7 Tips for Simplifying Design

September 17, 2019
Written By nataly capote

Simplifying design has never been so difficult.

With the rising importance of usability and the endless distractions surrounding us, brands are looking for ways to ultra-simplify their products and interfaces. One might argue that major apps are all starting to look the same in order to achieve this ease of use. Companies are struggling to nail the simplicity that brands like Apple and Netflix have seamlessly pulled off. Consumers want simple interfaces that do complex things. How do we strike that perfect balance?

1. Think IKEA

What’s the most recognizable thing about IKEA manuals? They somehow provide clear instructions without using words. Studying an IKEA manual may give you some ideas on how to be straightforward and brief. In today’s world of complicated content that easily pushes consumers away, it’s important to think like IKEA.

2. Don’t Overwhelm

With too many options, we run around like chickens with their heads cut off. It’s important for an app or website to remove unnecessary distractions and focus on the product or service they’re trying to provide. Don’t try to do everything; instead, do one thing and make sure you’re the best at it.

3. Facilitate Decision-Making

Consumers don’t always know what they want, or they’re otherwise bombarded with endless choices. Hick’s Law famously outlines what happens when users face too many options: they run away. To address this, eliminate as many choices you can that aren’t required, or provide recommendations. You can also use progressive disclosure to hide irrelevant information until it’s needed.

4. Create Hierarchy

Use distinct typefaces, weights and colors to encourage consumers to read things in the order you want. Similar size fonts or colors don't stand out and get lost within a layout. Aim to focus the attention on one spot, and then use hierarchy to create movement that is clear and intentional.

Avoid: Too Many Fonts

Too many fonts can drive our eyes wild. Select typefaces that compliment each other to enhance the visual experience of the reader.

Avoid: Too Many Colors

There is a way to effectively use many colors in design, but for the most part, you want to stay away from too many bright colors. It's best to choose only one or two to catch the reader's attention. The rest of the content should compliment, not detract.

5. Split Up Large Content

Even if you simplify the number of choices consumers have, there still might be too much going on. To fix this, try laying out the content in one column and break it up into smaller sections. This should help to facilitate decision-making (as noted above in Rule #3), and create a more appealing visual layout.

6. Declutter and Organize

As our dear friend Marie Kondo would say, discard everything that does not spark joy. Consumers don’t want to spend a lot of time figuring the layout or hierarchy of your content. The more there is on the screen, the less a consumer sees. Clean up your interface to include beautiful bold titles and plenty of tasteful white space. Organized content not only simplifies your design, but it's more memorable.

7. Use Already Familiar Design Techniques

Many apps and websites like Airbnb, Twitter and Instagram have adopted the clean, colorless, bold typeface look. Truthfully, a lot of companies are copying this style from the big brands because they know it works. Huge images, text, and videos which easily translate to mobile are what we now associate with quality brands. These are the little things that make them more credible in our eyes. By using familiar design patterns, we can keep users in their comfort zone, make it easy and pleasurable for them to navigate an app or website, and increase conversion.

Read: The Law of Simplicity

The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda is a wonderful tool for understanding usability and simple design. Maeda outlines 10 laws that help you organize your content and understand the relationship between simplicity and complexity.

energyhill's design expertise

Our team can help your brand stand out by simplifying your design. If your interface needs a fresh look, or you're looking to build a user-friendly app or website from scratch, we can build, style, and maintain it to increase your ROI and conversion rates. Contact us for more information.

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