Google Designer David Hogue: How to Avoid Over-Complication in Product Design
Simplicity may not be simple, but it’s crucial to your product’s long-term success
Most product designers have the best of intentions with their work — they want to make quality products that solve problems for their users and strive to constantly find new ways to serve and delight them. But these noble intentions can have unintended negative consequences: Slowly, piece-by-piece, new product features, expansions, and tweaks pile up, resulting in clutter, complication, and eventually friction. It’s very difficult to remove features once they’re added to an app or service, and before a designer knows it, their once-effective user experience has deteriorated.
That’s where David Hogue comes in. An applied psychologist and interaction/UX designer, he is a UX design lead at Google responsible for improving UX quality, cohesiveness, and consistency across Android platforms and devices. He has made it his mission to help design teams avoid overly complicating their products, and to help them triage their apps and services when “feature bloat” gets the better of them.
At FITC Toronto 2019, David presented a talk called “Simplicity Is Not Simple,” focused on this very issue (along with a workshop called “Designing for Wicked Problems,” which focuses on solving user problems that don’t have a clear optimal solution). We asked him to share his best advice for keeping your products lean and effective, and why simplicity is key to making sure the products of tomorrow place human-focused design at their core.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Patrick Faller: How do you know when your product has tipped the scales from being “feature-rich” to just plain complicated?
David Hogue: Products and services naturally evolve and grow, always trying to be more and better. Technological advances enable products and services to do more, users to give feedback and requests, product roadmaps mean new features and content are already planned, unanticipated use cases pop up, and more. There are many indicators of when products and services…