Simple isn’t simple

The French mathematician Blaise Pascal once wrote, “I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short.”  He was right–it’s a lot easier to write a long, rambling missive than a short, concise one.  Likewise, it’s easier to design a complex product than one that’s inherently simple.  Designing intuitive human interfaces, sleek lines, and  compact form is extremely tough work. Desiging a widget with 20 parts is much tougher than designing  a similar widget with 100.  Writing code that fits in  256 k is much tougher than writing 1 G of the same code.  Simple is complicated.

In the entrepreneurial circles that we sometimes frequent, it’s all too commonplace to hear start-ups say, “Our product will be like Apple’s,” meaning sleek lines, simple interfaces, and intuitive interfaces.  But all too often in the next sentence they basically say they will do this on a shoestring budget with no real expertise.  But Apple has a multi-billion dollar R&D budget and employs some of the finest designers and engineers on the planet.  They spend staff-decades designing those simple interfaces and easy operation.  The code for doing smooth gestures is extremely complex (we’ve dabbled in this area); the engineering required to make products so thin is enormous (we do a little of this too).  It’s not easy being simple. It’s hard.

Something to think about.


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