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10 Tips for Making
Complicated Things
Simple
Crispin Reedy
Big Design Conference 2016
#BigD2016
#makeItSimple
@crispinTX
Crispin Reedy!
crispinreedy.com!
@crispinTX!
!
Voice Interaction Designer
President of @avixd
“Simple” vs “Easy”
hammockyucatan.com
“Easy” implies “Low Effort”
hammockyucatan.com
“Simple” is not “Low Effort”
robrusher
wisdomtimes.com
Tip 1: Recognize that the problem exists
• Writing really long detailed emails
• Blaming users / coworkers / clients
• Monologues in meetings received with silence
• Predominant feeling that “more complicated is good”
• “We need all this stuff!”
• Feeling lost in a wilderness of choices
Symptoms
What’s the source?
wisdomtimes.com
Tip 1: Recognize that the problem exists and you may
be causing it
I’ve Got The Power!
Or Do I?
• Changing a
Complicated Thing
• Add, change, remove
functionality
• Control over the way
the thing is
developed / built
• Explaining a
Complicated Thing
• Talking about a
complex technical
topic to non-technical
users
• May not be able to
add, change, remove
functionality
wisdomtimes.com
Tip 1: Recognize that the problem exists and you may
NOT be causing it
cathub.tv
Recognizing the problem is the start of solving the
problem
Digression
So why make things simple?
And why is it so hard to do?
Simplicity enables understanding
chiasmuscommunications.com
Simplicity enables understanding
understandinggroup.com
“There is no stronger persuasion than causing people
to understand.” - Ioan Tenner
mindjofurby.wordpress.com
Simplicity and Complexity are Tools
Goal:
“Just Right”
So Why Is This Difficult?
• Lots of reasons! Some may be:
• Life tends towards complexity (Entropy?)
• Familiarity with complexity / Cognitive load
• Personal ego
• Unclear goals
Get the Starting Point
Correct
Figure It Out For
Yourself
Teach Others
Change What You Can
The Folding Chair Classical Theater Company
Tip 2: Have a goal
Marcus Geldud, The Folding Chair Theater Company:
“Most people don't pair down to a single goal. !
They have multiple goals all alive at once,
some of which are in conflict with each other: !
“I want to direct a really simple production of 'Romeo
and Juliet,'
but I also don't want to bore people,
and I want the show to make money,
and I want it to get good reviews,
and I want people to think I did a really good job…””
The Folding Chair Classical Theater Company
Tip 2: Have a simple, single goal
It’s not just about having the goal… !
it’s about communicating the goal
understandinggroup.com
Tip 2: Have a simple, single goal that can be readily
shared and articulated
berkley.edu
Shared, Articulated Goal
• State the goal at the beginning of the meeting
• State the goal at the beginning of the document
• Include the goal in working notes
• Or in emails
Jared Spool: Short Form
Creative Brief
• What are we working on today?
• Project Objectives
• Key Personas
• Key Scenarios
• Key Principles
https://articles.uie.com/short_form_creative_brief/
Jared Spool: Short Form
Creative Brief
Read aloud at the beginning of every meeting!!
• Make sure everyone is working on the same project
• Goals are still relevant
• Establish shared understanding as team members roll on /
off the project
• Allows team to focus on the important stuff
• Reinforces the function of goals - as a tool for decision-
making
https://articles.uie.com/short_form_creative_brief/
Marcus Geldud, The Folding Chair Theater Company:
“Most people don't pair down to a single goal. !
They have multiple goals all alive at once,
some of which are in conflict with each other: !
