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Posts Tagged ‘Simplicity’

My credit card provider, ICICI, redesigned its credit card statement recently. Typically, you find that redesigns make you unhappy because what was familair is not and what is unfamiliar is (usually) hard to find. Not so with this redesign, which is why I am giving ICICI some blog love.

The image below shows the main part of the statement with the numbers white-ed or grayed out, so you don’t focus on those parts.

Credit Card Statement Redesign

If you notice, the statement summary box and the your total amount due box are in a different colour and they stand out right away. Also, the Your Total Amount Due box is bigger than the rest, so you don’t have to search the statement to figure out the two most important things – how much you owe and when you need to pay.

It’s a nice way to present information and to highlight the most important information for the customer (and possibly the credit card company).

I find this statement far easier to read than their previous one, which wasn’t bad but required some scanning to figure out the relevant information. I can think of a couple of statements, that I currently receive, that could do with a similar redesign.

Well done ICICI for keeping the customer in mind.

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There was a time, not too long ago, when a simple Enter would allow me to “Save” a delicious bookmark. Now, when I hit Enter, delicious converts my tag to lowercase (or something).

Hit another Enter and it takes me to a new input box (feature) called “Send”, which allows me to send my bookmarks to people. I just want to save my bookmark and have it appear on my blog.

I’d worked it out so I needed minimal mouse clicks to save a bookmark. Now, I either need to use the mouse or have to press the Tab button several times and figure out when the focus is on the Save button.

Maybe delicious wanted to get in on the Twitter bandwagon or maybe a lot of users asked for this feature, but I am not happy about these changes. The changes make it harder for me to save a bookmark.

In general, it makes you wonder why people feel the need to tinker with software and add additional bells and whistles, aka features, especially when things are working well. Keep adding features and you get unnecessary complexity.

Obviously you can’t keep things simple for everything but we seem to err on the side of complexity more than simplicity. Try spreading the simplicity love by indulging in some K.I.S.S.ing.

P.S. Those folks over at 37 Signals seem to revel in keeping things simple.

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Why post-its still rule

Why Computers Can’t Kill Post-Its is a really interesting article by Lee Gomes, based on a study by MIT, on why people tend to use the low-tech post-its over other high-tech alternatives.

“…one volunteer subject “would write notes on Post-its and stick them to his cellular phone to transfer into Outlook later rather than enter the data directly into his smart phone, even though the phone supported note synchronization.

When asked why not enter the note digitally in the first place, he responded, ‘Starting in Outlook forces me to make a type assignment, assign a category, set a deadline, and more; that takes too much work!’

The article shows that usability and simplicity has an important role to play in technology. Obviously, there’s only so much you can do with low-tech solutions (post-its, notebooks), and you can do much more with advanced technology, but sometimes the lack of usability or having unnecessary complexity can be a stumbling block to users.

(Here’s the article link again)

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The Spar supermarket, located in the Oasis mall in Bangalore, has a really nice trolley that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. It’s red, is made of plastic, and has a sleek shape. In its skeletal form, the trolley has no baskets but just two “receptacles” (for lack of a better word) for shopping baskets.

You can “fit” two shopping baskets onto the skeleton to make it a trolley; one slides in near the bottom of the trolley and the other is “fixed” at the top of the trolley through two small supports that holes in the basket slide into. The shape of the trolley indicates how you should position the basket at the bottom of the trolley’s skeleton.

The resulting trolley is light and moves smoothly–you can even move it with one hand. (I wonder if the designers figured that some parents may have kids tagging along and might have only one hand free.) The trolley also does not take up as much space as a regular trolley which is a good thing in supermarkets, especially on weekends. The trolley skeletons also stack together nicely and don’t occupy a lot of space.

The amount of stuff you can carry in the trolley is limited, of course, to two baskets, so people doing tons of shopping may find that restrictive. I didn’t. The only negative about this trolley is that sometimes it’s veers a bit off-course when you’re doing the one-hand controlling–not a major issue but an irritant nonetheless.

After using heavy, metal trolleys in supermarkets, some of which just refuse to go in the direction you want them to, this trolley is a welcome change. I don’t know who designed the trolley but the first time I saw it, I was reminded of IDEO and its trolley design story. The trolley in Spar looks quite different but IDEO’s designs are not a bad standard to aspire to anyway.

If you get a chance to go to the Oasis mall and like seeing good designs, check out the trolley at Spar. And while you’re there, you can even shop for groceries or something.

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When I need to check for the availability of airline tickets, I usually gravitate to ClearTrip. The interface is clean, there isn’t too much clutter, and compared to the other sites the simplicity is beautiful.

The results are also displayed in a way (see below) that makes sense to customers and not in an airline-friendly way. The results are sorted by price and the result selected shows you a break-up of the price. (For e.g.: Rs. 2,528 = Rs. 500 + Rs. 2,028 taxes & fees, if the image is not clear).

I’ve been to sites that will show you the price without taxes and then after you select a price, they’ll “surprise” you in the next page. This is such a breath of fresh air.

ClearTrip results page

ClearTrip’s tagline is Making Travel Simple and even their About page talks about this:

Simple: Simplicity is a religion at Cleartrip. If we’re not the not the easiest place to search and book your travel, feel free to give us a piece of your mind.

Even if you don’t want to book a ticket, go and check out the design of the website to see what I’ve been blathering about. I wish more sites would realise that less is more.

PS: I have no affiliations with ClearTrip at the time of writing. If they wish to reward me for pushing up their stock price after this post, however, I have no qualms about accepting a seat on their board. Or a free air ticket.

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