An important aspect when it comes to simplicity and by extension good web design, is removing blockers. A blocker is any interaction or process that decreases the overall efficiency of the user. A blocker is really at the heart of simplicity so when measuring it you are really looking at the ratio between energy and return. A 1:1 ratio should be the sweet spot of any interaction. If an action takes more energy to accomplish than its resulting return then it contains blockers.
Take for instance our last example from Slideshare.net. In this example we have already logged in and clicked the ‘Favorite’ button on a slideshow. That is our invested energy, and so our return should be a “Favorited” item. Instead our return is another panel that requires a further investment of energy. Therefore the simplicity of this interaction is 2:1. And the more interactions on your site that require more energy than they give will begin to frustrate the user and quite possibly could lose that user.
Another perfect example of a blocker is the “surprise sign-in”. Certain sites have searches or actions that should not require a valid user account, but when clicking on those actions you are immediately taken to a sign-in page or a registration page. This is the quickest way to lose a user who may not already be a member of your site or at the very least lose the user’s interest in that interaction.
Now that we understand what a blocker is we can start to look at ways of removing those blockers.
Click counting is the method of counting how many clicks it takes a user to get from point A to point B. The lower the better. Just be careful not to trade clicks for confusion.
Follow the formula above to determine the energy to return ratio, but be wary to not overdo the return to energy ratio either.
Also don’t hesitate to put the interface or interaction in front of a user who has never seen the site and ask them to explain to you how to accomplish certain tasks. Your design should be intuitive and self explanatory.
A blocker can come in many forms but in each you risk confusing and alienating your user. The site design and interaction should flow effortlessly from action to action so keep an eye on each button and element. And don’t forget to test and test again until it is smooth for someone with zero experience with the site.