Digital/Online Marketing Communications Strategy

Why The Future Of Technology Is Simplicity

By on January 21, 2010 in trends with 0 Comments

Do you enjoy trendspotting?

I sure do.

Hence those two recent blog posts: Communications Trends For 2010, Part 1 and Part 2.

It’s time to move on to other topics. But before doing so, I wanted to share one more thought about what’s next.

People who are not technologically inclined will determine the future of technology

This golden nugget was mined during a conversation with Avi Joseph. I was gathering fodder for Communications Trends For 2010 (Part 1). We were discussing how social mobile web applications — geo-tagging, for example — will become more prominent in the coming year. Avi offered this intriguing idea, which really got me thinking:

“If you want to imagine more, just ask a friend who is not so technical what they would like to see in a mobile phone, and like that, you will see the future. When you ask me, it’s not so accurate because we [you and I] are technologic people. What we are using my younger brother is not using… It’s better to ask him, ‘What would you like included in a phone that you don’t have today?’… You need to ask regular people.”

Avi asserted the future of mobile lies in the ability to make its technology easier to use. “People see all the icons and they are afraid. They wonder, ‘If I click on that what will happen?’ ”

It’s not how cool the tool is, but how easy it is to use

I admittedly had my doubts about that last one. I recently got an iPhone and was happy to poke around to discover all the neat stuff it could do.

Then I was enjoying dinner with a friend and mentioned my shiny new gadget. My friend asked to see the iPhone, and when I handed it to him a look of intimidation flashed across his face. Right away, he wondered out loud, “Wow, what are all these buttons for?”

My friend — who happens to be a child of the ‘60s, as we are so-called — uses a computer on a daily basis. He does Facebook, too; so the guy’s not a total technophobe. Still, the iPhone’s interface struck him as daunting.

This incident reminds me of Clay Shirky’s comment about how “technology only becomes socially interesting when it becomes technologically boring.” The idea being, it’s not how cool a tool is that determines whether it permeates society, but rather how simple that tool is to use.

Simple is in the eye of the beholder

On the other hand, I was chatting with my brother the other day and he mentioned his five year-old son was playing music on an iPod touch.

Ah kids, they do grow up digital these days.

– Deni Kasrel

Do you agree that the future of technology lies in simplicity? Or is it something else? Please share your thoughts. Comments welcome.

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About the Author: Deni Kasrel is seasoned (slightly spicy) specialist in digital/online communications. .

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  1. Tim Kastelle says:

    My first thought on reading this is that Usability might be more important than Simplicity. On reflection though, I’m not sure there’s that much difference between the two. I guess Usability is the appearance of Simplicity, even when things might actually be Complex…

    • Deni Kasrel says:

      Tim,

      Wow things can get complicated when you start thinking about simplicity.

      You’re right it’s a fine line between simplicity and usability. As I was writing this post I almost put in subhead that read “Don’t make me think” which is the title of Steve Krug’s popular book about web usability. Krug says the simple definition of usability means a web page is “self-explanatory”. That same notion is the crux of what I was getting at with this post. Your point is well taken.

  2. Awesome post. I was born in the Philadelphia area and am glad to (virtually) meet a home-towner who totally gets it. Right on!

  3. To be blunt, humans are lazy. Efficiency in most cases, is a process or mechanism by which people CAN be lazy.

    The simpler, the better.

    Most users have no interest in HOW something works, just that it does!

    Therefore the more simple our tools and interfaces, the more they will be used, and the more efficient we will all be.

    • Deni Kasrel says:

      Andrew,

      Thanks for your comment. Agree; efficiency is a factor here, too.

      I’ll steer clear of the lazy argument, but it is surely true if we had to think about, or know, how all the things we use use in modern day society actually worked, we’d get a heck of a lot less done.

  4. Deni, good post.

    I think Avi’s comment is very insightful. I often use my wife and kids to test ideas because they are more grounded in the “real world.” 🙂

    • Deni Kasrel says:

      Steve,

      Yep, Avi is definitely on to something with this one. You are smart to test ideas on those who are grounded in “real world” — that’s a real sweet-spot for marketers.

  5. Nic Oliver says:

    At the moment, social media is new – we are still at the bleeding edge and a shakedown is inevitable.

    Part of that shake down, and what will determine the winners and the extinct, will be making the front end simplified.

    But the major impact will be felt when people stop looking at the technology for its own sake and start thinking about how to use it for the genuine benefit of all, and being creative in its application.

    Examples: Using social media technology to improve customer service and those systems responsible for delivering it. Part of that will have to involve simplicity at the front end, no matter how complex the coding behind it.

    Another example – using social media to improve the quality of teaching and education. This will have to have a simple front end, if only for the teachers’ benefit 😉

    Operating systems that are lean, stable and quick, especially on mobile platforms.

    You’re right Deni – as technology moves from bleeding edge to universal adoption, simplification has to take place. The public will not put up with the issues that a techno-geek will happily spend hours resolving!

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