Category Archives: Literature

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


Decisive perception

At the beginning of the class we were asked what we expected to learn in those English lessons. We all wrote unnecessary long list of demands just to stand out – ‘grammar’, ‘improve our listening skills’ etc.

Then our teacher read us a story. Two people were going to Athens. On their way they met a man and asked him about his opinion of Athens. He told them it was unpleasant, noisy and rather dirty. Not a very encouraging description, the two people thought. Further down their way, they met another man and asked him the same. He elaborately depicted Athens as the best possible city one could visit – full of history, spirit and beauty. The Athens visitors-to-be were confused by those polarised opinions. Luckily, they encountered a third person on their way to this Athens mystery. The wise man told them: ‘Athens is what you expect it to be.’

Momentarily before my eyes emerges the concept of ‘The dip’ by Seth Goddin: Being in an abyss where there is the strong probability for your things to pan out if you play your cards right. The Dip concerns relationships, jobs and everything worth doing, of course at the expense of a little risk, a lot of patience and a bunch of very well-developed guts – for the sake of the gut feeling. The latter needed for the daily decision-making when you are in the Dip.


Is the Dip like the Athens moral story – what we expect it to be? Sure, it does depend on outer factors as well but essentially, when we are in a sort of abyss, do our expectations influence the longevity of our Dip residence and its successful exit?

I think yes.

As discussed in the book, corporations aim premature quitting: not at the right time but in the middle of an either seemingly hopeless crisis or at too late a stage. We are encouraged to give in during the process. It is also a human reflex to let go of something/somebody when it hurts.

However, expectations could beat logical arguments and reflexes at their own game. When one expects the abyss is only a step, a cradle to success and an obligatory gap between start and mastery, the whole misery factor collapses. When one accepts reality and starts dealing with it, rather than chaotically fighting it back, depressing or panicking: The Abyss turns into a Dip – and suddenly there is a way out. One relocates their resources from investing them in various cul-de-sacs into the beneficial energy depot. The high water river of misdirected energy gradually becomes a channeled stream.

My insight from contemplating on the Dip, the Athens story and general decision-making is that the perception of right and wrong could sometimes catch us off guard. Exactly what happened with me and one of my English language students the other day.

We were discussing the difference between present simple and present continuous lying mainly in the progressive action, happening at the time of speaking. After a lot of theory and exercises, I gave my student the following sentence for her to determine whether it is right or wrong:

‘Look! This man over there tries to unlock your car.’

My student told me the sentence was wrong. Immense pride suffused me. ‘So I’ve managed to explain well, and she knows it should be ‘is trying’ – present continuous. Alas!’

‘And why do you think so?’ I asked to fully enjoy this moment of glory.

‘Because it’s wrong! Obviously it is wrong somebody else to try to unlock your car. This is a crime!’

The Dip is what you perceive it to be.

Head versus/plus heart appeal

Struggle or symbiosis?

Reading Osho and ‘Courage: The Joy to Live Dangerously’ I came across a life-changing for me quote:

‘When something New knocks on your door, opening it can ruin your current model of life. The mind defines that as ‘crazy’. But the heart welcomes the New and craves to explore. The mind is connected with the past. But the past is a part of the cemetery already.’

According to Osho, heart and mind do not go hand in hand. Choices must be purely emotional as they unveil the real opportunity to live here and now, to burn, to make mistakes, to be courageous (‘cor’ = heart).

Then, turning back to one of my favourite authors, Oscar Wilde, I remembered:

“What of Art?
-It is a malady.
-An Illusion.
-The fashionable substitute for Belief.
-You are a sceptic.
-Never! Scepticism is the beginning of Faith.
-What are you?
-To define is to limit.”

The mind defines. The heart does not.

There is only one world that assumes that mind and heart can work together.

BBH introduces two concepts called ‘the heart’ and ‘the head’ appeal that stand for the emotional selling proposition and the rational motive of the buyer. Functional attributes have to combine with the symbolic values, John Bartle (BBH) says.

Only one illusionary world as Adland can do this mélange. For better or for worse.

If you are a good mum, you will use Persil. (= heart, emotion, symbol)

And also, Persil is there for you for the last 100 years. Hence it’s a stable brand. (=logic, mind, past experiences, stability, rational).

“In the factory we sell cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope”