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.