The New York Times: “Things are so needlessly complex because featuritis sells products,” Dr. Tenner said. “People buy them for a feeling of control, then complain that they are so hard to manage. But show them something simple and rugged, and most of them will call it boring.”

Featuritis sells products, but choices reduce usability. The really great designs are the ones that appear to eliminate a choice. You know you’re doing your job as a designer when you figure out a way to take a complicated feature and make it simpler. Windows NT has a complete two-way folder synchronization feature hidden behind a single menu checkbox “Make Available Offline.” Sometime around 1992, the Excel developers managed to reduce the sorting feature to a single click — this actually took a lot of work internally, because it has to figure out which column to sort, where the table really is, and whether there are row headings that shouldn’t be sorted. Today I’m writing JavaScript client code to make bug editing a little bit smarter in FogBUGZ, which will completely eliminate the Move command for moving bugs from project to project (because you’ll be able to just edit the bug to change the project). This takes more code and more validation and I have to make sure it works even if the browser doesn’t support JavaScript. It usually takes a lot more code to make a simpler interface.

About the author.

I'm Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Overflow. More about me.