Ever go through a checkout process that has a few too many steps? You’ve dealt with a lack of simplicity. Simplicity is important for increasing conversion rates and reducing customer frustration. Happy customers tend to produce higher lifetime value at lower cost to your support team.
What I look for
When I’m grading something on the simplicity of it, the first thing I look at is the navigation. I’ll then look at signup and checkout processes, or other multi-step flows.
In an app navigation might be on a welcome screen or within menu. On a website, it’s typically at the top of the page. I look for extra navigation elements and features that don’t belong. I also look for redundancy. For example, in an app about travel, there shouldn’t probably be a feature to get a car insurance quote.
Flows have a beginning, middle and end. As a user enters a flow, they have a reward in mind at the end of it. Sometimes that’s subscribing to a newsletter. Other times, it might be securing a hotel room reservation. Simplicity here goes beyond reducing the number of steps in a flow (while often increasing the number of interactions on each step). Keeping a flow simple is about reducing the interactions that seem unnecessary to users. In a flow to order a computer, it doesn’t make sense to ask the size of the user’s household.
Often, reducing complexity in this way may mean providing a less accurate quote, or receiving a little less demographic information up-front about your users. So, the costs must be weighed against the benefits, but generally speaking, simpler flows bring more conversions.
I always recommend rigorous testing of flows to find the right mix of value and conversions. Sometimes fewer leads is ok if they’re more likely to convert in the end. Other times, asking a key question can provide a more accurate quote. In some of these cases, information from public and private databases can be used to fill in the gaps, whereby the user only needs to input a few data points and the rest is completed for them. Again, the answer is to test these solutions against each other to see which one provides the right mix.
Next time you’re designing something, look for pieces to take out. Is the design better or worse without that feature? This is minimalism. It’s no wonder Jakob Nielsen’s lists “minimalistic design” as one of his heuristics. 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design. When in doubt about how simple you can go, test it!