The simple life

Raymond Meester
4 min readJun 28, 2019

Everything was simpler in the old days. The days without smartphones and the internet. But is it that simple?

Maybe it’s just the other way around. Things are getting easier and simpler. At least for end users. And exactly this aspect is a key success factor.

Before a new invention has been made, first fundamental technologies needed to be developed. Afterwards the right functionality needs to be added. At the end to get real mass adaption, the interface needs to be as simple as possible.

Less is more.

Technology that is simple is fast to learn and easy to operate. Often means simplicity, more users. Simplicity shouldn’t come at the expense of functionality. Only simplicity with the same functionality will win.

A story in pictures…

For specialists VS for everyone

Airplane cockpit vs Tesla cockpit
Containership cockpit vs Tesla cockpit
Truck cockpit vs Tesla cockpit
High-speed train cockpit vs Tesla cockpit

There are interfaces where you need an expensive study to operate them. Others are easy as 1,2,3. When they get more and more autonomous there is no interface needed at all.

Learning vs Doing

With some interfaces you have to remember instructions while others you just use it.

Text is infinite flexible and light. You see that programs are still written in code and run on servers with only a command line interface. But these are specialist interfaces. When you put someone behind a black screen with a blinking cursor he will not know what to do. Other interfaces are more direct and guide you visually. Only the latter gained mass adaption.

Less is more

Blackberry vs iPhone
Betamax video recorder vs Netflix streaming
Old thermostat vs Self-Learning thermostat
Even Star Trek became less buttons and screens

Simplicity, mostly means hidden complexity

How far should we go with making things simple?

Simple mostly means simple for the end user. Consider the following example:

One became more popular

Google’s simple interface is actually deceiving. It’s probably the most advanced software in the world. Just ask the weather for tomorrow on your location or a fact about your city. Google ‘knows’.

Ultimate example is the smartphone which is of course not really smart, but combines a lot of functionalities into one device with one simple interface.

It’s disturbing how many things a smartphone can replace. Independently most things are better to use, only the thing is we always have that smartphone in our pocket…

Smartphone replaces (clockwise): phone, payphone/landline, camera, camcorder, answering machine, e-book, maps, navigation, alarm clock, agenda, calendar, radio, CD player, iPod, computer, stopwatch, photo album, dictionary, tickets, voice recorder, guitar tuner, keys, calculator, scanner, flashlight, wallet, remote control, watch, game console, newspaper, credit card.

Though I mostly prefer the specialized devices, today I catch myself to use more and more just my smartphone. The simple life.