Why complicate when simple will do?

Just over two weeks of using todoist, and my entire perspective towards the balance of simplicity and power seems to be shifting. And I’m talking simplicity not just in the user interface or the feature set of an application. It could be the concept and scope of the application; it’s ability to be easy for new users while at the same time sufficing the needs of experienced ones; for that matter even the ability to quickly convert a novice into an intermediate or an advanced user. These, for me, are the qualities that separate apps that attract the crowds from those that retain them.

Todoist is an example of a ‘retainer’. Sure there are other reasons why I think I will stick with todoist for a long time – the amazing pace at which it’s author seems to churn out improvements and new features, his readiness to respond to feedback and feature requests (something that seems to mimic the way-ahead-of-it’s-league responsiveness of the application itself), or the fine attention to detail. Things like the way the app says ‘moved to tomorrow’ every time I change the due date of a task to ‘tomorrow’ (or just ‘tom’), the oh-so-sweet Ctrl+arrow keys indenting to establish hierarchies and the brilliantly done info page tell me that the application was built with a lot of love. Makes me love it myself.

I’ve tried tens of web applications over the last year or so, but have stuck with hardly any. Now that I think of it, the ones I still use are really the ones that get the simplicity part right. Be it del.icio.us for my bookmarks, flickr for sharing photos, gmail for personal e-mail, google reader for my RSS feeds or – on the desktop front – utorrent for file sharing. The good thing about all these apps is that they set out to do just one thing. And do it well.

So then, if keeping things simple works, why do most applications bother complicating things at all!?


2 thoughts on “Why complicate when simple will do?

  1. I also believe one should focus on one thing and do it really well. Great observation.

    People don’t create simple things, because creating simple isn’t simple (that’s what I think). A great example is the wheel interface of iPod: It’s dead simple, but coming up with such an interface requires some brilliant thinking. Same can be said about a lot of other products or interfaces. This quote pretty sums it up:
    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci

    Looking forward for more blog posts.

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