Keep it simple, but not stupid

Keep it simple, but not stupid

People hate complexity. When things get complicated its harder to make decisions, and easier to get frustrated. As an interface designer, your mantra should always be: simplify.

But don’t make it too simple

Have a look at the screenshot above. This is the new Facebook interface for creating events, which has been streamlined from previous versions. They’ve turned the date selection tool into a neat little jquery calendar pop-up, which is a huge improvement.

They’ve also changed the way that users select the time for their event. Simpler to look at than it used to be? Definitely.

Does it help me create and event that starts at 12:15pm? Definitely not.

How to be simple and smart at the same time

Obviously, Facebook has created a problem for me as a user. This is a particularly sticky problem, since events are often created to be used as part of advertising campaigns (using the Event Ad Unit), meaning they have potentially put a barrier between themselves and people willing to give them money… always a bad thing.

Some considerations to keep in mind, to ensure that your interface is simple, but not dumb:

  • Test in advance – As Facebook often does, roll out your new interface to a sample audience in order to get a sense for how it will work in the real world with real data. Segment out 10% of your traffic, show them the new toys. Watch and learn. Consider differences between new users and returning longtime users of social sites.
  • Get Feedback – When you launch a new feature, make a clear “feedback” element on the page – allowing people to let you know where they find spots that might need a bit of tweaking. You’ll often catch the little bugs this way.
  • Use previous data – Maybe this was taken into account, its hard to say. But if you have past records of how the element was used (databases of registrations etc), have a look to see what types of information people are putting in. I’ve created hundreds of events beginning on the quarter hour – and I’m willing to bet others have too.
  • Consider context – Think about events and what goes into creating them. People need to be invited, schedules need to be coordinated, venues need to be booked. The more branches there are in the problem, the more flexible the interface should be for fine tuning. Think you can convince a venue to adopt “Facebook time zones”? Think again.
  • Provide a work-around – Make the most obvious navigation as simple as possible, but if there is potential for wiggle room around it, give more options. A simple option to “customize time” within or next to the select menu would give us the best of both worlds.

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