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Less Is More

Those gadget-obsessed, control-freak programmers love to fill products with gizmos and features, but that tendency is contrary to a fundamental insight about good design. Less is more.

When an interaction designer has done a particularly good job, the user will be quite unaware of the designer's presence. Like service in a world-class restaurant, it should be inconspicuous. When the interaction designer has accomplished something really good, users won't even notice it. In an industry that promotes “coolness” as a design objective, it really gets tiresome to find my way so often obscured by interaction artifacts that have obviously taken some poor programmer lots of time and work. Too bad his efforts didn't go into something effective. Many visual designers think that good design is cool, and occasionally it is, but no matter how cool your interface is, less of it would be better.[4] Again, the point is that the less the user sees, the better a job the designer has done. Imagine watching a movie and seeing klieg lights in the corners of the frame or hearing the director yell “Cut!” at the end of a scene. Imagine how intrusive that would be and how it would break the viewer's spell.

[4] In my book, About Face, I introduce over 50 powerful design axioms. This is one of them.


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