What Does Simple Really Mean?

Simple is a popular word in the design world. But, what does it actually mean? What do clients mean when they request simple interfaces? What do users mean when they say they like how simple an app is? With a word used as commonly as this one, it’s important to have some standard definition and idea of the implied meaning. I’ve thought about this idea a considerable amount, and I’ve concluded that when people request or describe a product as simple, what they are really communicating is that it is:


  • Clean – The interface is not crowded – there’s plenty of white space and the important information is easy to find and interact with. There may also be few icons and images, and the colors are minimal and complementary.


  • Efficient – The interactions are natural and items are discoverable. There aren’t too many pages, tabs, or nested elements. Interfaces are light on information, and users are able to easily accomplish their goals in just a few clicks. Load times are short and visibility of system status is strong.


  • Intuitive – The system matches the mental models users have, and the components act they way they are expected to. The user task flows are easy to navigate, the interface matches their mental model, and AI is easy to navigate.


If you have found yourself struggling with how to please Goldilocks users or clients, closely examine the details and think critically about your interface, navigation, and experience. Is it clean, efficient, and intuitive? In addition to reading and studying insightful design materials for inspiration, try doing some basic user testing and gain valuable feedback that will improve your product. Develop these areas and you may just find a design that is just right.