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Author's profile photo Andy Silvey

Simple is all around us, we just don’t see it – Simple UX design for Generation Xers


There has been a lot of buzz since SAPPHIRE around the word simple.

This was triggered by Bill McDermot’s keynote speech announcing that all customers

deserve a “simple, gorgeous user experience with SAP”.

What does this mean, what does simple mean, how can we design simple User

Experiences, how do we get into the mindset of simple ?

At the same time, really for perhaps the last year, there has been a lot written about

the Millenials, there are a lot of blogs on the SCN about Millenials. Just search for the

word Millenial, you’ll find,

    blogs by Millenials telling everyone else just what Millenials want and who they are

    blogs by non-Millenials welcoming Millenials into the SAP world

    blogs by non-Millenials advising everyone else how to behave with and what to expect

     from Millenials


What do Millenials know, that most of us non-Millenials don’t know ?

Infact, it is highly possible, that this is so ingrained into the Millenial’s dna that a Millenial

doesn’t  know they know this, they just take it for granted because they have grown up with

it and for them it is normal.

For them it’s like riding a bike.


    Millenials know how to keep things simple. Millenials have grown up with simplicity, and

     therefore, when a Millenial will be thinking about User Interface design, a Millenial will

     automatically, find a  way to keep it simple whilst achieving the goals of the design.

On top of this, as Millenials have grown up with simple, we can be sure they will accept nothing

less and be positively turned off by anything which is anything but simple.

This means, Bill and SAP are indeed right, and we’ve got to get into simple and start making

everything simple, otherwise products and services which are not presented in a simpler form

will look old and passe and become neglected, under utilisied and subsequently redundent – and

so will we !

For us non-Millenials, User Interface design is something else, most of us from a Computer Science

background will have grown up with vdu green screen terminals, and have been trained in creating

menu based interfaces to database applications. Remember, layers and layers of menu’s navigated

sequentially backwards and forwards. This approach was ingrained into us.

Subsequently, with the arrival of windowed based graphical user interfaces we moved from layers of text

based menus to layers of graphical menus with the same underlying design principles and language

albeit in a graphical form.

If you don’t believe me just have a look at most corporate websites, and websites in general, menus

and menus and pages and pages leading from menus, and you can see the origins of the thinking

behind these menu and page based graphical user interfaces. They’re still clumsy, they’re still bulky,

but they’re now graphical.

And then Bill Mcdermot says, we have to make the User Experience simple.

Well how do we Generation Xers do that, how do we get into the mindset of simple interface design ?

Where less is more, where less is actually beautiful ?

I’ll tell you how we do it, it happened to me last week.

Timing is everything.

Last week, a friend who has a website for his company, and who has never touched Facebook asked

me to help him to setup a Facebook page for his company.

Until that request I had also never touched Facebook. So where to start ?

I cheated and purchased ‘Facebook for Dummies’ to use as a Rapid Deployment Solution for getting

started with Facebook.

So, having read the main parts of the book, I looked at my friend’s company website, thought about the

key attributes to the company website,

    the product and sales/marketing contact details

    the company and contact details

I then proceeded to

    setup a Facebook account for my friend

    setup a Facebook Page for my friend’s company

    setup the vanity url for the company

    setup the Facebook Page’s ‘About’ section with the company information

    setup the Facebook Page’s TimeLine in a logical intuitive representation of

    the key product information and pictures interspersed with sales contact details

    in a form of headlines and pictures telling a story

The result…

the result we say, what a result, the result is, the Facebook page for my friend’s company

is beautiful.

It is beautiful in its simplicity.

The page is so simple, so clear, so logical, all required information is there, with pictures,

in a logical order in the timeline.

Less is more.

If we compare the Facebook Page to the company’s website, there is a fraction of the information

on the Facebook Page, there is a fraction of the content and the clutter, there is a fraction of

the pages and confusion and information overload presented on the company’s website.

The Facebook Page has shown, infact, an example of how the company’s website should be setup.

The Facebook page has triggered a redesign of the company’s website into a more elegant, simpler,

cleaner  form.

Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn when Intranets first came along, this was 20 years

ago, the push was that every company needed an Intranet. Intranet sites were created, and filled,

literally filled with content, everything was put into the Intranet site, hidden behind layers

and layers of sequential menu’s. Could anybody ever find anything on an Intranet site ?

This is the point which us Generation Xers need to get, if we want to understand simple, then we have

to get into simple and start doing simple and being part of simple. Once we are in simple, doing simple,

then we will be able to think simple, and we will see the simple light and our products and services

will become simple.

So how do us Generation Xers become simple ?

Go get a Facebook account and start creating Facebook Pages. Then get a Twitter account and link the

two together, then Instagram etc.

Then an only then, when we are buried in simple upto our eyebrows can we begin to see, think, breath, be,


At that point, we will become qualified and positioned to fulfill the demands of the coming generation

of Users and create simple.

You know what you need to do.


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      Author's profile photo Balwant Singh
      Balwant Singh

      Simple and Great Content!