“I want to direct a really simple production of 'Romeo
and Juliet,'
but I also don't want to bore people,
and I want the show to make money,
and I want it to get good reviews,
and I want people to think I did a really good job…””
Tip 3: Watch out for the ego trap
pestrevenge.com
Task goals vs. ego goals in athletics
womenssportsmedicine.com
Ego Goals
• I want to win
• Beat the other guy
• Be the best
• Show I am great
Sport Information Resource Center
Task Goals
• Improve my skills
• Get better from day to
day
• Learn
• Accomplish a goal
• Work hard
High Ego
Orientation
Athletes
• Are overly focused on
end results
• Fragility
• Burnout risk
• Report higher levels of
anxiety and negative
coping behaviors
Schoolsites: Chris Harwood
High Task
Orientation
Athletes
• Show consistency
• Greater long term
participation
• Perception of ability tied to
improvement
• Report enjoyment,
satisfaction, intrinsic
interest, and flow at higher
rates than EO athletes
So How Does This Help?
• Are your ego-oriented goals making things
complicated?
• Getting in the way of your task-oriented goals?
• Getting in the way of your flow?
• fully immersed
• energized focus
• full involvement
• enjoyment in the
process
Theory:
Simplicity arises
from flow
Get the Starting Point
Correct
Figure It Out For
Yourself
Teach Others
Change What You Can
Tip 4: Give yourself time to think about the topic
pcwallart.com
Super Busy!
ClaytonBrothers
Just think: The challenges of the
disengaged mind
“People seem to find any excuse they can to keep
busy,” Professor Timothy Wilson, University of
Virginia
• Majority of participants “found it unpleasant to be
alone in a room with their thoughts”
• For just 6 to 15 minutes!
• When left alone to think 64% of men and 15% of
women began self-administering electric shocks
Time To Think
• Don’t be afraid to think!
• Faster doesn’t always equal better!
• Block out a window in your calendar for “Work”
• Recognize if you’re trapped in the Speed Trap
• Do you need to do less?
Time To Think
“When I am slow and
reflective, thinking about
myself, who I am and
where I am, I see that I
need more than one speed.
It’s a whole different way of
thinking about success. I
need slow in order to think,
in order to protect my
judgement.”
- ‘Michael’
Tip 5: Think about the material on more than one level
blog.daycos.com
Levels
• 10,000 foot view
• High level overview, “Big Picture”
• Strategy, high-concepts
• “Stuff in the middle”
• Detailed view
• Absolutely everything you need to know
• Possibly so much detail it becomes difficult to find your way
around
Levels
• Micro
• Person, Citizen, Couple, Family, Household
• Meso
• Clan, Tribe, Community, City, Organization, State
• Macro
• Nation, Society, Civilization, International
The Maligned Middle
Stuck in the Meso with You
!
• Sits between the high level view and the detailed view
• Connects them
• Possibly explains them both in a meaningful way
• Or shows the relationship between them
• Producing this level of artifact forces you to look at the material
differently
• Patterns will emerge
Stuck in the Meso with You
• Medium-Level Flow charts
• Table of Contents
• Or any kinds of tables, really
• Summaries
• Outlines
• Visualizations
• Architecture Diagrams?
• Annotated Pictures
cea-ace.ca
Tip 5: Think about the material on more than one level
and the “meso” stuff might be the most important
theunboundedspirit.com
The Middle Path
Tip 6: Get it out of your mind
You have to SEE it
• Write it
• Draw it
• Diagram it
• Use colors
• Make it
• Map it
Tip 6: Get it out of your mind in a different way
I usually…!
• Write it
• Draw it
• Diagram it
• Use colors
• Make it
• Map it
So switch to…!
• Draw it
• Write it
• Make it
• Use black and white
• Diagram it
• Talk about it
• Change the part of the
brain you’re using
• Get yourself out of old
habits
• See the problem more
clearly
• Different relationships
may become apparent
• Shake it up: Change the
focus to different aspects
of the problem
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
Tip 7: Avoid jargon / Be precise
Obfuscates Reveals
Reveals:!
Acronyms!
Technical Terms!
Specialized Words!
Industry-Specific!
!
SCSI!
Webservice!
Interface!
!
The word has a precise
meaning that is useful in
certain contexts
Obfuscates:!
Weasel Words!
Trendy!
Imprecise!
Abstract!
!
Optimization!
Paradigm!
Onboarding!
Recontexualize!
!
