Less is really more — Simplifying UX
By Reducing Taps and Actions
Simplifying a user’s experience requires a well-structured method. If you’ve imagined yourself to follow Apple’s footsteps; removing enough elements until everything feels in the right place, creating an entire experience that feels easy, and works easy — let me tell you, you are stuck in a giant loophole. In reality, ‘Simple’ is a complicated task.
In the words of the great John Maeda -
Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.
This can be directly applied to the question at hand which requires you to simplify the user’s experience by focussing on the number of taps or actions they have to perform in order to accomplish a certain task.
A general rule of thumb for a mobile app says: If it is more than 3 actions away, it is not going to be done.
Every functionality must be accessible from every section of the product and the user must feel the need to restart the app just to get to his home screen. With every product built to serve a unique purpose; these principles do not provide a sure shot guide to making your product ‘Simple-to-Use’. Young designers might position core functionalities of the product (which should be one-tap away) to an inner screen justifying that they are still playing safe by the 3-action rule.
The shortcut which most designers apply in order to make everything accessible: Use a Menu Bar, which ends up in lines with ‘Yellow Pages’; a long list.
Need to simplify UX
As smartphones break and create horizons everyday with how far they have delved into everyday culture, both educated and uneducated users have gotten their hands on this fascinating technology.
Education here does not mean the books and degrees. It means experience in dealing with digital devices. We see people who have never even touched a mouse accomplish all their tasks with the help of a smartphone.
In my opinion, the reason the phone is called smart is not only because it has features the 80s users couldn’t even think of in their dreams but for the reason that it has a thought-out design which justifies to the older as well as the younger generation.
When you see 5-year-old kids navigating their way through Youtube, it is not because they have become smarter. The product’s experience is designed keeping in mind a vast set of users. Had Youtube involved 10 steps just in viewing one video, this kind of disruption would not have been possible.
The new generation of designers have been endowed with the responsibility to define how mankind treats and accepts technology and if your product fails in the race, it is not the user’s fault.
How should we simplify user’s experience?
John Maeda’s book The Laws of Simplicity explains 10 laws which imply that simplicity can be broken down into; delves into each law’s contribution to different aspects of it. All of these laws can be applied to any UX design project. But, three of them are essential when it comes to simplifying any user’s interaction with an application.
The solutions are -
In this blog, we are going to focus on the first and the most important part of this process — Reduction. Understanding how less can actually be more.
Reduction: Less is More
Complexion Reduction is the fundamental principle to render easy to use applications. All UX & UI designers must add reduction to their system in whenever they are working on a new project. Not only should they explain to this maximalist world how minimalism is the way ahead, but also scrutinize every step they take and transform their design procedure.
Reduction can be implemented in two other ways -
The precision required to communicate a message and hit the user’s mind is missing from most products. When it comes to design: words, colors or anything else that might distract the user’s attention- decreases how overwhelmed the user can be when they try to use the app. This makes them confident and they start to connect with your product instantly.
Humans have a tiny processing memory; take this for granted and design accordingly. Remove whatever isn’t necessary for your design — decrease the cognitive load on the users. Hence, prioritization should come into play when you decide which elements to stay and which should go.
To implement this process do this:
1. Start from starch: Remove every element in the app and see how you can find a replacement for the same functionality. If it does not perform any function, it has no right to exist. Try to club multiple functions and hide the unnecessary features in toolbars and menus.
2. Reduce the taps: Aim to reduce the number of taps needed to perform each action by 1 step. See if the action is fundamental to the app and then reduce its action to a single step.
As much as humans love choice, they are often spoiled by it as well. A balanced set of options should be presented to the user. According to Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice, the number of choices that we present can affect the user’s positively or negatively. These choices should enable them to make a sound decision and improve the overall satisfaction level.
People often equate more choices to better controls but don’t take in account the additional cognitive load that these things represent. A UX designer must keep only the relevant choices in front of the user.
In the real world, you might not always be able to reduce elements on the screen to just one or two choices/actions but the effort to simplify experience starts by keeping in mind a consistent set of rules to follow which will make the product loved by not just its end users, but the designers, developers as well.