Monday, October 17, 2005

Compelled to Complicate

There is a bit of a paradox in the successful design of engaging objects. Make them simple, and they are easy to understand and approach: graspable (quite literally). But put a simple object in the hands of a creative person and bang! - the object yearns to become complex. Our heads fill with thoughts like "how else could I use this?", "What more can I do with this?", "What seems to be missing that will make this whole?" We often seem compelled to accessorize the simple.

Take software (no really, take it). Somewhere along the line between initial concept and version 7.0, most software becomes impossibly feature rich and unwieldy. Creators appear almost required to add endless (and mostly unused) features. The paradox lies in the fact that in their aim to please, developers add "missing" bits that somehow make the software less engaging, not more. Perhaps we should take Nicholas Negroponte's suggestion and " programmers to remove code from sofware instead of writing new code. Then software might be a whole lot better."

For an object to engage us, it must be simple enough to hook us with its core message. The primary colors of Play Doh say "sculpt me" while the familiarity of a paperback says "read me." The problem may lie in what we then do in our desire to discover. Perhaps we should realize that these explorations in morphing Play Doh and critiquing books is but the first stage of constructive play – it’s place is to interact with the world, self-educate, engage, and lead us to a new place where we eventually (perhaps) then feel compelled to simplify.


Blogger Perspective said...

less is a competitive advantage.... some intriguing things going on in the above by a team of software developers over at 37signals.

10:13 PM  

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