The word has different
meanings to different
people
Define and TeachStop Using
Get the Starting Point
Correct
Figure It Out For
Yourself
Teach Others
Change What You Can
Tip 8: Take things out!
The Power of Delete
Complex vs.
Complicated
Feature Creep
Feature Creep
• User research!
• Is the feature used? If not, why?
• Consider the cost to maintain it
• Does the feature hurt the UX?
• Does the feature fit with the product strategy?
Feature Creep
• How to remove?
• Inform your users
• Provide alternate methods
• Avoid adding it in the first place
Courage?
bgr.com
Tip 8: Take things out and reorganize
khua.dvrlists.com
Take Things Out And
Reorganize
• Focus on your goals
• User research!
• A/B testing
• IAs or Card Sorts
• Create a new model for a subset of users
• Migrate your user base gradually
“You can’t have everything…
Where would you put it?”
- Steven Wright
Get the Starting Point
Correct
Figure It Out For
Yourself
Teach Others
Change What You Can
Tip 9: Teach someone else
seeklearning.com.au
The Role of Explanation in Discovery and Generalization:
Evidence From Category Learning
Joseph J. Williams, Tania Lombrozo
Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
The Role of Explanation in Discovery and Generalization:
Evidence From Category Learning
Joseph J. Williams, Tania Lombrozo
Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
• Satisfactory explanations involve generalizations
and/or underlying principles
• Explaining something to someone causes us to
find those “satisfying patterns.”
• Describing something is more beneficial for
learning item details
• Explaining anomalous observations helps us
revise our beliefs
Tip 10: She Who Plans The Meeting Wins The Meeting
“Winging It” Is For The Birds
• Things distributed ahead of time!
• Agenda
• Materials
• Think about what you will say
• Establish a basic meeting etiquette
• Minimize interruptions and “talk-over”
• Take notes: distribute them afterwards
quickbase.intuit.com
But It’s Not My Meeting!
So?
Rick and Morty
Get the Starting Point
Correct
Figure It Out For
Yourself
Teach Others
Change What You Can
Get the Starting Point Correct
Have clear goals
Avoid ego orientation
Figure It Out For Yourself
Give yourself time
Work at different levels
Don’t forget the middle
Get it out of your head
Change modalities
Watch your words
Teach Others
Teach someone else first
Plan your meeting
Execute!
Change What You Can
Delete
Modularize
Organize
“Our life is frittered away
by detail. Simplify,
simplify.” -Thoreau
“The devil’s in the
details.”
Bonus Tip
cathub.tv
Be Kind
!
Thanks!!
!
!
!
crispinreedy.com!
@crispinTX

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Top 10 Tips for Making Complicated Things Simple

  • 1. 10 Tips for Making Complicated Things Simple Crispin Reedy Big Design Conference 2016 #BigD2016 #makeItSimple @crispinTX
  • 7. wisdomtimes.com Tip 1: Recognize that the problem exists
  • 8. • Writing really long detailed emails • Blaming users / coworkers / clients • Monologues in meetings received with silence • Predominant feeling that “more complicated is good” • “We need all this stuff!” • Feeling lost in a wilderness of choices Symptoms
  • 10. wisdomtimes.com Tip 1: Recognize that the problem exists and you may be causing it
  • 11. I’ve Got The Power! Or Do I? • Changing a Complicated Thing • Add, change, remove functionality • Control over the way the thing is developed / built • Explaining a Complicated Thing • Talking about a complex technical topic to non-technical users • May not be able to add, change, remove functionality
  • 12. wisdomtimes.com Tip 1: Recognize that the problem exists and you may NOT be causing it
  • 14. Recognizing the problem is the start of solving the problem
  • 15. Digression So why make things simple? And why is it so hard to do?
