What can Apple, Google and Amazon Teach You About Simplicity?

There is a very big difference between simple and simplistic

Google have a single box on their home screen.  Type something in it and you can access the world. Simple to use, but far from simplistic

The iPhone has one button on the bottom and a screen that you navigate by touch.  Simple to use, but far from simplistic

Log onto Amazon and they will sell you almost everything there is to be sold.  Simple to use, but far from simplistic

They have all applied the pareto principle, worked out what their customer really wants, and given them just that, nothing more and nothing less

Unfortunately being that simple is far from easy

But then any idiot can make something complicated

Read another opinion

Image by jronaldlee


  1. Hello James

    Apple have done and continue to do a tremendous amount of work (behind the scenes as it were) to make their products (and the services that these products provide/enable) simple. And that is partly why they are as rich as they are. The customers are rewarding them for the effort put in even if the customer is not aware of the effort.

    Amazon has done exactly the same thing. And again it thus stands out when it comes to the customer experience – simple, easy. This is another company that stands out and is being amply rewarded for the work that it has done behind the scenes. Just think of the supply chain and the work that has gone into that. Or the IT infrastructre that sits behind their digital presence.

    Most companies are simply too lazy or unskilled to make stuff simple for customers. Their lack of expertise, caring or willingness to do the work to make things simple ends up as the burden on customer shoulders. Customers will only carry that burden for as long as they have no choice. When they have choice the company placing that burden on their shoulders pays the price.

    To sum: it requires passion, committment, expertise, continuous learning and an understanding of the total cost of ownership (from the customer perspective) to make things simple for the customer.


  2. James Lawther says:

    Thanks for your comment Maz

    Looks like “passion, committment, expertise, continuous learning” are in short supply.

    I do think that “understanding of the total cost of ownership” and realising it is important is the most important thing though.

    Interesting story about Kindle here which makes that very point. http://thecustomerblog.co.uk/2012/02/11/an-opportunity-for-amazon-to-improve-and-get-more-customers/

    But then you know that.


  3. There is a great quote from the jazz bassist Charles Mingus (check out his “Ah Um” album, its great) on the topic:

    “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

    True simplicity is the essence of creativity, not necessarily passion or commitment. I would venture to say regardless of an endless supply of passion and commitment, very few people could envision the concept of the iPod or the like before they came to market. I disagree that most companies are “lazy” or “unskilled,” but they lack the long term vision to encourage creativity across all levels of the organization. This idea is universal in its application to any industry.

    • Hi Wesley,
      I’ve heard that Mingus quote before and really like it as it implies the amount of effort that it takes to create a compelling simple product/service.

      Another one that I like comes from Mark Twain, I think, when he said ‘Forgive me for writing a long letter as I did not have time to write a short one’.

      Is time, therefore, another element that is in short supply when it comes to the pursuit of simplicity?


  4. James Lawther says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Wesley, I think your point on creativity is a very good one.


  5. James

    The reference to Google simplicity reminded me how they got there, with some slightly obscure help from one of their customers – and a dislike of undue effort required to transact.

    As usual with a business prepared to embed customer in their ethos (rathre than pay liip service), it now informs everything they do with their simple shop window.



  1. […] “There is a very big difference between simple and simplistic. Google has a single box on their home screen. Type something in it and you can access the world. Simple to use, but far from simplistic. Unfortunately, being that simple is far from easy. But then, any idiot can make something complicated.” – Squawkpoint.com […]