Clarity means that something is easy to understand.

Functionality is the obvious and most common motive for seeking simplicity in design. Simple solutions are easier to deal with than complicated solutions. This applies to physical objects, and to communication.

“This is too easy to understand” said no one ever

This is not limited to content. Navigation is a big part of interactivity, and clarity helps there as well.

Ample incorporation of empty space removes the need for a specific bridge between [the structure of a website and its content] because the navigation is implicit—you can’t get lost ... Complexity implies the feeling of being lost; simplicity implies the feeling of being found.

Clarity can feel boring, especially to designers. Resist the urge to think this is a bad thing.

Boring user experience is clear and straightforward content, design, and code that solves key pain points. No surprise. No delight. It's the non-design of IA Writer or the simple poetry of plain language. Unboring is an error message that requires a PhD to unpack or Microsoft Word's everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink approach to software ... When boring design is missing, it usually means someone ignored a checklist, or a stakeholder was bamboozled by a smooth-talking parallax huckster.

You will have to ignore your feelings sometimes.

I collect screengrabs of good (and bad) examples of digital design. Whenever I see something that catches my eye, I tuck it away for later. When I revisited those grabs for this essay, I realized that most of my hall of shame examples occurred because someone didn't trust themselves to be straightforward.

Large corporations have realised how useful clear communication is.

In general, the language used by large global brands tends to be more straightforward and conventional, because it's a safer choice for global audiences. Straightforward language is easier to localize and less likely to feel alienating.

I assume you design for people. Speak to them like people.

Human-speak is a hallmark of Simplicity. It's the recognition that the best way to connect with people is to put things in human terms and use the words that people use in everyday conversation.

They will learn to trust you because of clarity.

Simplicity requires that you have a set of core values that pervade everything you do—and everything you say. Simplicity is what makes people feel like they know you, understand you, and ultimately trust you.

Basecamp has a company-wide focus on clarity, Jonas Downey told me.

Always choosing clarity over being slick or fancy. Internally we call this "Fisher Price" design. We aim to make the UI totally obvious and self explanatory, by keeping individual screens simple, showing only one focused thing at a time, and so on. Good product design eliminates the need for an instruction manual!

Next chapter →

← Previous chapter

Back to the table of contents