Monday, June 02, 2008

Simplicity and Google

I am indebted to my good friend Steve Sherlock in the US for tipping me off about a recent article. In the article, Google Executive, Marissa Mayer celebrates 'simplicity' as one of the most important principles in the success of Google.

There are critics who say simplicity is a ‘dated’ concept and that the world is really far more complex than people like me make out. We are all of course entitled to our opinion.

I am not stupid enough to think there is no such thing as complexity but I maintain with a passion that we make things far more complicated than they need to be.

Thanks again Steve for tipping me off – you can read what Marissa Mayer of Google thinks about simplicity by clicking here.

27 comments:

David Wike said...

Trevor, I think you may have over-simplified the issue!

If you read the article it is quite evident that the Google operation is far from simple. However, what they set out to do is to make the process simple for the customer. It is like the proverbial swan. There are massively complex things going on below the surface so that at the customer level the experience is uncomplicated. Surely that should be the aim of every organisation.

PS - John, I am co-writing with myself now. Thanks for the tip!

Trevor Gay said...

David - I'm ALWAYS ‘over simplifying’ issues as you know – it’s a habit I’ve had all my life - I hope I never lose it.

From ‘over simplification’ comes understanding in my experience. Conversely, when anyone starts from a position of ‘over-complexity’ I normally switch off immediately and so do most folks in my experience.

I would rather be among the masses who believe things should be simpler rather than more complicated whilst acknowledging complexity exists.

As I said in my posting I am not stupid enough to believe some things are not complicated. Google get it right because they want their customers to see simplicity and their front line employees to live that message I realise things are complicated 'underneath' but the world sees and experiences wonderful simplicity from Google and look at the success Google have had.

On a smaller scale the most successful leaders and managers I’ve worked with always make it simple for customers and front line employees whilst behind the scenes of course there is complexity – but that is where it should stay – behind the scenes.

Steve Sherlock said...

Trevor, thanks for the link. I knew that article would be right in your space.

Trevor Gay said...

Cheers Steve - appreciated.

Richard Lipscombe said...

I agree with David you have over- simplified and taken out of context what Dr Mayer is talking about... She is on about a friendly user interface, speed, clarity, etc. She would be the first to admit that search is complex... she does to my reading in this article... she obviously understands the work of the legendary Lord Ashby... one of your Brits that you can be proud of Trevor - he is a hero of mine ... Ashby stated mathematically and in simple words that complexity can be combated with the requisite variety... variety is the spice of life not simplicity... sure Dr Mayer talks about simplicity because she knows that users want speed and ease of access when they set out to search on Google... She is about simplicity in so far as it has to do with the genius results her teams at the Googleplex get from their variety of approaches to improving search on the internet... They are engineers so that may come up with overly complex solutions and so these have to be simplified so a moron like me can use and enjoy the fruits of their labour.. When I go to Linux much of the complexity remains because to them complexity is simplicity... Horses for courses I guess... But to claim Google validates your Simplicity blog and its content - not sure about that Trevor????

Trevor Gay said...

I hear what you say Richard and yes I realise that behind the scenes there is 'complexity' but for the customer all we see is simplicity about Google and that is an aspiration for all of us is all I suggest. Google have cracked it big time and they lead the way - we can all aim to follow their lead.

David Wike said...

Commenting on Trevor’s interview with me Joel said, “I love how the comments here (Simplicity blog) always sound like a chat in the pub, jumping from subject to subject, challenging and agreeing and pontificating (in a good way.)”

I have suggested to Trevor that he should add an online bar to the blogsite. Then the discussion might get even more boisterous, especially as the virtual evening wears on.

Good to see Richard joining the anti-fawning group gathered in one corner of the bar! I am tempted to add that Google searches aren’t even that simple if one goes beyond the basic offer on the front page … but I’ll save that for another day otherwise Trevor the barman may throw me out onto the street!

A little while back the UK introduced so-called 24 hour drinking – not quite as simple as the title suggests! However, it is good to see that Trevor’s bar is open 24 hours a day to serve up virtual liquid refreshment* and lively conversation wherever you may be on the planet.

* Actually it is more like a party where you are asked to bring a bottle!

Mike Gardner said...

David--we must ensure Trevor stocks more than red wine in his bar! Much as I love a good cabernet, I also enjoy lager, ale, porter, and stout--not to mention a good single malt Scotch and Kentucky bourbon. I hope we don't start hearing the "time" bell ring, either.

Trevor Gay said...

Amazing!!! - I leave my office to do some real work for a day and when I come back I find ‘Simplicity Blog Virtual Bars Inc.’ set up in my absence. There is talk of wild ‘bring a bottle parties’ and even decisions made in my absence about what drinks we stock!

As Mike seems to be the ‘stock controller’ my request Mike is for Glenfiddick – no finer Malt Whisky and Courage Best bitter on Draught please.

