We launched our new website recently in response to something we felt missing in our industry — simplicity. There has never been a greater need for simple, clear communication with each other, with customers, with stakeholders and with community. This principle of ‘less is more’ is a guiding principal at Manawa.
“Our life is frittered away by detail.
An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme
cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest.
Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!”
– Henry David Thoreau
In his book, The Laws of Simplicity, published in 2006, John Maeda outlined ten laws about how simplicity keeps us sane and how simplicity can be successfully applied to design, technology, work and life. Maeda is a well-known and influential graphic designer, computer scientist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Three of Maeda’s laws of simplicity that help companies stand out and better communicate:
Simple products and services often become the most successful commercially. While most know this, most companies flood consumers with complexity. According to Maeda, “The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.” Put another way, if we do not need it, get rid of it.
A powerful example of this law is evident by comparing two of the most popular home pages on the Web: Google and Yahoo. In the late 1990s, Yahoo was the starting point on the Internet. Their competitors also followed the “more is better” view. They offered a wide variety of services ranging from mail, news, finance, weather, shopping, personals, sports and so on. Google’s arrival bucked this trend. They decided to take everything people expected away (including advertising). Instead, they focussed only on one thing people wanted — search.
The results today are clear. According to comScore search engine rankings in May 2013, Google accounts for two-thirds of search while Yahoo has dropped to 11.9 percent.
Comparison is a powerful way to evaluate a product or service. Maeda believes, “Without the counterpoint of complexity, we could not recognize simplicity when we see it. Simplicity and complexity need each other.”
Technology companies are notorious for over complicating. When a simple product appears, people notice, feel relieved and gravitate towards it.
David Pogue, a New York Times columnist in a TED talk in 2006, referred to the remarkable popularity of the Apple’s iPod, due to its simplicity. The iPod is simpler, does less but costs more than other digital music players.
When was the last time someone explained technology in simple english? Manawa takes communication seriously. We believe technical stuff should be explained, so a 12 year old gets it.
That means using simple analogies and metaphors that help people understand from their perspective. It’s about them, not us. We love when people tell us they get it and gain confidence.
Enter the emergence of the plain language movement. Most language is too complicated. People are fed with technical and legal jargon that confuses, divides, delays and stops them. They want plain language that unites, informs, is understandable and motivates. Governments are also getting involved. The United States passed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 that requires all federal agencies to begin using plain language to communicate.
When we truly trust someone, we are able to relax and lean back. Maeda recalls his many failed attempts learning to swim until meeting one instructor as an adult. Instead of teaching how to swim, the instructor taught the class how to ‘lean back’, relax and trust the water before jumping in.
When someone believes they are taken care of and in good hands with the best intentions, they lean in and trust. They also enjoy the experience. In the same way, trust agents or advisors in technology, healthcare, legal, government, finance and other sectors take care of people. This fosters strong long-term satisfying relationships
The next time you or your company begins a project, consider making simplicity a key part of the outcome.
Source image here