      Author's profile photo Thomas Schoerner
      Thomas Schoerner

      Hi Andy,

      Great and inspiring text! It's really reliefing to read your experience and I can only recommend this to anybody else.

      If you don't trust facebook, try linked in, or xing, or weixing, or any other social media website and EXPERIENCE simple. Maybe start with, but don't stop after reading the book "Simplicity for Dummies". Go out and Play! it won't hurt 😉 Or build an own website with 3 clicks and surprise your spouse with : Create and share your digital world

      We can do simple. Everybody can.

      Just search for W on the portal or join the Design Whizzes if you think alike or want to learn more about this topic.

      Author's profile photo Alessio Tartara
      Alessio Tartara

      Hello Andy,

      As a former interface designer, I can say that you really got the point.

      I'm somewhere in between a Gen Xer and a Millennial (because of my age and my backgorund), and sometimes I struggle to keep my work simple...

      I think that the problem is not in the "layered" design itself, but in the amout of information you try to provide: in the last years "less and crucial" became the win-win approach. For you and for your user/customer.

      It will "automatically" generate a flat design, where all the basic information can quickly be grabbed.

      Author's profile photo Andy Silvey
      Andy Silvey
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Alessio,

      thanks for the feedback from industry and especially, regarding the, 'less and crucial'.

      I'd add that the 'layered' approach hasn't helped the situation, because the layers simply provided more places to fill with yet more information. We know, on Facebook, there is basically one layer, the Timeline, and ok, there is the About page, but you're not really going to use that for marketing.

      It's like at home, what I have found is the more cupboards we buy the more junk (was going to use a different word) we fill them with. If we had less cupboards we'd accumulate less junk.

      And this is the thing with Facebook, there are no cupboards to fill with junk. You've got one chance, the Timeline, to use as you described, with less and crucial.

      Best regards,


      Author's profile photo Timo ELLIOTT
      Timo ELLIOTT


      I'm not sure I agree with the premise... People have been searching for simplicity for centuries -- as Bill noted in his SAPPHIRE NOW keynote, Leonardo da Vinci called "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication"

      In the 14th century, Occam coined the ultimate "rule" against complexity, Occam's razor: "entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem" -- this translates to "entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity", which could be a quote from Hasso's keynote on why HANA is the right platform for the future!

      When it comes to computing, the reason we have simpler interfaces today is (simply!) that the technology is available to make it possible -- when I started using computers, we weren't using the command line for the fun of it, it was simply the best that could be done at the time.

      Most interfaces are indeed much simpler -- and everybody's expectations are rising. But that doesn't mean complexity goes away, and it doesn't mean that Millenials will always reject it.

      Complexity is always part of the next unconquered terrain in computing. For example, Hadoop / NoSQL / Big Data solutions -- a big area for Millenials who tend to think that they are inventing analytics for the first time -- currently require a lot of complex knowledge to use (and SAP is one of the vendors trying to make that easier).

      Personally, I don't see a big generation gap -- I see the continuation of a long, long tradition of technology evolution that has gone on for centuries (everything has always gotten easier to use: pens, trains, cars, washing machines, telephones....)

      Author's profile photo Andy Silvey
      Andy Silvey
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Timo,

      When it comes to computing, the reason we have simpler interfaces today is (simply!) that the technology is available to make it possible -- when I started using computers, we weren't using the command line for the fun of it, it was simply the best that could be done at the time.

      Disagree, I too grew up with the command line and green screens, and as described in the article the UI Design principles from those green screens were based around layers and layers of menu's. And those underlying UI Design principles continued to a large extent when windowed based interfaces came along, UI's had layers of graphical menus and layers of pages/screens, and this underlying UI Design approach is a legacy of growing up with the command line.

      Today's generation have grown up with Facebook, and Facebook basically has one layer, the Timeline. And Facebook's one layer, the timeline is not a consequence of advances in technology, it's a consequence of alternative ways of thinking about UI Design. Websites with layers of pages have been around for 20 years or more, Facebook could do the same, but they've chosen this timeline based interface, which is, compared to the previous generations of UI Design, very very simple and minimalist.

      The main point of the article is, there are a lot of blogs on the SCN these days, expressing information about Millenials, just do a search and you get pages and pages of material like this:


      Today's generation have grown up with more simpler minimalist UI design than my generation.

      And since everybody is blogging about Millenials and how to engage them and what they want etc, then, for the GenXers who are reading all this, it begs the question, how to get into this more Millenial UI design mindset than the one which we grew up with ?

      We all know, according to Darwinism, we have to evolve or die.

      And hence, from something which I experienced, the article was born, to share the thoughts with others, that if GenXers want to get into the simple more minimalist UI design mindset, then one strategy can be simply to go on Facebook and start producing content, understand the, shall we say constraints of the platform and work with it to achieve the best results.

      That's all.

      Agree that minimalist design principles go back centuries.

      Best regards,


      p.s. I am not sure if washing machines have got easier, you need a degree to run the one we have.

      Author's profile photo Julie Plummer
      Julie Plummer

      HI Andy, Very interesting - you made me think about Millenials - and Simple - in a new way. Which presumably was your intention.