From Donald Norman’s latest book Living with Complexity:
… the so-called demand for simplicity is a myth whose time has passed, if it ever existed.
Make it simple and people won’t buy. Given a choice, they will take the item that does more. Features win over simplicity, even when people realize that features mean more complexity. You do too, I’ll bet. Haven’t you ever compared two products side by side, feature by feature, and preferred the one that did more? …
Would you pay more money for a washing machine with fewer controls? In the abstract, maybe. At the store, probably not.
Donald Norman’s assessment sounds wrong at first. Don’t we all like things to be simple? Not if by “simple” we mean “fewer features.”
A general theme in Living with Complexity is that complexity is inevitable and often desirable, but it can be managed. We say we want things that are simple, but we really want things that are easy to use. The book gives several examples to illustrate how different those two ideas are.
If something is complex but familiar and well designed, it’s easy to use. If something is simple but unfamiliar or poorly designed, it’s hard to use.