Neutralising Complexity


The majority of electronic devices/user inter­faces to­day (incl. op­er­at­ing systems, applications, web­sites, doc­u­ments, etc.) are full of con­tent, data, functions, rules, settings, methods, menus, sub-menus, sub-windows, sub-sub-windows and so on...
The more complexity there is, the more at­ten­tion and en­er­gy is re­quired from the users. But some­times com­plex­i­ty can be driven out.

A case from Microsoft Word:

Symbol dialog box in Microsoft Word

Figure 1: Symbols dialogue box in Microsoft Word.

When users access the Symbol dialogue box, they are look­ing for a sym­bol or a spe­cial character to insert into the text. Currently, visually rec­og­nising a symbol among hun­dreds of them is the only way to find the required symbol, even if users know the symbol’s name. (Once inserted, the symbol goes into the “Last used” queue.)
Although there are subsets that make small­er groups of sym­bols, it would be much easier to have a search field in which users could sim­ply type the symbol’s name and instantly find what they are look­ing for. Also, users are sometimes not con­fi­dent in which sub­set their want­ed symbol belongs.

Symbol dialogue box in Microsoft Word with suggested Search field at top right for easier searching by name

Figure 2: This is how the search field could be added at the top right, in order to make searching for a symbol by name a lot easier.

Numero symbolFor example, let’s say the user is look­ing for a “numero” sym­bol in Word’s Symbol dialog box. Instead of man­u­al­ly scroll­ing through hun­dreds of sym­bols of varying shapes, the user could simply type into the search field “numero,” “No,” “N,” or “number” and in­stant­ly reach that symbol.

That kind of process waste­ful­ly con­sumes users’ fo­cus and energy. Users are fo­cused on the con­tent (writing) and in the moment when they want to in­sert a specific symbol, instead of quickly in­sert­ing, their focus goes from the con­tent to man­u­al­ly search­ing and rec­og­niz­ing the want­ed symbol.

Additional Advices: Name variations and as­so­ci­ations are high­ly rec­om­mend­ed for sit­u­a­tions when users can’t re­mem­ber the exact string to enter into the search field. For ex­amp­le, writing “numero,” “No,” “N,” or “number” finds the “numero” symbol. Also, some symbols look alike, mak­ing them hard­er to recognize. A mag­ni­fy­ing tool or increasing the size of all symbols is recommended.

Symbol dialog box in Microsoft Word

As few steps as possible

One of the fundamental methods to create easier and better experience in the digital and material environment is making a number of steps in achiev­ing some goal as few as possible. By doing so, a number of neural processes in our visitors’ brain decrease and they spend less cognitive load, which in overall makes them more comfortable in our (digital) environment.

A case from A user is interested in Golf R version of VW’s most known car model. One selects Modelle (step No. 1), Der neue Golf (No. 2), Der Golf R (No. 3), and starts to watch the selected page. As one has interest in configuring this car, the next step (No. 4) is selecting “Jetzt konfigurieren” CTA button.1 But instead of continuing configuring the desired car version, the user gets repetitive steps No. 2, 3 and No. 4 once again, which were already done before. Besides the confusion in user’s mind “What happened now, where is the configurator?” user once again has to search among all VW models and select Der neue Golf (step No. 5), then Golf R (No. 6) and after that Konfiguration starten (No. 7).
The entire process has three of seven steps causing excessive ballast in users’ cognitive load with repetitive work and confusion – for no good reason. Making a direct link in “Jetzt konfigurieren” CTA button to Golf R configuration page would solve this unneeded complexity and reduce the number of steps from seven to four.

Figure 3: User wants to configure the Golf R version on Swiss VW website, getting repetitive selections and seven instead of four steps for no reason. Download item

A case from Apple website: A user from Slovenia wants to get the Support page in the local Slovenian language. One types (local domain name) but lands on (United States website), resulting the "Support" page in the English language instead of the desired local one.
User types again but the scenario repeats. After that, the user decides to look where on the page one can change the country. That can be done at the very bottom of the page and after that one has to find the desired country among many of them, plus clicking "Support" once again.

In such scenario, users have to make at least two actions and quite some thinking for no reason, before they finally get to the Support page in the local language. All that unneeded effort could be avoided with simple domain redirection from to as many other countries have, for ex. automatically redirects users to

Figure 4: A user wants to get the support in native language. Instead of automatic redirection, the user has to make at least two extra actions and quite some of thinking. Download item


In order to create a user-friend­ly en­vi­ron­ment, com­plex­ity should be neu­tral­ised, or at least simplified. Actions should be eas­i­ly per­form­ed to reduce users’ wasted energy.

1 CTA (call-to-action) buttons are important website elements inviting users to do some action.

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