Less continues to be more

These phrases are kind of becoming cliches around here in Zurmoland: ”Less is more”. “Keep the User Interface (UI) intuitive.” “No excess clutter.” From day one, simplicity has been a big part of what we’re all about. Keep the application clean and people will be more likely to use it.

We have heard it countless times from our forgiving and loyal early adopters. But let’s face it. It is a lot easier to keep a house uncluttered when you have nothing in it but a bed, a sofa, and a couple of chairs. But what happens when you need to use the kitchen and you don’t have any silverware? What happens when you want to pick up something to read, but your bookshelves are empty?

As we add to Zurmo, keeping the house uncluttered becomes a whole new kind of challenge. But it’s the kind of challenge we love. It is the kind of challenge that gets us going in the morning.

There is an architect in Hong Kong named Gary Chang. Chang has the unique ability to turn a small apartment into 24 rooms while adhering to a strict minimalist principle. He does this by taking the same space and redefining it according to the changing requirements of the occupant. For example when it is time for dinner, Chang transforms his living room into a dinning room. When he has a guest visit, a bed folds over his bathtub. In this video, Chang says “I realized that at one moment, I am performing one task only,” and rather than move around the apartment, he has it move around him. Minimalism is beautiful. But that beauty comes at the cost of great decisions. Often times our question is not what to include, but what not to.

We are attempting a rather similar approach as Zurmo expands. Rather than add rooms to our house, we are simply making it more adaptable. We are encouraging our users to continue being minimalists by pulling the levers, sliding the drawers, and changing the walls of their online work space.

Recent changes to our menu are a great example of how our design team is practicing minimalism. In this screenshot, you can see that rather than add more shelves to our bookshelf, we have hidden it.

Want to see more books? Adapt. Expand. And maintain this universal truth throughout Zurmo – a clean UI that people will actually use.

Rather than add more “shelves” to our menu, we made it expandable. Users can select the ordering of menu items displayed.

Collapsed:

collapsed

Expanded:

Expanded

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  • Matrix

    Actually, this collapsing/expanding business is annoying. Anytime you need a user to click on something to reveal just a couple of more items, it gets annoying. Recently, google, yahoo, etc adopted this approach while composing an email requiring the users to click the A to expand the text-formating menu items, etc. Google even went further to expand a single menu item that reveals everything inside it. Users would appreciate the old toolbar of icons that are displayed at all times. They may be hiding these to cache and save on bandwidth on downloading icon images for millions of users. But you are hiding just a couple of items and requiring the users to click to expand those couple of items takes away the user-friendliness that Zurmo is known for. This should be removed and all items displayed at all times because there are no space constraints and no issues with caching or saving on bandwidth. This is a bad example to implement collapse/expand UI and Gary Chang’s apartment model does not apply to menus when you are hiding just a couple of items with no space constraints.

    2. Further, the More downarrow button on “What’s going on?” widget displays just 5 items for each click. There is not much difference in processing between fetching 5 items and 10 items and it takes annoyingly forever to fetch many items with 5-item-per-click setting. For each click, the app should fetch at least 10 items or the count of items to fetch for each click should be made configurable.

    Out and out, Zurmo is clean, extraordinary and outstanding. Keep up the good work…

    matrix