Simplicity is the watchword of the day, and it's popping up everywhere from advertising to focus groups to corporate mission statements. But we don't want to give up our freedom to choose -- we want options, we want products and services that fit our individual circumstances. All those choices give us the antithesis of simplicity: they give us complexity.
So how do we get simplicity without giving up choice? We need simplicity and complexity together, we need simple complexity. What we want is SIMPLEXITY.
The Complexity Issue
People are overwhelmed by the complexity of every day life. We are drowning in choice. Just look at the people standing in any aisle of your local grocery store, you will see them going tharn as they try to choose between offerings that are close, but not the same.
We are also drowning in information, and there's more every day. Trying to keep up has become a challenge of mythic proportions.
As electronic components have become cheaper, many products have become bloated with features. Do the features add value? Maybe, maybe not. But they definitely add complexity.
The New Simplicity is Simplexity
We can't just take away all the features. The new simplicity takes complexity and adds design and usability to make things that work better for us.
The Google home page is the flag carrier for Simplexity. Marissa Mayer at Google, described by Fast Company as the "high priestess of simplicity", describes Google's home page this way:
"Google has the functionality of a really complicated Swiss Army knife, but the home page is our way of approaching it closed. It's simple, it's elegant, you can slip it in your pocket, but it's got the great doodad when you need it. A lot of our competitors are like a Swiss Army knife open--and that can be intimidating and occasionally harmful."
"All too often we have seen innovation driven by technology for technology's sake...whereas simplicity should be at the heart of the consumer experience. Our research results and consumer insights suggest the public is, in fact, tired. Tired of not being able to record a program on TV...tired of spending hours reading an instruction manual...tired of complexity for its own sake..."
Philips is looking for simplicity through design:
"You may still strive for very advanced solutions, as long as you reduce the effort required to operate them. Or if you have very basic, single-function products, the challenge is to enhance the experience associated with these products."
Apple, of course, has had this in their DNA since the beginning. And the i-Pod products are the essence of beautifully simple and yet highly functional, easy to use devices.
Contrast the multitude of buttons and adjustments possible on a typical home music component system with the Bose Wave system. All controls are on the credit-card sized remote. Very few adjustments are actually possible, because the system makes most of them automatically. Just take it out of the box and plug it in.
Good design is at the heart of the Simplexity solution. Design is about taking what is possible and creating what is good and right and easy and beautiful.
If you want to find ways to differentiate yourself to your customers, start looking for ways to bring powerful functionality to them in a very simple package. And let your customers save their grey cells for truly intractable complexity like world peace.
Simplexity is actually a term used in the mathematics of complexity theory. I am hijacking it for the Marketing and Customer Experience world. Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart, authors of The Collapse of Chaos: Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World, came up with the term in this context.