Law 4: Learn

Thu, Dec 7, 2006

Simplicity Rules

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

“Knowledge makes everything simpler.”

One reason I really like the Laws of Simplicity is because each one is important to the whole package. When I first read this law, I thought it was a cop-out. As a Web developer, I accept at least a partial truth to the claim that people don’t read directions. At a glance, this law says, “just tell them how it is and suddenly it’s easier because they know now.”

Learning has to happen somehow. It’s not the responsibility of this law to say how that happens. Hopefully the other laws make the knowledge transfer implicit.

It’s also worth acknowledging how much our users already know. Most sites don’t need to explain how to click links or fill out forms. Instead, the basic navigation style and layout of sites are similar because that’s what the users expect.

To me, the law of knowledge says to consider what your users already know. Once you have a group on their current knowledge, you can use the other laws to help them learn what they don’t know.

I think of the small technical lessons I have given my father. Perhaps the biggest was copying and pasting. The next biggest might have been the shortcuts to copy and paste. Those small bits of knowledge create a much simpler experience.

Two years ago, The Wheeze encouraged me to read Web sites in a feed reader. Taking the time to learn that process greatly changed the way I consume information. Now I probably track five times the sites in half the time.

As these examples show, this fourth law of learning works in tandem with the third law, time. Once you know something, you save time, which directly equates to simplicity.

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  1. Simplicity Rules » Dear Users: Please Change Says:

    [...] I appreciate his position. It must be difficult to watch millions of his users fall prey to something that can, from his perspective, be so easily avoided. Lack of user education is definitely part of the problem (knowledge makes everything simpler, says the Laws of Simplicity). But he isn’t meeting users in the middle in this post. Even his “simple” solution sounds like a lot of work and is asking users to change their normal patterns: “This all may sound complicated, but there’s a simple way to make sure you NEVER get phished. If you are ever clicking around MySpace and you are asked to login, don’t do it! STOP. Go to the URL bar in your browser, and type in ‘myspace.com’ and then login. If you always type in myspace.com yourself, you’ll be sure that you are on our real login page, and not some fake designed to steal your login credentials.” [...]

  2. Simplicity Rules » Unopenable Mint Container Says:

    [...] The fourth law of simplicity states: “Knowledge makes everything simpler.” [...]

  3. Simplicity Says:

    [...] 4: Learn: Remove unneeded confusion by [...]

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