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Book Summary: Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design

I like to read but sometimes I catch myself just reading and not contemplating the material. It´s a feeling of straight consumption where nothing really sticks. Trying to change that I thought the next book I read I will try to summarise some things from the book. My theory is that if you need to do something after reading it the content might stick with you longer.

The book I read was Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design.

Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design book cover Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design book cover

Summary

It starts with an explanation about what the authors perspective on simplicity is and why we need to strive for it in most cases. The power of simplicity, how unsustainable complexity is, it can´t be constructed after and that you need to know yourself/it before you can create something that are simple.

“In other words, you can be simple without being a minimalist. The character and personality should come from the medium you´re using, the brand you´re representing, and the task that users are undertaking.”

The next part concerns how to find what´s simple, and setting a vision. There are two ways; either write down a one-line description of what you are creating and some guidelines. This is for the quick and dirty solution for smaller problems. Second alternative are to describe the experience you want the users to have. You should go to where your users are. Design for the mainstream consumer. Understand the emotional needs. List each step the user will take and describe it as the user sees it.

“However, people are driven by an emotional need. Even with something as straightforward as a to-do list, they want to use the app for a reason.”

There are three levels that should be included in the description of the experience. A world (where and when), characters (who and why) and plot (what and how).

“Your design needs to fit comfortably into the complete story.”

The hardest thing is to take everything you have learned through your research and turn them into a deep understanding of the problem you´re trying to solve. And rushing to design before understanding the problem.

“Don´t rush into design. Understand what´s core takes time.”

The book then settles in to describe four main ways to simplify an experience

  • Remove
  • Organize
  • Hide
  • Displace

Remove

Don´t remove because it is hard to build. Focus on what´s core and and add value to that experience.

“Stop guessing what if? and go find out what is”

Try to design for solutions instead of processes and always ask yourself if there are any other way to solve this problem. To have a choice gives you a sense of control but with too many choices you feel overwhelmed.

Organize

Chunking information to manageable groups. Organize for behaviour, if certain users have different use cases. Try to organize within time and space by visualizing it. There are layers, color coding, size and location to try to organize things.

Hide

You can try to hide features mainstream users rarely use. But you should aware of features you hide that might be better to remove. The features you want the user to use should not inconvenience the user. Examples is the settings that you need to include but might not need to present through the whole experience.

Some techniques are customizing, progressive disclosure (only show the relevant interface at that time).

“First, hide something as completely as possible. Second, make features reveal themselves just when they´re needed.”

Labels things clearly and make it easy to find. But not so that you block the users path.

Displace

The last strategy is to displace. To put the right functionality on the right platform or part of the system. Mobile vs. desktop, between devices, let users set goals and structure and try to use the computer take on some responsibility to structure the data.

Last Advice

“Designing simple user experiences often turns out not to be about “How can I make this simpler?” but rather “Where should I move the complexity”?”

“Don’t try to fill the user´s mind with your design. Designing for simplicity leaves your user enough room to fill in details from his or her life and create a richer, more meaningful experience.

My thoughts

The book was easily digestible and it really seemed like you picked up new things or view I had not realised. The strategies are sound and the advice in the book are real practical but also seems to have that birds eye view. The only thing I really got stuck upon was the authors explanation to design for the mainstream. And to strive to design for simplicity is to design for all. It might be that I’m too nitpicky but that I really think misses the value of the specific user. But the author writes later about user research and understanding the user so it might be our different mental model of what mainstream means. All people vs. Most users of the product.

A really good book that deceives with its sometimes simple (see what I did there :) ) conclusions. I recommend people to read it if they find the time.

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