Naturally, if you create a simple interface that avoids distraction, the user will get more done. They'll be more productive. Perhaps the best result our users can have when they use our design is to stop and realise that they've managed to do a lot with our creation. Write more, book more, buy more, sell more, read more, learn more.

Our designs, for the most part, should exist so that a person using it can better live their life, as Ryan Bigge tells us.

Endless debates about indentations, rounded corners, and colour choices are UX's version of the sunk cost fallacy. Nothing digital design can offer compares to the experiential joy of an Airbnb host in Dublin recommending the perfect nearby bar. Or a Chicago Lyft driver giving you a dozen amazing food and drink suggestions. Or cycling confidently through Portland at 11pm thanks to turn-by-turn instructions on a Pebble watch.

And this is the true end-goal of simple design, as Kate Moran explains. Not a sense of accomplishment on the part of the designer after they create something beautiful. A sense of accomplishment on the part of the user after they do something useful.

In 1990, HCI researcher John M. Carroll ... stressed that reducing a design to its most basic elements is not the end goal of minimalism. Rather, Carroll championed brevity and simplicity in the service of task-oriented results. To position this approach towards web design, Carroll's minimalism translates to getting the interface out of the way, in order to allow users to achieve their goals.

Many designers forget it, Kate goes on to say, and it leads to harmful misunderstandings about simple design.

In theory, minimalism should move us away from maximalism, and result in streamlined content and more efficient user task flows. In practice however, we've seen minimalism mutate into a superficial visual trend as designers copy popular minimalist characteristics without seriously considering if they support their own site goals.

As designers we must remember that any approach to design, simple design included, is in service of the people who use it. Because those users are not concerned with the approach we're using. They want to book a taxi, learn how to iron a shirt, or find tabs for a ukulele song. Designer Илья Сидоренко had a realisation:

Real users do not know anything about trends, correctly selected indentations and fonts. They only need something functional that makes their life easier. And designers often forget about it.

An easy-to-miss harm of senior designers' focus on superficial design is that it teaches the wrong lesson to designers who are new to the industry. They see stunning - but complicated - design on Dribbble, they see that those designers are successful, and they assume that to be successful they must also produce complicated designs. Paul Adams is worried about the "Dribbblisation of design", and its effect on the ultimate aim of design - to help people get things done:

If product design is about solving problems for people within the constraints of a specific business, then it simply feels that many people calling themselves product/UX designers are actually practicing digital art. They are Artists. They are Stylists. Executing beautiful looking things, which is certainly an important skill, but they are not practising product design.

Basecamp, Jonas Downey tells me, have a principle that means they don't try to encourage the user to do anything other than what they're there to do. This focus, he says, naturally leads to a simpler interface.

Prioritizing respectful interfaces that don't overwhelm or try to nag the user into certain behaviors. We intentionally don't include things like notification counts/badges, 3-column designs, and such unless we absolutely can't avoid them. We don't like the idea of having "sticky" interfaces—we want our customers to use our products to get the job done, and then go do something else. That makes the whole design approach more peaceful in general.

Examples of simple design → ← Distraction free Back to the table of contents