What does Simplicity mean when it comes to software?

Our geek bookclub at Talis has been reading 37Signals Getting Real. It’s interesting text that contains for the most part a common sense advice with which we as a group can relate to. But one of the things thats been grating on my mind for a while now is the notion that simplicity sells, and by simplicity im referring to a lack of features. Unfortunatly whilst I was drafting this entry Joel got there first 😉 ( LiveWriter is excellent for offline editing of blog entries, unfortunatly it doesnt stop you getting pipped to the post!)

Anyway its well worth reading Joel’s post, I think hes absolutely right in pointing out that a lack of features isnt what made the iPod or BaseCamp such a success but the fact that amongst other attributes both these products were built to correspond to a user model that resulted in a high degree of usability. To my mind the problem we face in this industry is that in order to build useable systems we need to accept that we can only do that by understanding the users mental model, we can no longer afford to build software solutions as simply the delivery of a set of discrete requirements and leave usability as something we can bolt on at the end when we’ve got the rest of the system working. We have to understand our users and put them first.

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