What’s the Information, Kenneth?

“The simpler an interface looks, the faster it will seem,” – Mike Beltzner (Mozilla)

The purpose of a User Interface is information. Whether it be delivery of that information, manipulation of that information, or discovery of that information is secondary to the information itself. It’s that simple and as soon as your recognize that you can begin to build compelling experiences with the least amount of crap.

Yet time and again people whom build UI’s are forced by people whom do not build UI’s to add more. They want more widgets or charts or colors or fonts, more stuff on their site. And the more stuff you put on their site, the harder it becomes for the user to see the information they are seeking. The harder it becomes to see the forest through the trees as the saying goes.

Every time I build a UI for someone I ask them one simple question: What’s the most important thing you need to convey? Whatever that is, that piece should be 75% of the interface. I would say that in the twenty or so interfaces, only one project has ever answered that succinctly. Usually you get this long diatribe about how you should put X here and Y here and the menu needs to go here in 24 point comic sans ms. It’s usually at that point I wish I could just walk away from the project… and live on a beach in Guam. But I love my internet access too much to give it up for the beach lifestyle. Maybe in another year or two.

So the point is, that the people in charge of projects are under some sort of assumption that more is better. If you ever are in doubt of this, go look at Amazon’s front page. Too much crap to wade through just to get to a search box or your wish list or whatever. But the reality is less is better. Less is more usable. Less is faster.

So my question to you is, how do you take a customer that wants to add more trees and show them the forest?