Law 2: Organize

Tue, Dec 5, 2006

Simplicity Rules

This is part of a series looking at John Maeda’s ten Laws of Simplicity.

“Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.”

This law comes down to basic cataloging. Find like elements and put them together. Maeda uses the ol’ screenwriter trick of placing one thought/item on an index card. Then the cards can be moved around until you find the right groupings.

BestPlaces categories
At BestPlaces we’re continually honing in on the best way to show all the data we have on every city and zip code in the US. The most important step was organizing the data into categories. To show air quality, average precipitation, and unemployment rate right next to each other would be confusing. Organizing them into health, climate, and economy sections goes a long way to simplifying what we’re showing.


USDA’s Haynet was able to boil their entire site down to two links: have hay and need hay.

Have hay? Need hay?

I’ve harped on this before as being too simple. My main beef with it is that it’s not a template that translates to other sites very well. When architects have emulated the Haynet approach, they lost something in their simplicity.

A later law does a good job of explaining my problem with Have Hay / Need Hay. As far as organization goes, one can’t get much simpler.

As I mentioned yesterday, Maeda explains many of his laws with continuums between conflicting factors. It seems to me that as we nudge one way with one law, we cause a reaction that moves other laws. It’s a delicate balance that should be embraced, because with the process comes simplicity. Organizing is a big part of that process.

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