In Defense of Simplicity AND Complexity

Simplicity and complexity seem to have become hot topics for some of my favourite technical bloggers of late. These fine people have taken the view that things should be either simple or complex. Right, seems logical, these are opposites. However, I would like to suggest that in a well designed appliance which addresses a complex process, it should have both a simple AND a complex interface.

A couple of years ago, I bought a LG "Fuzzy Logic" washing machine. It has lots of buttons and settings on the front and one big button that says something like "Start". 97% of the time, I throw in my washing, some detergent and press the big start button, and the washing machine works out all the settings, displays them and then starts. In the 3% of the time when I want to do something different (eg, just a rinse), I use the more complex part of the interface to change the 'cycle' settings.

Recently, I bought an IXUS 65. It's a lovely digital camera, and it provides both a complex and a simple interface. As soon as I put in the battery, I was able to take pretty nice pictures by just clicking the big button on the top. No problem, I was very happy. Over the next few days, I glanced through the manual and fiddled with more complex settings for ISO, colour etc. However, in 95% of shots, I simply want to click the one big button that takes a nice auto-everything picture. It's only occasionally that I want to change the settings to achieve a particular effect or to override a mistake in the auto settings.

To conclude, I think that my talented fellow bloggers are all right. People like complex interfaces and simple interfaces, just at different times, for different tasks. The best gadgets and appliances offer both.


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