Simplicity, the ultimate sophistication
“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old,
you don’t understand it yourself.”
Albert Einstein (?)
Obviously, things can get even worse than that. What if you can’t explain it to a… sixty-year-old? Unfortunately, this is the case for most devices, applications, etc. In other words, we tend to make things complicated rather than simple. And the question yet again is: why?
Traditionally, machines were made for experts who would be hard-trained to use them; nowadays, this applies only to certain high-end devices. However, a large number of devices are now consumer-oriented and are meant to be practical and easy to use. This equally means that their manuals/instructions should be easy to follow and their interface should be simple enough for all users. Yet, this is rarely the case.
So, who makes things complicated? In the circle of product releases, anyone from the developer, through to the technical writer to the translator and reviewer, they all have a big share of responsibility.
If a developer builds an extremely complicated product, there’s nothing to be done; the technical writer/translator/reviewer can only burden the end-users with this complexity, thus frustrating them. If a developer manages to create a user-friendly product, then most of the responsibility is transferred to the technical writer and the translator, who need to find suitable vocabulary and phrasing in order to make the product more accessible to the user. However, there is often a weak link in the product chain. Who is that and what can we do in order to ensure that there is no weak link in our product chain? This issue is further investigated in Horizontal localization (coming soon).
Author: Yannis Evangelou