Simple things – It’s not that simple

One of the most interesting words in software development (including no-code stuff, which I’m currently working on) is “Simple”. The word itself seems really simple and hence we tend to use it without further thinking.

But actually it’s not that simple. Let’s consider an example: A co-worker comes to you asking for a solution. They would like something simple. Now what would the alternative have been? To ask for something really complex? I don’t think I have ever heard anyone ask for that. That’s not to say that we never make complex stuff. But it becomes complex by necessity, not by demand.

But what is really interesting about making simple stuff, is when you are not making simple stuff. When you are making something really complex, but you manage to make it look simple. That’s where simplicity becomes immensely powerful. Consider something like Google, the search engine. You type in a search phrase and click Google Search (or I’m Feeling Lucky). Then you get a list of the best results. Or you can chose to go to the pictures that matched your search. The options aren’t many, but they are sufficient. And they are simple. But does that mean that the code behind Google is simple? Without having actually seen the code, I think it’s safe to say that it’s not. Google just managed to make it appear simple.

The key to make complex things appear simple, is the interface. “But Jakob, my program doesn’t have an interface” you might say. Well, it does. It might not have a graphical user interface, but it does have some sort of interface.

An example in robotic process automation, is when you are making actions. Actions are small pieces of functionality, similar to a function (or method) from the more mainstream coding languages. Actions will almost always have and input and/or output. So consider these carefully, with both naming and descriptions (comments). This is the way your action “talks” to the rest of the world. If you get it right, people won’t have to look at the inside of the action, to know what the input/output represents.

So what I am getting to with this rant, is that it’s anything but simple, to make things appear simple. But it might just be one of the most powerful things you can do. So the next time you build something, don’t stop just because it works. Keep going until it also appears simple.

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