David has proposed we are open 24 hours so I am making David my Pub Manager for the night shift from 11pm to 7 am!!

Great fun guys and thanks for brightening the day.

David Wike said...

Very kind of you to offer me the post Trevor, but may I suggest that the guys in the colonies are better placed to manage what would be the wee small hours here?

As the sun briefly appeared today in Blighty we did dine al fresco and took a couple of glasses of ‘grape juice’ to wash everything down. That’s the sort of Simplicity that I like!

David Wike said...

PS - Hope you don't think I'm being curmudgeonly turning your offer down!

Trevor Gay said...

Joel really started something with his mention of a pub! ... My Blog is transforming into a support group for we drink lovers! ...

Great stuff David and hope you enjoyed the sun this afternoon ... well that's summer over for another year! :-)

spinhead said...

Simplicity is in the eye of the end user. Not sucking up to Trevor; I just think that what appears complex is often an aggregation of simple things—and if it's not, it often should be. Sometimes simplicity goes all the way to the core; sometimes it's only the interface. Either way, you have to have it.

My business goal is to make things seem simple, whether or not they are. Whether I'm designing a web tool or creating a marketing plan, if it doesn't appear dead simple and user-friendly, folks will simply stare blankly and go back to doing it The Old Way (a.k.a The Hard Way.) Google has done this superbly: dead simple interface to some of the most complex and advanced logic available.

Finally, I'm available to stand on either side of the bar whenever I can be of service. Half a pint of bitter? Certainly, sir. And may I recommend a malbec as an alternative to that tired old cabernet, my friend?

Trevor Gay said...

Joel – you’ve definitely got the job as barman my friend!!

‘Sucking up’ to Trevor or ‘Fawning over’ Trevor is no longer allowed on my Blog so thanks for that unsolicited affirmation about simplicity. I have the following quote on my business card;

‘Complexity is merely the sum of simple parts’ – Trevor Gay

John O'Leary said...

I think Trevor deserves the copyright AND patent on simplicity. Then he can magnanimously allow others to use the concept and language - provided, of course, they pay him a modest but suitable royalty.

Trevor Gay said...

That sounds a great idea to me John - have you been an agent in your past life too? - Agents always take a generous cut :-)

David Wike said...

Just popped into the bar – yes, I know it’s a bit early so I’ll just have a coffee please. It occurred to me that wine is a perfect example of simplicity for the end user (especially if the bottle has a screw cap), but incredible complexity in production. The better the wine, the more complex the production process. If you want to understand what is involved, including the sheer physical effort, then do read “The Ripening Sun” by Patricia Atkinson. It is a wonderful story of the author’s struggle against the odds to establish a successful vineyard in the Bergerac region of Western France. I promise you that you will never again begrudge a few pounds for a bottle of wine – although if you are a UK resident you will still resent the excessive amount of tax you pay on the bottle. And, in the UK at least, you can buy Patricia Atkinson’s wine – and very good it is too.

Of course, I could recommend other books on the subject of wine production, but the bar owner might accuse me of adding a book club or library to his blog while his back is turned!

Please note Trevor that I have used a lower case ‘s’ for simplicity so that I don’t infringe your trademark. Actually, John’s suggestion could make sense – the Patent Office website gives good advice on the options.

Trevor Gay said...

David - I’m happy for the new organisation ‘Simplicity Bars Inc’ to now include a library and book club … I think you would make a rather nice caring library receptionist in a very fetching blue outfit …

I don’t think I am the person to claim Simplicity as a copyright or patent … there are many people around the world writing about and doing far more stuff on simplicity than me e.g. John Madea and Bill Jensen as well as big companies like Philips who could make more legitimate claims than one ‘Trevor Gay’ … what benefit would it give me to claim copyright or patent? - I know nothing about these things as you can tell

David Wike said...

You couldn’t patent Simplicity but you could probably register the name as a trade mark unless somebody has already done so. I’ll follow up by email.

Are you paying for my new librarian’s uniform?

Trevor Gay said...

Given my passion for supporting front liners - of course I will provide the 'virtual' uniform - 'Trust me I'm a Manager!'

Thanks for the advice about patents and copyright - its all far too complicated of course :-)

Annie said...

Hang on minute, this has gone too far! Trevor promised ME the uniform - it's hanging in the wardrobe next to the snorkel and flippers. If you want a uniform David, you'll have to get your own.

David Wike said...

No one told me it was an underwater library! The job (and uniform) is yours Annie. By the way, I have a wetsuit and some sailing wellies in my garage if you are interested.

Trevor Gay said...

Who said anything about underwater? :-)

Annie said...

Thanks David.
Is your garage prone to flooding then?
:-)

David Wike said...

No, but there is a boat in there just in case!

Logan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Logan said...

Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..Virtual Receptionist