Simple… and finally usable

I have two evil kitchen cupboards. Deep feeling of discomfort strangles me every time I need to open them. The nerve-racking experience comes from the heap of clutter in there. I’m so overwhelmed by the contents – the thought of putting them in order didn’t even cross my mind.

Last week I read Giles Colborne’s book ‘Simple and Usable’. He urges developers & designers to aim for meaningful simplicity, to carefully listen to the mainstreamers & their emotional needs and to start plotting out the user experience to create a story. Then to test their insights and spend more time engaging with the target audience in the real world. Colborne distills his strategy into 4 possible routes – remove, organise, hide and display.

Since I’m neither a designer, nor a developer, I’ve decided to apply Colborne’s advice to my own charming domestic mess. The smaller cupboard will illustrate the screen of a mobile device and the bigger one will stand for the desktop screen.

user experience

1. Remove (preferably what’s unnecessary)

‘Removing clutter allows designers to focus on solving a few important problems really well. (..)

Focus on what’s core and kill lame features (aka utensils).’

Prioritize features & avoid distractions (Bye-bye three jars of honey and repeat types of tea)

Bye-bye pan which I use only when Mum’s around to make her feel proud I know the difference between a pot and a pan.


2. Organise

Change the layout; make it manageable by breaking items down into chunks. To lessen the load on the user, Colborne suggests mapping the user’s behaviour.

The first things I reach for every morning are a mug, tea and my muesli bowl. Salad is the most common meal at home and I often boil a small portion of quinoa to complement it.


3. Hide

I also see hiding as a preliminary step to the removal of something less important. Colborne proposes that hiding might inconvenience users as it creates a barrier between the user and the feature. A successful example of hiding is the NYT’s disctionary: one is oblivious of its existence until they copy an unknown word to look it up on the Web. NYT’s dictionary appears just then – exactly and only when needed. Following this logic pattern, I thought about the salad dressing process. I use the lemon-squeezer only when I make a salad and I squeeze lemons only when I’m about to use my tiny dressing mix bowl. For when I boil something, I left myself the choice of two sizes.



Displacing was described by Colborne as an action of stripping down the content to a few basic activities. Displacing content between devices is also rather frequent. Websites can display far more content, while mobile could just offer the essential information – optimised.

Big cupboard can accommodate more dishes, while small cupboard can ‘shelter’ just the basics.

‘You need to take advantage of the strengths of each platform’.

mobile and desktop screens

2 thoughts on “Simple… and finally usable

  1. Website says:

    Highly descriptive article, I liked that a lot. Will there be a part 2?|

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