Done with Simple

I am done with “simple”. I say that even considering previous posts here about the virtues of simplicity, my enjoyment of books such as The Laws of Simplicity and Simplexity, and my respect for companies such as 37signals and Google (two companies commonly included in case studies on software simplicity). The word “simple” has several problems.

It is overused

‘Simple’ is a word that has become overused. You can take your pick from over 600,000 books on Amazon relating to ‘simple’. 64,000 in the business category alone. There’s over 46 million results for a Google search of “simple software”. In the CRM world, everyone seems to stake a claim to ‘simple CRM’.

It has no concise meaning

‘Simple’ is a word often used like ‘thing’. It is a good placeholder because it does not surprise people to see it and readers get some idea what you mean. But, like the word ‘thing’, ‘simple’ has too many definitions to provide concise meaning.

It has no impact

Instead of saying ‘simple’, let’s start saying what we really mean in a given context. Because it is overused and provides no concise meaning, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by dropping it from a product’s vocabulary. Instead of a word the readers skip right over because they see it on millions of sites, use a word or phrase that accurately makes your point.

Replace simple with what you really mean

‘Simple’ is sometimes used out of laziness. It is the first word that comes to mind and it is harder to come up with different, descriptive words. Yet, I think it is worth the effort for the reasons mentioned above.

So, I went through the PlaybookIQ website and removed any mention of simple or simplicity that I could find. It was an interesting exercise because it made me really think about what we are trying to communicate. Depending on the context, ‘simple’ got replaced with ‘fast’, ‘easy’, ‘concise’, or with an entirely new wording. Readers now get a much better idea of the product’s power and the benefit of a given feature or design decision. As another example, the application I wrote to try out Google App Engine is called “lightweight” instead of simple crm.

Don’t throw out the concepts

There is great value in the concepts talked about under the topic of ‘simplicity’. I agree with most of those and we continue to look for ways to implement ideas under the topic of ‘simplicity’. Yet when it comes to describing any given idea, product or product improvement it is time to use words that are more descriptive and concise and less overused and vague.

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