sold quite well.
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