Simplicity vs Complexity

simplicity complexity“Complexity and simplicity” is a paradox in product development. Some customers would demand more features, details, and intricate innovations for the next development of a certain product. While these customers demand complexity in terms of innovation, others might disagree. Complexity would be perceived as a time consuming and confusing matter.

I used to play World of Warcraft (WoW) until I stopped a couple of years ago. The game was so intricated that made me keep playing it. It offered me with abundant features and quests. I could create characters, battle other players, journey with friends, and so on.

The game was not only complex in terms of gameplay, but also in terms of the backstory. There were histories within its realm and relationships between one quests and another. Because of its intricate feature, it took me hundreds of hours to master and explore the whole game. This game ended 2013 with 7.8 million paying members with $1.77 billion profits.

On the other hand, a product doesn’t have to be complex and detail to harvest a lot of profits in innovation. A month ago, there was a phenomenal game that I and another 50 million players played. The game was so simple. I just have to control a silly looking bird attempting to fly between rows of green pipes without clashing. You could not make a character or play another gameplay besides avoiding green pipes. Yes, this game was called Flappy Bird. Both of the rule and method were so simple that made some segments mocked Flappy Bird’s players as simpleton. However, the game was so popular in a really short time and generated $50.000 per day because of its simplicity.

Perhaps it was not apple-to-apple to compare WoW and Flappy bird. WoW was an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) while Flappy Bird was only a single player platform. This perspective is not wrong, but leads to a counter argument. Both of them are games and downloaded by customers as an activity that they engage in for amusement.

Another innovative example that focused on complexity was between Macintosh and Windows as its archrival. This rivalry had been going for more than a decade. A couple of years ago, Windows launched ‘Windows 8’ as its new operating system (OS). This OS was massively more complex than its previous predecessors. Apple challenged the idea of complexity by releasing ‘Mavericks’. Mavericks didn’t have fancy features as Windows 8 had. The OS was as simple as the previous OSX Mountain Lion, yet powerful enough to accommodate even hardcore Mac users.

The war continues in its hardware innovation. Recently, Windows offered a laptop with tablet capabilities. I don’t know how to spell this new technology, but I think ‘Tabtop’ has a good rhyme to be pronounced of. This Tabtop allowes users to use laptop and also pull out the screen as a tablet. This is an interesting innovation because this Tabtop could accommodate users’ activities in many occasions.

On the other side, Apple released MacBook pro retina display with a taunting to old technology. Instead of adding features like Windows’ developers did, Apple removed DVD ROM on its new MacBook Pro Retina Display. Apple also developed simpler version for its product categories. First, it was MacBook Air that was inspired by MacBook. The innovation began to touch other categories such as the development of iPad Air, new slimmer iMac, and even a more compact Mac Pro.

This paradox explains that valuing does exist. Whether the development of the product goes to the perspective of simplicity or complexity, the developers should consider how would customers react and perceive that the offered products are valuable to them. I myself had an Apple that put its faith towards simplicity and played World of Warcraft that offered abundant intricate features in its realm.

*CIC Repository No. 2

SONY DSCDimas Maulana
PDMA Indonesia Researcher


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