Is Simple the New Black?

Thanks to Matt for covering Geode. I have to agree with his assessment of location as awesomesauce when mixed with Intertubes.

Continuing my mission to slog through all the unread feeds I have left over from the week of OpenWorld, I noticed an item from Mashable about the simple and elegant Umbrella Today?

The concept is dead simple. Enter a zip code, get a yes or no. They do ruin it a bit for me by offering to text me when I need an umbrella, a useful feature I suppose, but it takes away from the boolean simplicity, which I absolutely love.

I roadtested it for Portland, and the result was correct, except for the minor fact that anyone with an umbrella here in PDX is marked as a soft tourist.

Mashable compares Umbrella Today? to another site I love, Down for everyone, or just me?, which can help you diagnose your website is down problems.

Lately, I’ve been a bit obsessed with simplifying things, e.g. one of the features of Ubiquity I like is its potential to simplify complex actions into commands.

Think about for a second. All the “features” offered by Umbrella Today? can be got elsewhere, but if you go to the Weather Channel or NOAA, you have to filter through a lot of other information to get the answer to that very simple question. The same can be said for Down for everyone.

Simple just isn’t trendy though, e.g. Facebook just announced their integration with Microsoft Live Search. So now you can query the ‘tubes with your keyword search and get the results without leaving Facebook.

Frankly, I don’t find the integration of Intertubes search results into my social network as a value-add (although I would consider Intranet results valuable), but I have no doubt this will be valuable to many of the recent converts to Facebook. Unfortunately, I think the concept of tabbed-browsing is not universally accepted as cool, much to my dismay. That’s a topic for a different time though.

Sure, I get why Facebook added Live Search, and I get why Microsoft wanted that as part of the equity stake they took in Facebook a year ago. It’s a solid, tried-and-true, Intertubes business model to extend your feature set to keep those eyeballs looking at your site. My point is about simplicity.

Let’s look back a what made Google successful. Two things, a really good index and awesome algorithm and a simple interface. Ten years ago, web portals were on top, My Excite, My Yahoo, remember them? Google offered none of the clutter and better results.

As more data become available through lightweight, easy-to-consume APIs, I expect to see a return to simple. There’s way too much information floating around, so the market for simple is huge. There’s even a business model there too, i.e. good old ads. Umbrella Today? should have no trouble finding advertisers if they so desire.

Both simple and complex have their place, but I’m advocating the less is more principle.

So, what do you think? Do you like bells and whistles and platforms that unify functionality? What do you think about simple, targeted apps? Sound off in comments.



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