I’m a big fan of the internationally-renowned Gordon Ramsay. I’m not a huge foodie per se, but any time I see his various reality shows (the UK “Kitchen Nightmares” are my favorite), I gain a little more respect for the man. I appreciate his honesty and communication style, and the way he uses explicatives is second to none. One reoccurring theme i see in his shows is his insistence on simplicity. Most of the restaurants he tries to save suffer from a major case of trying to impress their guests with over complicated dishes — ones that pair odd combinations together in hopes of being unique, others that are just too complex to satisfy most people’s palettes. By the end of most of his shows, the restaurant has revived itself by creating simple dishes that are easy to make and delight the customer.
As a web guy developing ecommerce solutions for a major retailer, I see a correlation between our company and the restaurants Gordon Ramsay is trying to save. Over time, we have taken once simple web solutions and products and heaped layer after layer of complexity on them in an effort to sell more things. This is like a chef adding ten different spice combinations and an unusual sauce to a dish that could be served with just salt and pepper — it doesn’t work, and usually has the opposite intended effect. Instead of delighting our customers with the basics, like accessible product details and an easy way to perform various tasks on the site, we complicate the recipe by adding code hacks and fancy interactive “features” that usually end up confusing the customer and driving them elsewhere in search of a no-nonsense way to fulfill their needs.
There is an inherent elegance in simple solutions. They are typically easier to create, and satisfy the needs of the customer, without a lot of hassle. They offer a good base to introduce more complex interactions over time, if warranted. We need to get back to good clean code and UI, and not disguise our intent to sell products with unnecessary complexity.