I didn’t get enough sleep last night – so this morning I woke up so stupid-dumb tired I could barely function. When you’re in a mood like that, you want things to be simple, and just work, so you don’t have to think.
Hence the title of this post. The reason we are so enamored of these three mega-companies of the 3.0 age is that they offer a kind of Orwellian-socialist simplicity: The stuff always works, is always simple, and is always there.
Yes, there are a lot of other designs or tools that could work better. It’s the utilitarian ease behind Google Search, Facebook, or the Apple interface on anything that keeps us coming back.
Consider Facebook – why do we all keep coming back to a site with questionable privacy policies and no content of their own? Because it’s easy. If all of our friends are there, and nothing is ever too terribly broken (like Twitter is with that damn Failwhale,) we’ll keep coming back to it. Facebook doesn’t actually do anything except create a stage where our friends can entertain us, and we can entertain our friends. (Or game companies can entertain us with town and mob simulators, but that’s another story.)
Google was just another search engine, but with more believable results. Otherwise, the concept of search results is universally loved. “I ask it a question, I get an answer, I go on about my business.” It’s the reason Yahoo! and AOL before it were just as beloved: A simple service that let people use it and move on.
So many developers today think they need to reinvent the wheel to get the public’s attention, and have the next can’t-live-without-it product offering. It would be great if someone could figure out a need we have but aren’t aware isn’t being fulfilled: Search engines did that too, as did Wikipedia, e-mail, SMS/instant messaging… things we didn’t know we needed, but now that we have them can’t live without.
Apple did the same thing with personal computers instead of information retrieval or communications. I’ve used PCs all of my life, so you’d better believe I understand the appeal of Apple: Their stuff always works, all of the time. It’s easy to use and always looks pretty. PCs don’t work that way. PCs break, they’re usually poorly designed, there’s no consistency from one machine to the other, all of the really great viruses are written for PCs….
And don’t get me started on mobile! That iPhone is so easy to use, you have to wonder why all mobile interfaces aren’t required by law to mimic it.
Apple’s appeal is readily apparent to those of us who use PCs and wish they would just Goddamn work. If they managed to bring their price down to something approaching reasonable, I’d probably own one – but that is neither here nor there.
This is for the website and app developers: If you really want to innovate, innovate a simple solution that lets us get what we need and move on. All of the big, high concepts aren’t what we need. We need simple. We need something we can still use even when we’re horribly sleep deprived. We need something that makes our lives easier.
That’s how the big boys roll, because that’s all we really want.