Book Review: Simple and Usable by Giles Colborne

What a great book! Simple and Usable by Giles Colborne is easy on the eyes, brief, straight-forward, and highly informative and relevant to your professional life. I can’t recommend it anymore than that, so I’ll get to the review.

Giles Colborne explains not only why simplicity matters throughout his book, but also how it’s done correctly.First things first, he eliminates the confusion between being simple and being minimalist, explaining how one isn’t necessary accompanied by the other. You can be simple and not be minimalistic.

He also eliminates the wrong ideas we have about making something usable (like, for example, adding a ‘Help’ link to the website and calling it a day). In his own words, quoted from page 12 of his book about Fake Simplicity:

“When something is simple, it looks effortless. So it is always disheartening to discover how hard it is to achieve simplicity. Surely there must be an easier way to reach the goal? You’ll fin people pushing ideas to deliver fake simplicity.”

You can discover you didn’t quite understand the development of a usable website project as well as you thought you did.

After this great introduction, Colborne goes on to explain the four approches one can take to make a product simple, always supporting his statements with a simple example: the redesign of a remote control. What buttons does it really need and how should these be arranged?

The four strategies to simplicity he applies are very straight-forward, but reading the specifics of each one teaches you a lot more than you realize by just reading the list:

  • Remove
  • Organize
  • Hide
  • Displace

Simple enough? You should read it and find out just how simple it gets to understand them thoroughly, too.

Editorial design? As soon as I opened the book, one thing came to my mind: A printed powerpoint presentation.

Of course it doesn’t have so little text, but Colborne arranges things in a very easy-to-read way: One page of text, and then one whole page with a huge image that represents what was said on the page before, with a short slogan to support it.

If you still don’t have it, you should order your copy right away. If you are, though, an old-fashioned reader like me who prefers to browse around the book store, I got my copy at a local Borders store.