Less is the New More

The shortsighted approach: provide what is possible

Data and Content does come from somewhere. In addition, someday someone chose the content to be shown in an interface or on a website. The first impulse to this someone, especially within engineers is to show every data available and even beyond. Because data means value. Because why should you hide it from the user. Because you can. Hence, content is screwed up to a jungle of attention-seeking numbers and graphs. Good designs focus on core values, on key indicators. It sounds easy, but in the dispute with customers or in the inner dispute, it is definitely not easy. To repeat a universal truth: if something is easy to use, it was hard to design.

Introduction too meta? Here come examples. With pictures!

Content restrictions

SMS, the mail of the 90es, was restricted to 160 characters. Why? Because postcards and telegrams rarely exceeded this length and saving memory was technically necessary [1]. Its communication character is to be delivered immediately, but asynchronous. SMS got not only a part of everyday communication, it even applied socio-cultural effects like heavy usage of abbr. and emoticons =).

von Thomas van de Weerd from Utrecht, The Netherlands (Party SMS Uploaded by McGeddon) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

short message service, technically reduced [source]

14 years later, a service called twitter appeared as “SMS of the internet” and became quite successful. Tweets are still restricted to 140 characters, even if discussed repeatedly [2]. And again, this service had big impact to socio-culture: Hashtags became #famous and the @ outgrew e-mail. Now without technical reason, the character-restriction became one of the main factors of twitters success. User have to focus on their main message and reading times stay in the area of seconds. As well it is fast and asynchronous, but with a community factor aside.

I just fell down the stairs holding a guitar and accidentally wrote a One Direction song.

a tweet, conceptwise reduced [source]

Some new services take the concept of “less” in advantage to make it a unique selling point. An example is the dating app once, where, compared to the illustrious tinder, only one profile is shown per day [3]. They literally call their match “handselected” which should replace quantity with quality. Hence, reduction is part of the core concept of this product.

This was reducing the content. Let’s proceed with geography.

Regional restrictions

The App “Jodel”, an anonymous campus social chat only shows messages around your geobase [4]. This constraint creates another kind of exclusivity and a particular privacy.


jodel reduces information by the current area

Also nebenan.de, a German social network, detects the neighborhood coordinates and only lets user see people living nearby [5]. Here the concept focuses more on privacy based on a non-global connectivity.


nebenan, also regionally constrained

Time restrictions

The last app mentioned is snapchat, used daily by you if you belong to generation Z. This service is restricting “snaps” by time to several seconds [6]. Afterwards they can be re-played once and then are “self-destroyed”. Not knowing if the unicorn filter or the time reduction are reasons, but snapchat became most used communication app for teenagers [7].


snapchat, giving messages with expiration time

Link to the known

In interfaces, this concept is well known. Products like the iPod, the WMF 1 [by designaffairs] or the Nest reduce their interface to one interaction object. A minimal interface architecture is used [see article to interface architecture]. There are several concepts pushing this principle of reducing to the max, e.g.


You got here by reading? Nice.

What we can learn from these examples is a focus on core features, on killer features is never wrong. Additionally, eliminating unnecessary ballast can hurt feelings but concurrently emerging your product. Think of the last beautiful person you only saw from the corner of your eye – didn’t this create more interest than a megapixel image? Try to do your design as mysterious and attractive as this.

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