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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Simplicity Thesis | Aaron Levie, Fast Company

The only companies or products that will succeed now are the ones offering the lowest possible level of complexity for the maximum amount of value.
That's the main point of this article. Writer Aaron Levie says:
A fascinating trend is consuming Silicon Valley and beginning to eat away at rest of the world: the radical simplification of everything.
As a professional writer and editor, I believe "everything" in Levie's thesis includes writing and editing.

He asks asks:
So what do you do about it? ... [H]ow do you build sufficiently simple solutions to complex problems?
And responds:
By abstracting as much of the work that’s actually going on from what’s required of the consumer, and maniacally slashing any process or barrier that prevents consumers from getting the best possible experience. It’s all about reducing choices and unnecessary steps, narrowing clutter, and adding a touch of class to boot.
After stressing that simplicity "isn't an excuse for solutions to accomplish less," Levie lists a few ways to start achieving minimum complexity:
  • Think end to end. Simplicity relates to the entire customer experience, from how you handle pricing to customer support.
  • Say no. Kill features and services that don’t get used, and optimize the ones that do.
  • Specialize. Focus on your core competency, and outsource the rest--simplicity comes more reliably when you have less on your plate.
  • Focus on details. Simple is hard because it’s so easy to compromise; hire the best designers you can find, and always reduce clicks, messages, prompts, and alerts.
  • Audit constantly. Constantly ask yourself, can this be done any simpler? Audit your technology and application frequently.
He concludes:
When technology was inherently and unavoidably complex, it was forgivable that solutions weren't elegant and simple. ... But with a myriad of elegant and simple solutions entering the market, users are learning to expect far more from their products. Simplicity has become a virus that will either destroy you or catapult you to the front of the market.

This article is highlighted in today's (June 6) Plain English Paragraphs paper, available at the Plain Language tab above.

For more advice on plain language, check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It provides a seven-step approach to writing clearly and concisely to meet the needs of your readers: reader and purpose, organization, paragraphs, sentences, words, design, and testing.

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