Is easier better?
By David on January 18, 2012
We love easier. And our standards for “easier” seem to get raised everyday. As designers, we often find ourselves working to make something easier (communications, user experiences, etc.). But is easier better? For the easy version, skip ahead.
Easier is simpler. There are fewer choices we have to make. Easier helps us achieve a goal with less mental or physical effort. The easier experience can be more pleasurable, so we keep going back. The obvious fast food example presents us with some easy options, fill us up, and satisfies – really quickly. But long term, what do we get from it?
Easier makes progress faster. But faster means we might overlook new opportunities we otherwise might have discovered along the way. Think highways. There’s something interesting to take away from all of the alternate routes and stops along the way – when we have the time to find them.
Easier allows us to move past the mundane – to forget about tasks, and focus on the goal. In doing so, it shifts responsibilities from ourselves to the something else. Easier could make a process obsolete, but it could also mystify a process. How many of us know how to make bread?
Think about traveling with GPS. With no fear of getting lost, we stop paying attention. We get home, but do we really know how we got there?
Is it better to tell the story or jump to the ending? In the short term, we may only want the ending. In the end, however, isn’t there usually more value in the story? Certainly sometimes the ending is all we need, and we can trust that someone else can tell the story for us.
It’s important to keep our long term goals in mind to know whether easier truly will be better – for us, or for the people we design for. Doing so will help us understand what the short and long term impact (or lack of impact) of easier will be, and what the audience will find most valuable.