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Designing for Simplicity Is Anything But Simple


As a proponent and fan of meaningful experience design, I’m fascinated by the paradox that  designing something simple is actually really hard. We’ve all likely encountered a product or service that was annoyingly complex, distracting us from what we were trying to accomplish. Do we really need to watch TV on our refrigerator? Sure, I suppose there could be a time when streaming Ozark while making my breakfast sounds like a good idea. But for the other 99.8% of the time, when I just need my refrigerator to keep my food cold, a TV screen on the door seems overkill.

In the space we focus on at Avoka, we’re constantly thinking about the simplest path, that requires the least customer effort, to digitally apply for banking products such as credit cards or personal loans. Compliance, legal, and technology requirements are often at odds with “simple.” Some banks are succeeding at stripping away the complexity – N26 out of Germany, and Capital One here in the US, stand out for me. I think these banks are succeeding at keeping it simple by focusing on a few (perhaps not so simple) things:  

First, being crystal clear on the essential outcome. If the goal is to acquire a new customer, then focus the application experience only on what’s required to open their new account. Cross-sell other products or options later.

Second, by embracing their inner-4yr old child and persistently asking “why?” They analyze each piece of information in the application and ask “why do we really need this?” If the answer doesn’t clearly align to helping acquire that new customer, then it’s place needs to be reconsidered.

And finally, they validate their ideas with different viewpoints. Ideally, getting input from real users of their applications. No two people’s idea of simplicity is the same and seeking input from different users helps you understand their true needs.

This discipline should give you a better chance of accomplishing both your business’s goals – acquiring that new customer – and your customer’s goals, which is to get a product or service that truly meets their needs, in the simplest way possible. Simple can be hard, no argument there. But we all know it when we experience it, and it can be a game-changer.

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