  • 18. “There is no stronger persuasion than causing people to understand.” - Ioan Tenner
  • 21. So Why Is This Difficult? • Lots of reasons! Some may be: • Life tends towards complexity (Entropy?) • Familiarity with complexity / Cognitive load • Personal ego • Unclear goals
  • 22. Get the Starting Point Correct Figure It Out For Yourself Teach Others Change What You Can
  • 23. The Folding Chair Classical Theater Company Tip 2: Have a goal
  • 24. Marcus Geldud, The Folding Chair Theater Company: “Most people don't pair down to a single goal. ! They have multiple goals all alive at once, some of which are in conflict with each other: ! “I want to direct a really simple production of 'Romeo and Juliet,' but I also don't want to bore people, and I want the show to make money, and I want it to get good reviews, and I want people to think I did a really good job…””
  • 25. The Folding Chair Classical Theater Company Tip 2: Have a simple, single goal
  • 26. It’s not just about having the goal… ! it’s about communicating the goal understandinggroup.com
  • 27. Tip 2: Have a simple, single goal that can be readily shared and articulated berkley.edu
  • 28. Shared, Articulated Goal • State the goal at the beginning of the meeting • State the goal at the beginning of the document • Include the goal in working notes • Or in emails
  • 29. Jared Spool: Short Form Creative Brief • What are we working on today? • Project Objectives • Key Personas • Key Scenarios • Key Principles https://articles.uie.com/short_form_creative_brief/
  • 30. Jared Spool: Short Form Creative Brief Read aloud at the beginning of every meeting!! • Make sure everyone is working on the same project • Goals are still relevant • Establish shared understanding as team members roll on / off the project • Allows team to focus on the important stuff • Reinforces the function of goals - as a tool for decision- making https://articles.uie.com/short_form_creative_brief/
  • 31. Marcus Geldud, The Folding Chair Theater Company: “Most people don't pair down to a single goal. ! They have multiple goals all alive at once, some of which are in conflict with each other: ! “I want to direct a really simple production of 'Romeo and Juliet,' but I also don't want to bore people, and I want the show to make money, and I want it to get good reviews, and I want people to think I did a really good job…””
  • 32. Tip 3: Watch out for the ego trap pestrevenge.com
  • 33. Task goals vs. ego goals in athletics womenssportsmedicine.com
  • 34. Ego Goals • I want to win • Beat the other guy • Be the best • Show I am great Sport Information Resource Center Task Goals • Improve my skills • Get better from day to day • Learn • Accomplish a goal • Work hard
  • 35. High Ego Orientation Athletes • Are overly focused on end results • Fragility • Burnout risk • Report higher levels of anxiety and negative coping behaviors Schoolsites: Chris Harwood High Task Orientation Athletes • Show consistency • Greater long term participation • Perception of ability tied to improvement • Report enjoyment, satisfaction, intrinsic interest, and flow at higher rates than EO athletes
  • 36. So How Does This Help? • Are your ego-oriented goals making things complicated? • Getting in the way of your task-oriented goals? • Getting in the way of your flow?
  • 37. • fully immersed • energized focus • full involvement • enjoyment in the process
  • 39. Get the Starting Point Correct Figure It Out For Yourself Teach Others Change What You Can
  • 40. Tip 4: Give yourself time to think about the topic pcwallart.com
  • 42. Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind “People seem to find any excuse they can to keep busy,” Professor Timothy Wilson, University of Virginia • Majority of participants “found it unpleasant to be alone in a room with their thoughts” • For just 6 to 15 minutes! • When left alone to think 64% of men and 15% of women began self-administering electric shocks
  • 43. Time To Think • Don’t be afraid to think! • Faster doesn’t always equal better! • Block out a window in your calendar for “Work” • Recognize if you’re trapped in the Speed Trap • Do you need to do less?
  • 44. Time To Think “When I am slow and reflective, thinking about myself, who I am and where I am, I see that I need more than one speed. It’s a whole different way of thinking about success. I need slow in order to think, in order to protect my judgement.” - ‘Michael’
  • 45. Tip 5: Think about the material on more than one level blog.daycos.com
  • 46. Levels • 10,000 foot view • High level overview, “Big Picture” • Strategy, high-concepts • “Stuff in the middle” • Detailed view • Absolutely everything you need to know • Possibly so much detail it becomes difficult to find your way around
  • 47. Levels • Micro • Person, Citizen, Couple, Family, Household • Meso • Clan, Tribe, Community, City, Organization, State • Macro • Nation, Society, Civilization, International
  • 48.
  • 50. Stuck in the Meso with You ! • Sits between the high level view and the detailed view • Connects them • Possibly explains them both in a meaningful way • Or shows the relationship between them • Producing this level of artifact forces you to look at the material differently • Patterns will emerge
  • 51. Stuck in the Meso with You • Medium-Level Flow charts • Table of Contents • Or any kinds of tables, really • Summaries • Outlines • Visualizations • Architecture Diagrams? • Annotated Pictures
  • 52. cea-ace.ca Tip 5: Think about the material on more than one level and the “meso” stuff might be the most important
  • 54. Tip 6: Get it out of your mind
  • 55. You have to SEE it • Write it • Draw it • Diagram it • Use colors • Make it • Map it
  • 56. Tip 6: Get it out of your mind in a different way I usually…! • Write it • Draw it • Diagram it • Use colors • Make it • Map it So switch to…! • Draw it • Write it • Make it • Use black and white • Diagram it • Talk about it
  • 57. • Change the part of the brain you’re using • Get yourself out of old habits • See the problem more clearly • Different relationships may become apparent • Shake it up: Change the focus to different aspects of the problem Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
  • 58. Tip 7: Avoid jargon / Be precise
  • 60. Reveals:! Acronyms! Technical Terms! Specialized Words! Industry-Specific! ! SCSI! Webservice! Interface! ! The word has a precise meaning that is useful in certain contexts Obfuscates:! Weasel Words! Trendy! Imprecise! Abstract! ! Optimization! Paradigm! Onboarding! Recontexualize! ! The word has different meanings to different people
  • 62. Get the Starting Point Correct Figure It Out For Yourself Teach Others Change What You Can
  • 63. Tip 8: Take things out!
  • 64. The Power of Delete
  • 65.
  • 68. Feature Creep • User research! • Is the feature used? If not, why? • Consider the cost to maintain it • Does the feature hurt the UX? • Does the feature fit with the product strategy?
  • 69. Feature Creep • How to remove? • Inform your users • Provide alternate methods • Avoid adding it in the first place
  • 71. Tip 8: Take things out and reorganize
  • 73. Take Things Out And Reorganize • Focus on your goals • User research! • A/B testing • IAs or Card Sorts • Create a new model for a subset of users • Migrate your user base gradually
  • 74. “You can’t have everything… Where would you put it?” - Steven Wright
  • 75. Get the Starting Point Correct Figure It Out For Yourself Teach Others Change What You Can
  • 76. Tip 9: Teach someone else seeklearning.com.au
  • 77. The Role of Explanation in Discovery and Generalization: Evidence From Category Learning Joseph J. Williams, Tania Lombrozo Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
  • 78. The Role of Explanation in Discovery and Generalization: Evidence From Category Learning Joseph J. Williams, Tania Lombrozo Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley • Satisfactory explanations involve generalizations and/or underlying principles • Explaining something to someone causes us to find those “satisfying patterns.” • Describing something is more beneficial for learning item details • Explaining anomalous observations helps us revise our beliefs
  • 79. Tip 10: She Who Plans The Meeting Wins The Meeting
  • 80. “Winging It” Is For The Birds • Things distributed ahead of time! • Agenda • Materials • Think about what you will say • Establish a basic meeting etiquette • Minimize interruptions and “talk-over” • Take notes: distribute them afterwards
  • 82. But It’s Not My Meeting! So?
  • 84. Get the Starting Point Correct Figure It Out For Yourself Teach Others Change What You Can
  • 85. Get the Starting Point Correct Have clear goals Avoid ego orientation Figure It Out For Yourself Give yourself time Work at different levels Don’t forget the middle Get it out of your head Change modalities Watch your words Teach Others Teach someone else first Plan your meeting Execute! Change What You Can Delete Modularize Organize
  • 86. “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” -Thoreau
  • 87. “The devil’s in the details.”